Monday, 30 April 2012


The Carpenter had the last of his stitches removed today...looks quite tidy!
I took him to work after that and on to work myself- sheep heads today.

I'm quite pleased that I've sold six pots in the pottery in St Ffagans in just under three weeks. Seeing as numbers are down and most of them are not spending, that is good.

We had to stop on the way home to top up the radiator....again..but at least the leak is obvious- two seals already replaced, and this one is by the thermostat.Now to get The Oily One to get round to actually doing it.....
Bread (started this morning) and pasties baked this evening after work.  They'll go in the freezer in the morning.

Too busy.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

very wet

and very windy too.

The roaring waters of the Afon (river) Ebbw could be heard from my room at the front of the house early this morning!!

I walked over later on in the morning with The Carpenter, and even then you could see where it had recently dropped over two feet. There was still a lot of water flowing fast under the bridge near The Spiteful., by the railway.
 In the early 70s, I think, it was cleared and straightened and flood defences built.  It hasn't flooded since then.  As with many rivers in this area, they are comparatively short, so can rise and fall rapidly.

Then we went to do the week's way to stay warm and dry...if you go to the big shops!  We prefer to use small shops, but at the moment we can't afford to support them.

The idea was, originally, to do some work after lunch.....the pots I made during the week were only just ready to be worked on further.  I kneaded a bag of clay that had been put out to dry to throwing consistency. That usually warms me enough to start working, but it was so cold and damp I just wrapped each pot individually so that they don't dry too much and retreated to the house for a baking bash!!

Three quiches have been made, a spinach and shallot and two leek and bell pepper.
One large pot of curry with potatoes and sweet potatoes, (supper, and curry pasties to make tomorrow) and a lentil and vegetable mix for more pasties.  The pastry is sitting chilling in the fridge until tomorrow as it will be easier to use then.
Bread is a possibility tomorrow  as well- if the oven will be lit, lets make the best of it!

I should have been cutting stencils for decorating pots as well, but the baking took over!!  Never mind, at least everything is ready to do them.

Yet more wind and rain is forecast for tomorrow..I'm not looking forward to commuting, but at least I'll be working indoors making the sheep.

Saturday, 28 April 2012


I've been in Abergavenny again,  today.  Practising throwing porcelain, using reclaimed porcelain slurry and turnings. 
It isn't the easiest clay to throw.  You have to go for the shape you want, you can't change your mind half way through!  That is good discipline to retain when I'm back throwing stoneware clay.

The shape I was throwing involved a straight side, as opposed to curved and it is surprising how difficult that can be!   I'm making mugs.  They should be ready for turning and handling by the middle of the week.  I kept the six I was most happy with.

It was good working together with two of the salt firing conspirators, each of us doing different work but relaxed together in the workshop.

It was dry and quite chilly today, but there were plenty of birds shouting about!
Yesterday we saw the first house martin returning there.  A heart-lifting sight.

Friday, 27 April 2012

rain and inspiration

It is raining steadily and reasonably heavily too.
It should be easing off by this afternoon...for 24 hours...then it is forecast wet and windy and cold with easterly winds. 

Today's work in Abergavenny will be indoors not out!

Yesterday's work is just sitting there, almost as freshly thrown.  I need to make some pencil pots and bud vases but until these dry enough to be finished there is no point!

The Carpenter is having the stitches out of his ear today.  His hand still isn't right. The receptionist's response on Tuesday (when he made the stitch removing appointment) was "go back to A+E". (actually the best advice as it should save him a few weeks waiting...but surely should have been said in a less dismissive manner)  I think it at least needs X raying again now that the initial swelling has subsided.   With so many small bones in hands and feet, something could easily be missed. 

His bike needs a new frame and back wheel and I have doubts about the chainset.  The derailleur was scuffed, I don't know if that is bent. Other components are scuffed as well.      As no-one has the driver's details the Motor Insurers' scheme kicks in...which covers loss of work and treatment.   Probably it only does this as too many people tried to take advantage, therefore the genuine ones lose out.

The inspiration?.......Make a lot of small tiles.......use all the old stoneware glaze tests, making sure that every one is marked with the test code.       Sell them!! (all but one of each)    Then if anyone comes back with an order, I'll know which glaze to use!!!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

making even more!

After sorting the washing and the dishes and some cleaning I started my New Excercise Routine....I walked to the doctor's surgery to give the blood samples for my "MoT" tests!!    It is only a mile and I managed to get there and nearly all the way back before it rained!!  
By the time I'd processed a batch of Lime with Lemon Cordial it was time for an early lunch.

