Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wassail Bowls

As a child, along with every other school pupil in south Wales, I visited The National Folk Museum at St.Fagans. I visited this folk museum countless times and so it is not surprising that some of the exhibits lodged in my mind. Most powerful amongst these were the wassail bowls. These would have been made at Ewenny pottery.
These were bowls that held cider or other drink and were carried around at twelfth night.
They usually have 16 handles and can be passed around. But it is the lids that fascinated me. they are encrusted with modeled figures and numerous birds. Some have figures with farm animals, but the one above even has the husband and wife sat at the kitchen table. Quite a feat to apply the slip I would have thought!


On returning to Wales one of the first things I wanted to do was to revisit these pots. However, having rushed to St.Fagans before the removal men even delivered all our worldly belongings I found that they were not currently on display. Not to worry a few phone calls later and the museum staff got two out of store for me.
I was very delighted to get up close and personal with them without even the usual glass case between creating unwanted reflections.
I was allowed to take photos but unfortunately my PC recently died taking with it my photos! Then recently I found these photos on my phone.
The pots are quite large and very sculptural.
Here are some tiny pots I've made influenced by seeing the wassail bowls.

This is a wassail bowl I made quite recently. I haven't managed to decorate it nearly as much as the Ewenny ones as I am still quite nervous when it comes to dipping them in the slip. They have been great fun to make and I hope to make time to create some more.



Monday, 12 June 2017

China in April


This blog almost seems to be all about my trips to China. I returned to China in April to take my mother to see her granddaughter and great grand children. April in China seems to be all about the cherry blossom. The Buddist temples are set in parks and the red ribbons are peoples' prayers.
The blossom was at it's peak and there were cherry trees in parks, along motorways and lining the pavements.
People everywhere were posing to be photographed  with the blossom.

The pagoda is a famous land mark in the centre of Xian. Here we are posing ourselves the three generations of our family.


Although I had seen the terra-cotta warriors before I took my mum to see them. I was still very impressed with the sheer scale of them. The weather was beautiful and there was the most amazing number of tourists visiting. People poured in by the thousand.



Another site I revisited was the folk museum. These muscians must re-enact this performance day in and day out. It's a unique performance with someone playing a bench. The village consists of houses braught from all over China and re-erected in this village,
We had a wonderful holiday with beautiful weather which has left us with precious memories to treasure.


 PS I should mention there are wonderful antique shops with amazing pots.......

restaurants selling beautiful freshly cooked food........


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Still working

 When it's not actually raining in Wales we get a beautiful light,especially in the evenings the light seems to bounce about and create wonderful skyscapes.
 I have been busy in the studio mostly making casseroles like this one. I enjoy doing these as there is a similarity between them and yet each one is a little different. I am always trying to invent ways to use the negative space so the resulting pot doesn't look clunky (technical word).
Back in October I decided that I needed some professional  development and contacted Joanna Howells to see if she was doing any courses.
Well a few weeks ago the course came around. I had a fabulous week-end on Joanna's course. I felt I learnt a lot and came away feeling motivated to try new things. Joanna was an excellent teacher and the four of us on the course all got individual tuition.
One of the processes Joanna demonstrated was how to make altered shapes. I have now been trying this with my own work and really enjoyed coming out of my comfort zone.



 This week, however, I have been making my signature bowls. I don't tire of doing these and I always think I can improve on the last one!
While the bowls are still on their bats I band them hence no need to centre them.
Next they get turned.
After that decorating begins. The rim gets done first as it's the first area to dry.
Following the rim I then sgraffito the design onto the bowl and then add the colour.
The fired pots look so different from those unglazed waiting for their biscuit firing. I enjoy the making process so much I've tended to neglect glazing so this week is a week of reckoning as if I don't glaze I won't have any room for more pots.




Thursday, 12 January 2017

China part 2

 I thought I would add a postscript to my travels in China. After arriving in China we flew to Lanzhou. The landscape was extraordinary. As we flew over it looked as though the mountains were giant sand dunes that had been pushed together.As we drove to the hotel it appeared even more like that. The view above is from my hotel window. Although the landscape looked harsh the city appeared as if in the middle of a dessert but it was a very modern international place.

 The reason for traveling so far was to meet my new granddaughter. We were able to collect her at Lanzhou and introduce her to her new big sister. It was quite an adventure and a perfect joy to see my daughter's family added to with the adoption of a beautiful new daughter. I arrived home in Wales early on Christmas morning to spend Christmas with the rest of my family.




Saturday, 17 December 2016

 Just a few days ago I was busy in the pottery getting a batch of casseroles finished so that I could take an unexpected trip before Christmas.
Two days latter here I am in China again! As it's the holiday time there were few flights at an affordable price and so I left my house in Blackmill at 7.50 on Wednesday morning and travelling through Amsterdam and Cheng Du to arrive in Xian 9.30 Thursday night.
today was as sunny as it gets in Xian allowing for the pollution so a walk in the park was in order.
Possibly these photograph were put up by students but I thoughth their simple display method worked a treat.
 All around the park were hundreds of these stone sculptures. They are anchors for you to tie your horse to - obviously just ornamental now. The students had protested about the level of pollution by adding these masks to them!

A walk in the park is a great way to spend an afternoon in China with your daughter, son in law and granddaughter.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

More of China

 One of the things that we've noticed in China is that shops selling the same things are congregated in the same area. This street sold things for the dead! You could buy clothes, houses, money, cars and so much more for the departed. Of course it's all made of paper and you send it to them by burning it.


 In this town the open air opera had attracted a crowd mostly of elderly people. Many of them had rolled into town on their bikes. These were all stationed at the back of the crowd and everyone was having a good time catching up with their neighbour. I only wish I could give you an idea of the noise and smells of China. The opera was loud but it was alongside a busy road with all the sounds of Chinese horns and hooters. Over the road were a group of men practising their whip cracking and top spinning, both of which made amazing sounds. Where ever we went in China there was piped music. The parks may look idyllic and peaceful but they will all be filled with the sounds of piped music. Whilst that is playing people often engage in their own musical activities ,whether that's on their ghetto blasters or they are playing traditional instruments.

 All along this street were shops and stalls selling baskets and brooms and other agricultural implements. I did contemplate bringing one of the beautiful baskets home but decided that it wasn't going to work as hand luggage.

 I think best of all was the area selling brushes. Stall after stall and shop after shop sold brushes. Brushes and everything you could need to do calligraphy. Brushes hanging from the ceiling, tiny brushes and brushes the size of brooms, on stalls on the floor, papers piled to the roof, inks, stamps and all sorts of porcelain bowls for the inks and water. For now though it's back to work until my next trip.



 Not quite sure how this picture got here but it's me trying to perfect my chop stick skills at a traditional hot pot restaurant!