It was great to team up again with my pottery buddy Michaela (Seatree Crafts) to make this year’s batch of medals for the Inveraray Jail Break Run.
Each year the run begins outside Inveraray Jail Museum, then goes through the grounds of the castle before the route ascends 250m to Dun na Cuiche, a small tower overlooking the town. Then, having reached the top, it’s back down the hill to the start. I’ve walked this route, it is a beautiful walk and the views are incredible…but it was hard work so I can only imagine the challenge this is to run. Well, Michala and I are much better at pottery than running so we’ve decided to stick to making the medals.
Making medals starts off with a design, then we custom order a stamp to press the design into the clay. Sometimes there is an obvious logo, other times for other events we need to design the artwork. Our main tool is very technical – a scone cutter. (Do you know how tricky it was to find a scone cutter just exactly the size you need it for a medal?) So, once we have the stamp and cutter, our main problem is finding time between us to actually get making.
We have a routine. Clay is rolled out and small bits of wire are cut and bent to shape. Then one person stamps the logo into the clay, the other cuts them out with our very special scone/medal cutter, then we both smooth edges put in the loop of wire into the centre top. Someone also needs to keep count (usually not me, I’m not to be trusted with numbers!)
Once made, they need to be left to dry beween plasterboard. This keeps them flat and helps them dry evenly. It takes a few days of drying before they go in the kiln for bisc firing. 24 hours later they are out, and once cooled ready to glaze. Again, the diaries are out to arrange a time we can get together and glaze all 110 medals then get them back into the kiln for their final firings. After the glaze firings finished it’s a case of packing them up, get them off to Inveraray and cross our fingers the race goes well on the day.
You can see photos of this years race at www.facebook.com/inverarayjailbreak
Best Scottish Tours are a local Dunoon based company who offer a range of touring opportunities round Scotland often creating personalised tours for their clients. They have some great tours and because the service they offer is so good, they have visitors returning to discover new places and experiences around Scotland.
This season they had the idea of presenting their returning visitors with a bespoke gift as a memory of their tour. It was a fun project to work on. They were looking for something small to easily carry home, something in the decoration or colour to represent Scotland, to include the tour company name and of course come in on budget.
Initially I was thinking of imprinting wild flowers into a wee plaque, or a dish. Perhaps a range of wildflowers that we find on the roadsides of the winding Argyll roads. I collect these and dry them and then in autumn and winter when the seedheads are ready, I gather up a selection of those too, so I had plenty to choose from.
But one idea usually leads to another and through playing with these dried flowers I started seeing wild mint and dried ferns looking like trees and began to draw pictures in the clay. These pictures became coasters and the idea was a winner.
The second item chosen by Best Scottish Tours was a simple dish, thrown on the wheel, the company name stamped in and glazed in a familiar Scottish sky colour of grey/blue.
With the orders in and made, all the coaster sets and dishes were placed in lovely presentation boxes and off they went. I’ve heard the first clients to receive them were delighted, the driver having kept them as a surprise for the last day of their trip. What a great idea, and a lovely end to their visit to Scotland.
It’s been great working with you Best Scottish Tours!
We all enjoy a wedding! The romantic “I do’s”, the confetti, the bubbles, the party…..the chance to dress up and wear something not splashed with clay (woohoo!)
My sister got married recently and instead of toasting with champagne, they wanted everyone to toast with shots of a particular cocktail that they both loved drinking at parties. I was dispatched at that point to come up with a design. With style and simplicity in mind I came up with a few prototypes and a simple cylinder with a single line on the outside was decided on. Their colour scheme was anything goes, the more vibrant and varied the better. So, although the outside decoration was kept at a minimum, the insides were glazed a rainbow of colours. It was exciting to open the kiln after the glaze firing and look down into them all!
