Since my AA2A placement started a couple of months ago, I've been busy working towards my first show of the year, Made by Hand, which took place last weekend in Cheltenham.
Last year was my first winter working from the tiny shed in the garden after the long but satisfying job of repairing it and turning it into a workspace. Although the commute was certainly shorter and more pleasant, it was difficult to work productively without proper electricity, lighting, heating and space. At one point, I remember holding an old lamp (plugged into the extension cable attached to another extension cable running from the house) upside down in one had whilst trying to finish a pots on the wheel (a job that really requires two hands) because I just couldn't see properly in the late afternoon darkness. After a surprise hard frost, I also discovered that unfired pots with some moisture content still in them will crack when frozen and that bagged clay completely changes consistency and is unusable for some time after freezing. I started having to carry freshly thrown or built pots back and forth to the house in the mornings and evenings, along with all my clay which was far from ideal and rather precarious.
Being able to work from the University from January onwards as part of my residency has been hugely beneficial. The space, warmth and kiln access has meant that I've been able to be much more efficient, plan my making properly and I've been testing some new clay and glaze recipes in the kilns. There's even a sink! It's really nice to be working with other people around too.
Since I've had to change my supplier of raw ingredients, I've had a lot of trouble recreating my main glaze recipe which I use for my eggshell pots. The new glazes I've mixed up have been different colours, more transparent and seem to move more which has been frustrating. I've been trying all sorts - altering the ratio of ingredients, temperatures, buying more ingredients from elsewhere etc. and I think in the last couple of weeks I've finally made some headway with the addition of an extra ingredient! The white base glaze is looking more white and the matte surface is back so now I need to try it out on some test pots and work on getting the right blue colour for the House Sparrow (below) and Jackdaw bowls. They're some of my most popular pots and fortunately I made up a large batch of the blue glaze last year before the problems began. The level of the bucket is getting very low now so the resolved recipe can't come soon enough...
The show in Cheltenham went well and it was great to have such lovely stand neighbours - there were some familiar faces from the Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey, Devon last year and some new ones too. The past year has been my first travelling to shows since graduating and setting up is becoming easier now that I have a better idea of what I'm doing and have made furniture that adapts to each type of show setting. Cheltenham is beautiful so I enjoyed having a wander around the day before the show too.