Then I managed to reach the workshop!!

It is strange having to have the workshop light on, despite working in front of a large window.  The rain showers were long and heavy but there were some sunny spells.

The latest shape is like the new coffee mugs with writing on, but with a chunky rim.
These will have "mel" written on them...."honey"!!      I have made a dozen and some will have writing and others can have interesting knobs and lugs.   When they have dried a little I'll possible paddle a couple to a hexagonal shape....very suitable for honey!!

After a teatime break, when I ordered a different clay for a special order....which could be fun!!    I made a boardful of bowls to be turned and pierced to make small berry bowls. These are selling steadily and are fun to make, a very nice combination!

I was ready to stop a little after 7pm..but wheel and tools have to be left clean.  You don't want dry clay hanging around getting dusty.
Supper was nice and quick, omelette and salad...pudding later will be a rice pudding cooked slowly this afternoon, which very conveniently helped to dry yesterday's jugs and tankards!!    The air was so damp overnight that they had hardly dried atall.

Now I'm just waiting for a phone call from The Carpenter to say that his train is nearly at our nearest station, a mile down the valley.  He was working in Swansea today so he'll look forward to a lift home instead of a walk, especially if it rains again!!


Jugs and tankards and ideas for a honey pot yesterday.

There are so many interesting things to make.   You can spread too widely however and never have two of anything...
Trying to decide what to concentrate on and what should be in the usual repertoire of shapes......

More berry bowls needed and pie-crust bowls to make today.

I did go to the doctor...eventually....yesterday!!  (and she did say I should have gone six months ago...)
  Anti-biotics to deal with the last of the "little green aliens" and a blood sample for testing today....eep!!! (at least not one I have to fast before).    
I need to walk and cycle more. Even if it is raining!!  Although I draw  the line at being out in the heavy showers we're having at the moment!! One minute sun, the next it is like standing under the tap!!

   The past year has turned me upside-down mentally and physically.   Keeping "busy" is fine, but it isn't everything.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

mediaeval house, rebuilt

This is the latest addition to the museum at St Ffagan, a mediaeval house from the quay at Haverfordwest  in Pembrokeshire.

For those who can access I player, there is a programme about it...
Brick by Bricjk   (that should read Brick by Brick!!)


We do need the rain-I just wish it would stick to raining at night!    There is hoeing and digging to be done , but that will wait.  All the currants and gooseberries have been flowering well and the strawberries are joining in. 
The pear blossom is delicate and beautiful, so no more frost right now , please!!

Today I need to go to a joinery just up the valley, to see if he has a large bag of sawdust/shavings available. This gets extracted directly from the machines by vacuum, and is also free!     I use it for workshop floor cleaning and The Oily One uses it for...oil! Also cat litter.

Then a few phone calls to see how pots are selling, in case I need to adjust the making list.

Then....make some pots!!!  

Monday, 23 April 2012

Saturday, 21 April 2012

battered and rattled

I was about to go and garden, when I received a call to say that The Carpenter had been knocked off his to the nearest side of Cardiff, where , as he'd ridden his bike from one road across to the second exit of a roundabout...a car going from the outside lane of the first exit,  caught him broadside.

The driver was quite solicitous and hung around until he was loaded into an ambulance (along with his bike!)  As the policeman turned to find him he'd walked away and was driving off without leaving his details.

Would you assume that that was fine to do, when you've knocked a cyclist over, damaged his  bike and he is being taken off to hospital bleeding very nicely? Especially with the police in attendance as well.

Five hours later we left the hospital, with bumps and grazes in all sorts of places and a well stitched ear upon which he had slid along the road after bouncing off the bonnet of the car . The bike was still in the police secure store at the hospital where a paramedic had put it, as the hospital security couldn't get in there!
First we had to pay £2.20 to leave the car park- we were within minutes of being charged double that!!
Then to say "hello and goodbye" to The Wizzard who'd been playing polo with his team from Manchester, before they headed back North.

Home for lunch at teatime.       What a day.    We're so glad that we'd renewed our British Cycling memberships and gone for the highest "gold" level.....full insurance and free legal work if needed...didn't expect to need it so soon!

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Flour Mill Cat

In St Ffagans National History Museum of Wales.

The Flour Mill Cat, busy mouse hunting one morning

new look blogging

It is all there, as before....just in different places, as if someone has done a springclean and tidy.

I'm finding all the old things, slowly!!

