Friday, October 10, 2008

A drum roll please for the Christmas Give-Away!!

Well here we are then, the time has come to make the prize draw, the names are in the hat and some more than once , all legal and honest and no slight of hand...everyone ready.. no pushing at the back!..Firstly may I just say that I have really enjoyed doing this so Thank You ElizabethD for encouraging me to join in and meet lots of new interesting bloggers whom I might have never met otherwise. Thank you too to each one of you who entered and made such kind comments about my work, they are much appreciated.

Alright its not really a hat but Brigitte here was not willing to donate her hat and insisted she hold the basket instead as it matches her hair...vain creature...

Widdle, one of our cats, decided he'd help and act as ajudicator just to make sure everything was above board. Here he is checking all the names against the list of entrants in case I have forgotten anyone.

He wanted to take the names out of the bag too but, being a little lacking in poseable thumbs as he is, I thought I had better get a human to do that....

And the winner of my Glazed Expression Christmas Give-Away draw is.....oops sorry dropped the paper.... now where are my reading glasses? You'd think I could read my own hand writing wouldn't you.. sorry, as I was saying the winner is....are you sure you want to do this? You wouldn't like a nice cup of tea or something instead? Or something stronger? No? oh well if you are sure then lets get on with it.

The winner is... or should I say are ...

Jan and Tom from Jan and Tom's Place ( Well done you...!

Oh look do stop looking so miserable not everyone can win everytime. Oh now stop it at once I hate grumpy faces... go on then, I shall be kind and draw a few more Christmas Give Aways as well to get you all in the holiday spirit ( I know its months away yet but as I said before some of us have to plan early!)

Here we are then another drum roll but smaller this time..3 small give aways just because I hate dissapointing people... and the first ones goes to Fennie ( do read Fennies very funny blogs and thank you Fennie I see you have linked to my glazed Expressions that was very kind.. .. Carolien who does the most amazing stitching see finally but not least to Debbie of Debbies English Treasures who has a real conrucopia of floral china on her new website and blog

Now if all you lucky winners would like to email me with your postal address and your real names so I can send your giftees to you I will pop them in the post on monday..sorry to those who didn't win this time but if you are interested in anything that you see on this blog but you don't see on my website then email me and I will be happy to let you know prices and details.

I am really sorry I couldnt give everyone who entered a little something....perhaps I will do another one later to make up for it. I do love giving things away..Any if any of you haven't tried Give Aways on your blog then I hope you will soon. Its great fun !

Must go now as I have some very important parcels to prepare! I haven't taken photos of the prizes as I do not want to spoil the surprise but hope the winners will be kind enough to display their well earned gains on their blogs so everyone can see them when they arrive.

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ho ho ho Christmas has come early and its all ED's fault!!

You know how it is, you think someone is sweet and kind and then blow me down with a feather you find that under that gentle demeanour is hiding a grim determination and you discover that the woman you knew as a charming English rose is in fact really a hard bitten bully after all !

For months Elizabeth D has been gently prodding me to do a "give away" ~on my blog , and I keep saying Ok yes of course, blah de blah and never getting around to it , Yesterday she gave me a prod with a sharp stick and reminded me , yet again in no uncertain terms, that I should get my finger out and do as I was told.

So, here I am doing as I was told to do . Asking a band of total strangers if they'd like a chance of a freebee something or other that I have made . Well would you ? It might be a ceramic heart or a Christmas decoration or card ( I know I know Christmas already but yes here in retail land Noel starts on 16th October and wow betide the artisan who has not got their stock sorted by then, sorry you din't think Santas helper did it all over night did you?!). It could be a tile or a tiny cat or goodness knows what I haven't got that far yet so its a bit of a pig in a poke but whatever it is it will be packaged up and posted with love from me to you.Apparently it works like this all one needs to do is leave a comment on this blog, and if you find your name picked at random to receive something from my box of creations. I am not sure what length of time these "give aways" run for ,being a novice at this, but how about I say the winner will be drawn at random on October 27th 2008 , midday French time and I am relying on ED to remind me of that too! Of course that gives me almost a month to make up a pleasant surprise little package that I think someone might like and to bite my finger nails to the bone whilst I wait anxiously to see if anyone wants to join in that's all! ALSO I AM TOLD THAT IF YOU PUT A LINK TO MY GLAZED EXPRESSION BLOG ON YOUR OWN BLOG YOU GET AN EXTRA CHANCE OF WINNING THE GIVE AWAY ( see what a learning experience this has been for me already and its only teatime!) If you want a taste of what I do go to my website to see more.
Honestly I do like ED, she is a really really lovely person and butter wouldn't melt in her mouth and she is as warm and generous as the sun but she can't half nag that one! (Is that Ok ED? Did I do it right?)

