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Louisa Parry Hi, I'm Louisa and this is my personal blog. I blog about recycling things at How Can I Recycle This?, about simple/DIY living at The Really Good Life and silly drama games at We Heart Drama. Consequently, having used up all my good ideas elsewhere, this blog is just fluff and nonsense about my cats/dog and whatnot.

23 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – washed, around and about/shade, tiny bird/the Major/canal/silky, good

3BT

1. I grab a t-shirt from the washing line: warmed by the morning sun. I also notice that its unrelenting red is beginning to soften – the fabric developing character as it ages.

2. I take us on a little walk while John is doing the paperwork. The signed public footpath doesn’t lead anywhere interesting – except allowing us to meet a tiny little horse – but back the other way there is a little park, shaded and wonderfully aromatic for a dog’s nose.

2b. Lily circles the garden then finds the coolest place to sit. I join her.

3. Just before Lily finds the pool of stagnant mud and somewhat ruins the moment, I watch a tiny little bird on a rock – it is clearly the day for miniature things.

3b. I meet them for the second time just where Thornhill Drive meets the woods. They ask me about the beagle who wanders around there, worried he’s lost (as they’d seen him on the other side of the woods the day before). I point out where he lives, and explain that he patrols the woods like he owns them. Then I mention that we call him The Major, because he’s an older, heavy set old chap, with an authoritarian stare and a no-nonsense walk. They laugh and seem to completely understand.

3c. To wash off the stagnant mud, we go down to the canal. Lily’s less interested in fetching sticks than usual (possibly because the better stick thrower is not with us) but is more than happy wallowing in the shallows.

3d. Later, after she’s had a shower at home, her feathering on her legs is beautifully silky. Sleepy, after a long day of doing things, she curls up in a tight ball and sleeps on my feet.

4. We order curry from the place that fluctuates – sometimes it’s mediocre, sometimes it’s excellent. Tonight is, thankfully, the latter and I’m as good as the food: putting away half of my portion for lunch tomorrow. Future Louisa will be happy.

22 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – whole, fresh, compromise, flavours, soft

3BT

1. The semi-skimmed milk is off so I have to have John’s whole milk on my cereal – it’s usually too rich for me but today, it hits the spot. I give Kaufman some too, which makes him a rather happy kitty.

2. It’s been fresher today but still, I have soaked up every cool breeze going.

3. I dither: I’m supposed to be preparing the whole bed for sowing but the soil is too hard, too clumped and I’m too hot. I could push through it but I’d resent it, then it hits me: I could just do a portion of it really well.

4. Dinner was supposed to be light but ends up being super flavourful: lemon-mustard chicken, stuffed peppers with anchovies & garlic, and parmesan-y courgette fritters. Yum!

5. Kaufman feels superbly soft. It must be all that whole milk he’s been drinking.

22 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Learning about Raku

Another long and picture heavy ceramics post! ;)

raku-week2In March, I started a Sculptural Raku course at Hive Bradford.

The Course

The ten session course used to be called “Angels and Acrobats”, with the focus on building sculptural figures that really come alive in a beautiful way when raku fired. To inform the figure building process, the course included two life drawing sessions and another session where people could sculpt models from the life drawing model, Sue.

I somehow missed the sculptural/figure focus when I signed up for the course: I’m not particularly into sculptural ceramics work in the first place (I like bowls and pots, mmm bowls and pots) and the life drawing fell during a super busy fortnight for me and pushed my social anxiety stuff over the edge. Thankfully the lovely tutor and I came up with a compromise: I researched animal figures from early civilisations and while my class mates finished off their sculptures of Sue, I made a herd of minoan bulls, a hittite-ish horse and a reptile/crocodile inspired by a picture I found in a book about Aboriginal art. (I made a Pinterest board as part of my research; it also includes Joan Miro and other chance/automatic art, as I was considering going down that route for a while too.)

We then had a couple of weeks to work on our own sculptural pieces for raku firing: I made a family of Meeple, an Etruscan-inspired horse, and … a couple of bowls – I couldn’t resist ;)

There was then a pause for a couple of months as the tutor was off sick but we finally fired our pieces over the last fortnight.

Raku Firing

The Raku firing process is very different to our normal firing: the pieces were fired to “bisque” in the electric kiln as usual, but then, instead of glazing and firing in a very slow, controlled fashion (and cooled down in the same slow, controlled fashion), Raku is very fast and exciting, involving lots of red hot stuff and fire. (Yes, fire fits in the “red hot stuff” set but I wanted to highlight that the process involves flames. FLAMES!)