The Carpenter's comment was that it looked more like the word processing bit of the computer....

I made a dozen small jugs yesterday, and they were still tacky damp this morning. It is all chill and damp again.

The Carpenter took the remains of his car to the local scrapyard today and received £100 for it!!  With that and the parts that he has and will be selling, it was certainly worth not letting the insurance company keep it six weeks ago!!
Now what do we have to do to persuade The Oily One to do the same with one of his (the unmendable one) ?
Then we had a morning out to pay bills and pay his cash into the bank! I think we had the best of the day- bright sunshine, but black clouds as well that later brought rain and hail.

I must go and make some more jugs as I'm running a little low on them.  I've got so many ideas and a couple of orders, but my get up and go is still sluggish.  Give me a bit of nice warm weather please....and the rain at night!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

booking a trip

is a nightmare!!

However with much help from a certain photographer I'm inching my way to actually buying a plane first ever!!

The Carpenter will oversee the computerwork in booking the ticket.....just in case!!
I need to co-ordinate a lift, a flight, two bus journeys, a ferry and a lift the other end....STRESS!!
I looked at the mileage from home to the ferry..600 the round trip would cost about £180 in fuel....not much different to the cheapest ticket on the train, which I'd love!!

Therefore looking at time and money, I have little choice but to fly.


The variables in firing any kiln are part of it- especially a flame firing as opposed to an electric kiln or one where the ware is fired in saggars (clay boxes)
The thing is to work with the variables.

The flame path within the kiln- you can pack the pots to work towards what you want .
You can also place little dishes with a little salt in them and this will volatalise and give you a salt glazing even without adding any salt through the spy holes. This is good where you think that a particular part of the kiln might be being missed.

The weather is the biggest variable with the air pressure,wind and humidity affecting firing whether you are salt firing or not.

You can work towards the result you desire and the top potters in this field can get a 95% success rate or more. (industrial production is a different matter and a different product)
However, we can't make a living with this, so we can get together and share and learn a few times a year. What we learn can be reflected in the rest of our work. Sharing the enthusiasm can fire the inspiration in a completely different field of work.

We are still just beginners and thank people like Rosemary Cochrane and Wally Keeler for their knowledge that helps us do this

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

kiln unpacking

Just to keep you going....I've had a day at the Court Cupboard Gallery, then a kiln opening and a marvelous supper for the seven of us that stayed on to eat.

A veritable feast...baked potatoes, plus an array of what was "reduced" in the supermarket and what was left in the fridge...a wonderful mix of various salads and things!! There was not much left at the end of a full kitchen tableful!

and now? I'm tired!!

I need to start another making session and all of us have been mentally held back, waiting for the results of this firing.
Our mentor, Rosemary Cochrane, said that myself and the other kiln firer in our group tend to fire "by the seat of our pants"...and don't stick rigidly to a schedule...and this is what she wanted us to do. By so doing, we've had the best firing yet in this kiln....and still we learn with it and know what we'll do differently next time!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

firing weekend

Everything was packed into the kiln in good time on the Friday, before being lit at 5am on Saturday. I arrived at about 9.30 and everywhere was busy! This is the first time that we had been in charge of a firing, as our mentor was away in New Zealand!!

In hindsight we were too busy with everything else going on and the four of us should have focused more on the firing!! There was baking and gardening, furniture moving and buying parts for a VW restoration....and eventually over a dozen people around!!

We missed when the cones went, and we're not sure if the pyrometer is reading correctly.....but we HAVE all learned a lot, however the pots turn out. It was good to have a reassuring visit from Wally Keeler too!!

Everything was logged as the firing went on so we should be able to draw some conclusions on Wednesday when we open and unpack the kiln.
Much digging was done by others....and planting more potatoes and red onion sets.
The sun came briefly (and went!!) and the mountains had snow showers
and the asparagus is on its way...
the walnut tree is budding...
and Francis (Drake!) likes feet!!
Most of us adjourned to a local hostelry for drinks and tapas after turning off the kiln, leaving the cooks in charge of supper and kiln cooling.
The change of scene was relaxing and needed!

In the morning, the sky was........


I helped with gardening after breakfast and harvested the last of the broccoli
some of which came home for lunchtime's Broccoli and Cheese Soup. Just right!

More vivid colour from today.

Now for a couple of days of clay sheep making before I can join in on the Kiln Opening Day!!

Friday, 13 April 2012

SaviacKick Wheels

Many thanks to Steve Ballantyne for your comment on the Saviac Wheel post.