On the day, the ‘shot pots’ as they became known as, were set out at the dinner settings and everyone toasted the happy couple with them. The guests were invited to take theirs home as a wedding favour so now there are wee ceramic shot pots dotted around Scotland, down in London and over in Spain. Wonder where they’ll turn up next?
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The monthly pottery project workshops have been fully booked since January and spaces to make these tealight houses went extra fast. A second session was quickly arranged and despite the weather everyone turned up to design, create and get messy with clay. The results are gorgeous and now I have a growing village of wee houses waiting for their makers to collect them.
First we grabbed a tea or coffee to settle in and decide what design our houses would be. Some folk opted for a wee cottage, others a tall narrow townhouse and one a round house inspired by shells and underwater.
Templates were drawn and cut round, rulers measured out the roof sizes, cutters made windows and dried flowers and stamps created the look of grass and garden round the outsides. After plenty of chat, fleeting silences of concentration then moments of hilarity, everyone’s house took shape, each with their own character. They all looked great!
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I really am enjoying this new workshop. I love the space it gives me. I previously worked in a tiny space, maybe 8×5′ which doesn’t give a lot of scope for a wheel and a workbench and room to turn. I managed though and I liked my view into the garden, watching deer come right up to the window and the washing billowing on the line. However, it really was too small, and it was time to move and now, I don’t miss it.
It’s amazing what can be done in a short time with some extra space. Previously I could do a throwing session of about 20 mugs max, then had to stop when I ran out of space. The next day I would turn and finsh or attach handles, then stop because there was no more space. Then the day after I’d leave things to dry out a bit before reclaiming my space by packing it all up and take it to my friend’s pottery where our kiln lives. It was a bit of a slow process and nothing else could be made in that time in the space I had.
Now….well now, in the same day I can throw, turn, glaze and dance in all this spacious space if I want! There’s still the to and fro from the kiln but what a difference it makes to have so much space.
So thanks goes to my other half putting in worktops, my daughter painting walls, the joiner for blocking in pipes and the really supportive staff at Holy Loch Marina who have been amazing at sorting everything out for me. I am looking forward to finding out how productive and how creative a bigger space can make.
I have long known I enjoy sharing the joy of clay. What’s not to love about the squishy mess of clay in your fingers? My potter friend Michaela and I have together led many a workshop along the way but more recently we have begun to do our own classes and workshops. So far, we have managed to not overlap dates or both need our stash of textures and rolling pins at the same times!
It is always fun to meet new people and explore clay creatively. More often than not someone has ‘had a go’ at pottery in school and the stories are familiar and often involve being left to it so that pots thrown on the wheel end up flying off or a become a squidgy uninspiring mess. Sadly they have not had another oportunity to try again for many years but it is funny how a single experience with clay a long time a go can linger. It is exciting to help develop that experience into something positive and fun.
So if you’d like to join in the messy fun, then book in for a class. I’m just confirming dates for my workshop programme that will run into spring. Look out for it. Will have it up on the website and facebook next week.
Well this new studio is going to be a great space but oh my goodness it is taking an age to set up. My first month of having the keys has been busy painting walls, instructing my husband on where to build worktops, ordering new equipment, planning workshops. The best bit is having natural light from the new window and door. I get a view! Yay!
Then…my time is hijacked by the kids being ill. Nothing serious, just the long drag ickiness of tummy bugs, sore thoats and ear infections. Five weeks now (FIVE weeks that is!!) of one child or the other being home unwell has kinda taken it’s toll on my grand plans. But that’s life right? And how can I blame the kids? Really, deep down, I am thankful I am able to be flexible enough to be at home for them. Or fit in work around their needs and how well they are feeling. Honestly, it has made me realign and refocus. So here are my thoughts: My new studio space is fab. I have managed to get all the essentials in place and I have, despite it all, got started on making and I’m looking forward to Saturday’s workshop. But family comes first and my grand plans of extravagent things like display shelves and signs and a plumbed in sink, will just need to follow on at a slower pace.