Raku firing takes place outside. The pieces (which are made with a “grogged” clay, to be slightly less susceptible to thermal shock) are heated in a gas kiln until the glaze is molten – the clay body itself doesn’t look that hot but boy, it is – it’s about 800C! Then, a daredevil opens the kiln and using a pair of metal tongs, transfers each piece into the reduction kiln – aka a “mucky dustbin” about one-third filled with sawdust. The sawdust immediately bursts into flames, a little more sawdust is thrown on top then the bin is covered with a lid (and damp cloths to reduce the smoke leakage).

Inside the mucky dustbin, magic is happening – magic I don’t full understand but some sorcery that turns the outside of the clay a rich warm black (see the broken minoan bull below), and causes the chemicals in the glazes to change colour, depending on how much oxygen/carbon is available to them (the fire/closed bin reduces the amount of oxygen – hence “reduction kiln”).

It’s just about impossible to predict how Raku fired items will turn out – a short delay in the transfer between the gas kiln and the mucky dustbin will cause certain glazes to do one thing rather than another. Ditto how they sit in the sawdust, or where they sat in the kiln, or how the fire licks around the items, or a dozen other things.

An example of this can be seen on one of my little test pieces – the glaze on the bull’s belly is the same as under his chin, but the chin part had (I think) access to more oxygen so it went blue-y rather than coppery & metallic. (The crocodile thing is also the same glaze as the smallest Meeple below – the crocodile is a glossy green-brown with some metallic shimmers but the baby Meeple is full-on shiny.)

raku-test-pieces

That’s another thing that makes the process exciting – you never know what you’re going to get or if your item will explode from the heat change either going into the reduction kiln or coming out of it. (or crack afterwards, like the minoan bull below). And in case that all wasn’t exciting enough, it only takes about half an hour from start to finish – a stoneware firing in our electric kiln takes a couple of days to get up to 1200C and come back down again – so you get to squeal about your freshly fired stuff straight away.

My first Raku pieces

Raku items are known for their glorious shiny metallics and for crackles which get stained with carbon in the reduction kiln. As it was my first time Rakuing, I tried to get examples of both.

First up, the shiny-shiny.

tiny-meeple
[...]

21 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – hello, better/cylinders/reclaiming, slow

3BT

1. We hear Kaufman before we see him – he’s spotted his big sister Lily is in the garden and he meows hello to her his whole way up the steps. When we let him into the office, he mews and mews his news, then sits on the sofa for a wash: when he holds and licks the tip of his tail, I melt into a puddle.

2. The final letter of the stencil drops a few centimetres as I’m setting them on the clay – oh hello, that looks much better than them all in a line.

2b. I throw my first (post-course) perfect cylinder on the wheel then transfer it to a board without squishing it. (I then drop it, destroying it, but let’s focus on the first bit, eh?)

2c. A fat, wide cylinder to finish.

2d. I don’t expect the texture of the broken down clay – it looks grainy, like cous cous, but is so wet that moves like liquid. We pull big dollops out of the bucket and slop them onto the slab.

3. Just as the bus arrives, the plastic bag handles stretch and break – it is such a slow process that I have time to lower the back to the floor (so my pots don’t smash) and for the lady in front of me reach into her bag to hand me a spare carrier.

20 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – pancakes/finale, the pride/a year ago, AC

3BT

(My 35th birthday)

1. Pancakes – good fluffy ones with fruity honey and lemon juice – and crispy bacon.

1b. We rewatch the 30 Rock finale over breakfast. I’m reminded that it’s a lovely combination of sentimentality and funny, saying goodbye to characters while remaining true to them.

2. Watching the cats run down to the chicken coop with John. Kaufman gets a tickle on the head while Strange explores the heuchera.

2b. It’s a year to the day since we first met the kitties at the RSPCA. They were in the first little pen we looked in – three little mewing faces, pawing at the glass. We spent two hours that evening swapping potential names back and forth across the restaurant table.

3. The air conditioning in the bar is a little too chilly but in the restaurant, it’s perfect.

19 July 2014 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – (rain), rainforest/smell, together/grunter, crocosmia/

3BT

0. The coolness washes over us as the rain takes the heat out of the night.

1. Underneath the tall, spindly trees, the heavy leaves trap clouds of moisture – you can see the steam circling from the house. It’s exactly this weather condition that causes people to say our gardens are like the rainforest.

1b. We find the source of the bad smell and eliminate it.

2. We sit on the footstool together – me and John and Lily and Strange.

2b. Soaked in the rainstorm then fresh from the shower, Lily wriggles and grunts on John’s pillow.

3. The windows frame the blood red crocosmia.

3b. Like with my Wayne’s World cap earlier in the week, I sporadically wear my Hello Kitten penguin mask during the evening.