I love my Saviac wheel, I'm even getting a chance to work on a geared version now (apparently those are few and far between).

I like it even better because of the thinking behind its name-

Striving After Values In an Age of Crisis.....are we not all doing this now?

mixed up

This was last week when the kiln was being tidied....and yesterday I was SURE that it was packing day!!

I headed off towards Abergavenny, making a detour to a possible customer...and she bought the cream jug in the middle, and will have a laminated picture of the range on her pub wall, with price list and contact details!! It is a beautiful place and they haven't spoilt the building atall, just done what is needed .
I've heard that the food is really good there and that they cater for veggies that is earmarked for a special meal out sometime!!

Even though it wasn't packing day, I still had time to socialise with my newest friend....

May I introduce Slinky Malinky!!! A six month old gentleman with a huge sense of fun and inquisitiveness....

I took advantage of being in the area and took a stock check on my work in the Court Cupboard Gallery.
Alan the Stained Glass maker was on duty-good to meet another member for the first time...and good to see him selling four of my pots!!

It started raining lightly as I left there and it carried on as I shopped in Abergavenny.
The colours as I drove home were stunning- dark skies and sunshine, brilliant yellow rape fields and the bracken on the hills a glowing rust colour.

Then as I went through Cwm y Glyn to Hafodrynys....large wet snowflakes!! I went over the end of Mynydd Maen Common to avoid the traffic and it was all wet as after heavy rain. The views across the valleys as I came down above where Hafod Fach used to be were spectacular, with bright sunshine, rainbows and snow!!
The sight of steamclouds rising up the narrow vally at Sychpant above Spiteful opposite Cwmcarn was breathtaking- and no place to stop and photograph!

Soon after I arrived home we had a thunderstorm and it rattled around the mountains for quite a long I wasn't going to turn the computer on then!!
The Carpenter arrived a little after me, having had the exhilarating (?!!) experience of driving over three inches of hailstones on the way home from Cardiff.....!!

Still we can't the area of Bala and Dolgellau they had a sudden surprise fall of six inches of snow....roads blocked, traffic stuck, as the snow ploughs couldn't cope!!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

new outlet

Today I delivered 25 pots to St. Ffagans pottery, within the National History Museum. You can see the pottery 1m 10s into the embedded video of the museum.

I'm back making sheep- bodies and finishing today- but I could do with time off from everything at the moment..the cough and cold has returned AGAIN. I think Friday is free, so that could be a day to visit the doctor, if there is a free appointment time...don't hold your breath!! I know it started as "just another virus", but I don't think coughing up Little Green Aliens is good!!
The weather turning cold has not helped because people in the village have been lighting their fires to keep warm. As many are retired miners, there will be the matter of a free coal allowance....and coal fires mean sulphurous smoke....cough, cough!

Tomorrow is saltkiln packing day. I'm looking forward to that- a day in nice clean air!!
I think we'll be firing on Saturday, which is forecast to be the driest of the next few days.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Thankyou to the "clay club" blog for this video of a lecture by John Cleese in 1991 on creativity.

Monday, 9 April 2012

bank holiday weather

Rain, of course!!

I've done a little more sorting and tidying in the workshop.

What would you do with all your old small glaze tests? (I mean the sitting in a small yoghurt pot variety of glaze test!)

Went shopping for essentials with The Carpenter, now the order of the day is Keep Warm and Dry!!

Sunday, 8 April 2012


I fancied a bit of fresh air so I did the weeding in the rasberry row yesterday, and mulched with pony manure. Next will be the older gooseberry bush bed. They are straggling a bit as they've missed out on being pruned for two years....oops! I was going to grub them up, but I'll wait until they crop now everything is flowering. I'll judge by the taste!!

Today I attacked the workshop, steadily. Now I have clean wareboards and batts and one set of shelves sorted. The wheel and floor are clean too and all the kiln props tidy on their shelf.
I need to sort through the odd pieces of biscuit ware saved for glaze testing, all the assorted tubs and put a few more glaze ingredients in tubs rather than plastic bags.
With any luck my overalls and towels will be dry by tomorrow! The weather had held dry today but the hoped for rain should arrive tomorrow...well it is Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow, one should expect rain!!

Next job, sort out the next making list.

I need to make more pots with words on, although the person who was interested really wants them at a much lower price. I can't compete with large potteries making hotelware!!
She still may take some to sell even if she wont buy them for her business. Hopefully I'll see on Thursday morning.
I need to make more larger bowls and also think what will be good for the salt firing after this one.
I need to think of pots that will be suitable for other exhibitions and galleries.