PS The Christmas card above is one of several I have been working on this summer..the angel is wooden and hangs on wire and can be detached from the card and used as an ornament afterwards. Below are two of a set of three ceramic American Patriotic Christmas cards , the third is a dove in the same design, for those in the USA I also do Union Jack ones too.., Nothing like making Christmas cards in August to get you in the holiday mode!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On the tiles in Marrakesh

Carpets drying on the mosque roof top

Abandoned lamps on the road to Marrakesh

I started this long long ago on my return to France after our trip to Morocco but then the Computer God cursed my internet connection and it has sat here dormant and unloved whilst I gave up and sauntered off to play in Italy Greece and various ports in between.

Traditional carved plaster work

I went to Morocco hoping to be inspired by all the ceramics and tiles and wondering if they might in turn influence my own work. In the end, beauteous and abundant though the tiles were, it was the over all colour and designs that captured my imagination not only in the tiles but in every aspect of life there. Everything is so vivid and even the humblest pieces of furniture become a work of art form in themselves covered in traditional Berber designs.

I had planned to write about about how the Spanish and Moorish cultures had influenced ceramic design in Morocco and visa-versa, to recommend the best museums to visit to explore the decorative culture of the area to describe, as many have before, the infinite skill and patience of the craftsmen who spend their days engrossed in the making of the small tiles that when placed together form the Zillij designs which go back centuries and are still sought after the world over... how the skills and tools used have not changed for generations and so much more

In the end pictures speak louder than anything I can say so , instead, here are some photographs of some of the eye catching designs I fell in love with in Morocco. I hope they delight and inspire you too.

Traditional Berber designs on wooden ceilings

Carpets (below)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Putting my cards on the Table

Cards are vexing things. They are expensive and have a short shelf life, when you take them down it seems a shame to throw them away but what else can you do with them? Recycle them perhaps? Put them in a shoe box for later as a reminder then forget them never get them out again until you move house and they become just another bit of clutter? They may look jolly on the dresser for a day, a reminder that someone cared enough to send it to you, but after that how long do you have to keep them on display without people asking what the occassion is and you feeling a rather sad and pathetic prat and saying well yes it was for your birthday and no it was 4 months ago ...?

The French are not, on the whole , terribly taken with the idea of sending greeting cards. Supermarkets stock a few bland and dated offerings, the Maison de presse the odd one or two which are slightly more flamboyant but on the whole you would be pushed to find anything original or different amongst them. Nothing to make the recipient feel you had gone out of your way to find something just for them. Sometmes too, you want to send a card that is a little bit more than jsut a card for occassions when a present might be a little over the top but when something more than a card is called for.

So I put my thinking cap on and decided I'd bridge the gap and do a series of cards with ceramic motifs on them, some on ribbon hangers, some with magnets which can be kept as mementoes once the card has out lived the occassion.

And this is what I came up with....

They seem to have taken off quiet well, the baby cards a popular with th eold fashioned prams in pink blue or yellow, and the rather 1930's suburban villa with its red roof is a hit. The teapots and ladies heads are magnets, and of course there is inevitably a dove.

Each is made from good quality card and each is slightly different . The colours vary and the background pattern is not always the same which gives them an individual and original touch. They come in their own protective cellophane sleeve with an envelope, either white or coloured and left blank for your own message.

I am working on more designs at the moment, a three tier wedding cake in pink and white and a few other trifles are cluttering up my desk.

If you are interested you can find out more via the link below or contact me direct via email.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Avoiding the Evil Eye

When I lived in Egypt, long ago, on the Nile River, which ran beneath my balcony, every vessel from the tiny fishing boats to the ornate gold floating pleasure cruisers, bore painted eyes on their prows like those on the pharaoh’s tombs to ward off danger. Taxi’s and Lorries and the big people carriers , so prone to accidents they were known locally as flying hearses, held together with dust and rust all had brightly coloured eyes superimposed on a hand shaped design, plastered on them. Even the Zabbaleen, the despised Coptic Christian garbage collectors carts had them and in Upper Egypt, the women place hand prints on their mud walls with ochre pigment. Every shop, every office every handcart selling Coca-Cola had a hand and an eye hanging from it, even the Cairo Hilton had one above the front desk and the horses pulling the caliches on the Corniche wore them on their bridles . In shops everywhere you could buy self adhesive versions of varying degrees of luridness for a few pence. The goldsmiths make them encrusted with gems and sell them to the wealthy for a fortune.

