Ceramics for the textile focused crafter

For the last two years, I have been going to evening classes to learn more about the challenging skill of ceramics.

Ceramics does not come easily to me, but perhaps this is why I’m drawn to it.  I struggle to roll out coils for hand building with any consistency, my slabs seem to come out lopsided even when I use guides, I glaze unevenly which causes crazing, and I grapple with the wheel on most occasions.  But there is something so absorbing in the processes involved in ceramics, and when one item comes out better than expected among the multitude of items which are deemed as “lessons for next time,” it can be fulfilling.

I have veered away from “traditional” ceramics.  By this, I mean the classic goal to make either wares for your kitchen or dining, or even sculptures.  I have made the odd item such as an oven dish and a mug, but they both crazed.  I’ve managed to make some small bowls on the wheel – some of which have even sides – but they have ended up storing bobbins, pattern weights and sewing machine feet invariably as a lot of them are made from porous earthenware (which is easier to use on the wheel – for me anyway).

It seems I am naturally drawn to making ceramic wares which I can use with my other hobbies.  In my first year of learning ceramics, I plucked up the courage to ask my tutor whether I could make a yarn bowl.  Once the tutor knew what I meant by this, I was able to set off and make a yarn bowl from coil construction.  It took many weeks to complete (which is why yarn bowls for sale are made on the wheel – not hand built) but I was delighted to have a practical item which I could use.

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Following the success of the yarn bowl, I set about creating matching accessories.  I created a set of needle and crochet hook holders.  I even made a pin dish, replicating a family heirloom version.

tool-holders

It wasn’t until more recently that I discovered the joy of making my own buttons.  I began using stoneware, but also had the opportunity to make some white stoneware ones too (which looks a bit like porcelain and can be rolled out thinner), which I haven’t been able to part with!

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If I think about it, I think part of the reason I haven’t made “traditional” ceramic items is due to that awful tendency to compare your own work to others.  Everyone else in the class was making mugs and bowls, and many of them were amazing, which can subconsciously affect your own choices.  No one else was making yarn bowls or buttons, so I couldn’t compare!  However, everyone has their own style and skill development, and this shouldn’t be a reason to avoid certain makes or opportunities.

Moving into my third year of learning ceramics, I’ve decided I will try to make a few “traditional” pieces – namely mugs.  I love the idea of sitting in a rocking chair with my knitting or crocheting, with a hot drink made in my own ceramic mug sitting next to me.  This week, my first attempt crazed, but I’m going to keep trying so that I have one hand built mug (and perhaps one day I’ll be able to throw one on the wheel too)!

Saying that though, I may have to make some more buttons!  Not only am I fond of them, they are useful surfaces for experimenting on with oxides, glazes and textures.

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Block printing

I mentioned in my post on the stitching, sewing and hobbycrafts show about my purchases for block printing and I thought I’d review the tools purchased.

I bought two blocks from The arty crafty place stall at the show.  Also, I picked up some leaf shapes from another stall which I felt could be used for block printing.

I didn’t buy the tempting starter kit, as I felt i had enough tools at home.  I have fabric paints which I was inspired to buy from taking a textiles class last spring, and I have tray from a lino printing kit.  I found a foam sheet to place beneath the fabric and sacrificed a new washing up sponge for the activity too.

Using a tray is beneficial as you can mix your colours to produce new colours or you can create blends as you print. below is a selection of samples I produced from the blocks.

blocks_tested

I hate to waste samples though, and I ended up transforming this sample into a birthday card.  As I hadn’t intended to turn it into a card originally, I had to think about where to cut the piece.

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I decided to use free machine embroidery to stitch around the shapes.  I began using metallic threads and then tried some others to create a bit more definition.

Naturally, the blocks from The arty crafty shop worked better and were easier to use than the cheaper leaves I bought, but they both proved to be effective with practice.  The arty crafty shop have so many lovely designs and I could have easily chosen many more, but I feel that the two selected will be versatile for a range of uses.

leaves_card