Hopefully the Carpenter will be back from the Wizzard with my laptop ready to roll, and I'll be able to post pictures on here and etsy and fb to get more sales.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Well- sort of!!
The Carpenter has gone off to see The Wizzard, taking both laptops to be needs something taking off, and both need things added. There is also the matter of some cycle polo playing in Manchester as well!

Thursday was kiln unpacking day and organising myself for the following two days...

Four of us had a long productive day yesterday, tidying and preparing the salt kiln for a firing. I was mainly helping to glaze pots. Now I have to make more ready for the firing after that!
We'll be packing the kiln next week. It was really good working with friends instead of everyone beavering away alone. Fresh hot Hot Cross Buns were brought by other friends at butter needed!!

Today the rain held off and Usk Farmers Market went really well. We had most of the local regulars, plus many visitors.
My takings were good, mainly thanks to a couple of American (USA) customers...who appreciate the meaning and value of hand made, local and farmers' markets!!

Next job is to give the workshop a sort out and decide on the next list for making.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Canadian ginger cake

Here it is, as requested!!

The oven should be at Mark 4/ 350 F / 180 C. Don't forget if you have a fan oven you'll need to set it a bit lower. The cake goes in the middle or a tiny bit above.

I used half of the recipe and made it in a tin which measures just over 12" x 10" x 2" deep. For the whole recipe use a tin 10.5" x 13.5" x 3" .

30 oz plain flour (any combination of white/wholemeal that you like. Try half and half)
6 tsp spice. (Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Allspice, Coriander, a touch of you like!)
3 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda ( "Baking Soda"?)
12 oz butter (or margarine)
18 oz treacle (molasses) (I've made one using honey- just as good!)
18 oz golden syrup
12 oz soft, dark brown sugar
6 eggs, beaten
3/4 pint (15 fluid ounces) of hot water

Pre-heat the oven.
Grease and line the tin.
Mix the dry ingredients in a LARGE bowl, a slotted serving spoon is good for mixing.
Weigh the fat,treacle, syrup and sugar in the saucepan (makes life easier!) and melt together over a gentle heat. Add to the dry ingredients and mix.
Add eggs and mix.
Add water and mix.

Place the cake batter in the tin, and the tin in the oven.

Check after 40 minutes to see if a knife will come out clean when gently poked in the middle.
If it is obviously not done yet, don't poke it! It WILL sink!!

A third of the recipe will probably done after 40 minutes, a half after 50 and the full recipe will take an hour or even a little more. All ovens are different! I wouldn't be surprised if the weather could affect it, as it does bread!!

Leave it to cool at least until it is just warm (!!) in the tin.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


It has been a mostly grey damp day here, some rain showers and a few sprinkles of snow pellets.

Firing has proceeded steadily, as if you push it too hard when it is cold it seems to use a lot more gas. You also get freezing condensation on the outside of the bottles, which is useful to show the gas level in the bottle, but does slow the firing.

Ginger cake has been made this afternoon..."Canadian Ginger Cake"...I've had the recipe for many years, I still don't know why it is Canadian!! Also Carrot , Squash and Shallot soup....with fresh ginger!! It must be the weather!!

Back to the workshop now as the kiln is almost at temperature.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

ready and waiting

I've just glazed and packed a kiln full of pots...most of which I threw a week yesterday!

Having a little warm weather works wonders!!

The warmth has left us for a while, some of Scotland has ten inches of snow, only a day or so after record high temperatures.
We've just had some real rain, the first for a few weeks. Just heard that parts of Australia have had their first rain in four months...and I'm sure other places have been waiting longer.

Tonight I'm having an evening off...I'm back making sheep as well, so two jobs in one day!!

In my browsing I've had this brought to my attention.. well worth watching...


Sunday, 1 April 2012


Are the bane of my life.

It is impossible to run a small business without one.
It uses too much of my meagre income running it, yet without it I have nothing.

Then there are bits of cars...cluttering the Room of Doom which should be a living room, the front hall, the bailey at the back- newly cleared and re-cluttered....the so-called garden, has now a rear beam and attached bits gracing the path, plus other heaps of gubbins. Neither myself or the Carpenter was consulted on this, and it is our home.
Plus whatever bits of car The Oily One has in his bedroom....

I can't afford to keep my car on the road without the mechanical assistance of The Oily One.....

Meanwhile I'm firing a bisque, mainly of pots with writing on....hoping for sales and orders....