This hand and eye symbol is the خمسة, Khamsa/Hamsa meaning “LIVE” in Arabic, a protective symbol used all over the world. Look and you will find it in Jewish houses sometimes inscribed with prayers; you will see it too amongst the Masonic symbols. Turks and Greeks paint it on their boats. In America and Europe between the wars it was worn by women on charm bracelets and was as common as a horse shoe or a four leafed clover as well known as a a wishbone.

It dates back before Christianity, before Judaism and before Islam so far back that its origins and full symbolism are hazy. Do the 5 fingers represent the 5 books of the Torah or the 5 pillars of Islam, is the eye the eye of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, or of Miriam the sister of Moses who hid him in the bulrushes to save him from the Pharaohs slaughter of all the Hebrew newborn infants? No one knows but across the world it has become a sing of the protecting hand of God, whoever that God may be, a magical talisman against the envious attentions of the evil eye, an amulet of protection and it crops up in the most unlikely places. Even Hollywood celebs are wearing them now, Nicole Richie for one, mind you with as a best friend Paris Hilton she may need all the protection she can get!

If you need a little protection yourself or just think these would be fun to hang up in your home have then email me.

Ceramic Blue Evil Eye

( 10cm wide handmade and cobalt glazed on a blue beaded leather thong.)
3.00 sterling plus 2.50 sterling postage.

Ceramic Hand of Fatima

(18 cm long handmade and glazed in bright colours on a beaded leather thong)
10.00 sterling plus 2.50 postage.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Broken Plates.

Digging in the garden I am for ever finding small shards of old French pottery which I collect in a most un feng shui fashion to clutter my studio with. I love the tiny glimpses of design and wonder at what the complete plate might have looked like and the stories that lie behind their destruction. Was it a child who dropped it on the unforgiving slate floor perhaps or part of a cherished dinner set the loss of which caused many tears? In my minds eye I can imagine some sunlit family celebration in summer the plates all placed with joy on long trestle tables laid with white cloths under the apple trees in the orchard and how one dish may have shattered at some small piece lost in the earth for me to find over a century later.

Even on holiday I trawl the tide line looking for lost fragments of peoples past lives. Never sure what quite to do with them but happy to find these serendipitous shards of beauty. One of my favourite pieces is no bigger than a child's finger tip with a small floral design in red which I found in a river one hot day in the Pyrenees Orientalle. It is so small with barely a hint of the full picture , just one corner of a flower with petals like the suns rays, but I love it . It is that little remnant of broken dish that inspired me to make some ceramic pendants recently to hang on leather thongs. And here they are, an attempt to capture something of the original design and transport it into something beautiful and wearable.

I had so much fun making them that I went on to make some crosses in similar designs and had great fun making intricate little patterns with my brush and glazes. Each is only about 4.5 cm long and I am now thinking about earrings in porcelain . I wonder what the owner of the original plate would think to see them!

For more pictures and further deatils you can go to my shop front

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Franki goes to...Australia....

Meet Frankie, but you had better make it snappy, because he is heading down under to the land of OZ , where any day now he will grace a very smart black and white kitchen in Queensland. Franki is the first cockeral I have painted in a long time and I am rather pleased with him.

When I first started selling my work , well over 10 years ago, I did a lot of chickens, entire dinner services with flocks of feathery egg layers stomping about the plate rims, vast salad bowls with beady eyed light Sussex hens glaring up from under the oranges, jugs of all shapes and sizes with poultry of every hue cavorting about them. All gone now and not one remaining on my dresser, which is really sad as I love chickens , daft creature that I am!

We have kept chickens for years and used to have rather an exotic flock, courtesy of a friend who was breeder and a judge of fowl and feathers. I did the Country Show circuit selling my ceramics and after many a long weekend I'd become aware, as I was packing up my stall ,of the faint sound of scuttling and the gentle cooing noise hens make at bed time then there he would be coyly loitering by the tent flap with a trio to add to my collection. Our hen house was like a rural retirement home for rare breeds, model birds who didn't make it to the top.

Now alas we are down to one rather bolshy French hen. She lays like a trooper, although I am not sure troopers lay eggs, and spends her days wandering alone about the garden and the maize fields talking to herself like the last relic of a long dynasty, terribly well bred but definitely dotty. I keep trying to get her to make some new friends but each time I go out next morning and find her happily alone again. I think she and the fox have an agreement when fresh supplies come in she invites him over for supper.

And of course , to go with the tiles I had to do one of these, a plate to match Franki because a girl has to have something on which to put her egg sandwiches at teatime doesn't she ?

There is something about the way hens hold themselves, the gleam in their eye that continues to tempt me to try and capture it in glaze. Well if nothing else it makes a refreshing change from Doves!!


Franki was drawn on a panel of 9 bisque fired majolica glazed 4"tiles with glaze chalks and underglazes then fired to a high temperature , and was a special commission , cost roughly 50 pounds sterling . Similar designs can be made to order at the same price.

Friday, May 9, 2008

And yet more doves !

I know this is becoming a bit of an obsession but can I help it? Here I have some more doves all slightly, and one very, different from the last..Above one is the biggest 18cm tall, it hangs on a nylon thread and spins in the breeze. Slightly trickier to make and therefore slightly more expensive these are about to be launched on my website at 10 Sterling each although post and packing will still be 2.50 sterling.

Each of the other Doves are roughly 8cm wide and hand made and glazed to order with a choice of an incised Heart design as above or a raised Heart design as below.

You can choose whatever colour you like to suit your colour scheme and all come on matching ribbons . Price 5.50 sterling plus 2.50 postage and packing. I also do these doves with birth dates and names on for new babies. Email me if you are interested..

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Doves seek drier ground..

New homes wanted for understated and housetrained doves. 8.5cm wide-ish, handmade in clay and majolica glazed in white, painted with a Scandinavian inspired design in dusky pink, blue, lilac and due to popular, all hanging on a matching gingham ribbon and very possibly any other colour you fancy wihtin reason. Blow the olive branch, if it continues to rain without abating for much longer, this item will soon be available wearing wellingtons and carying a minature umbrella.

Price 5.50 pounds plus 2.50 sterling postage( still unable to trace sterling symbol on French keyboard) to anywhere in Europe.

Monday, April 21, 2008

All creatures Great and Small....

When I was a small person I used to spend many a happy hour making figures out of local clay on the beach and leaving them to dry in the sun, ruining countless swimsuits and other items of clothing in the process with ingrained clay whilst my mother sat on the sand and read ( did you hear that dearest children I used to let MY Mother, sit ,undisturbed, for hours on end, and read) Oh how my mother laughed as she merrily scrubbed the laundry! ( which probably serves her right for leaving me to play in mud whilst she read undisturbed). Alas, I never inherited my Mother's ability to sit and read unmolested and in peace., and I still ruin my clothes with ingrained clay but they now have that extra je ne sais quoi of glaze stains as well ....

And this is how its how they get there...

1. First take a lump of clay, a banding wheel, a variety of odd tools, a pair of clean hands and a cup of coffee. Place lump of clay on wheel., turn it around and around until you can see what it is going to become. Drink coffee, remembering to wipe hands on trousers first. Always remember , oh my best beloveds, that it is no good trying to turn the lump of clay into an elephant if it wants to be a dog. Ignore advise from partner passing through studio, insisting it really should be an elephant . Wipe hands on jumper in order to remove dry clay powder in order not to contaminate wet clay when grabbing lumps of it from clay bag for offspring , who have now discovered my whereabouts and the fact I have clay out and insist , naturally, they must join in.

2. Once I have settled children, thrown cold coffee away and made another, ( having carefully wiped clay on my shirt tails to avoid dirtying kettle) fiddled with clay until it is happy with its shape and made several other small creatures (at demand of your off spring who have completed their works of art in seconds flat and now want me to make something for them) I leave clay figures to dry in warm place away from aforementioned offspring and cats. This is not easy to achieve in an open plan house situated in a zone currently being used by God as a practise run for the second deluge. Wipe hands on trousers again to avoid getting clay finger prints all over house whilst searching for suitable place of safety for drying figures.

3. Once thoroughly dry (takes several days that, which gives me a chance to unsuccessfully shift clay from clothing) I place small creatures in kiln carefully packing them so they don't fall over as they are as fragile as crystal at this stage, and fire to the required temperature remembering to place kiln God on top of kiln and reminding children and their visiting friends , for the hundredth time and in two languages, that they are not allowed to touch it.

4. Have more coffee and pace floor , resisting temptation to open kiln until the temperature inside has fallen to room temperature . Try not to imagine that pieces made by beloved offspring have exploded due to unforeseen air pockets and , in so doing , have shattered the rest of the contents of the kiln ,which comprises several days work and a very special customer order for hand made tiles amongst other bits of bread and butter. I get up several times in the night just to check on the temperature and find a huddle of cats lying under kiln basking in its heat. When I have the big kiln in the barn firing the feral cats think its thier own central heating sytem snuggle up underneath that one too. Think how thrilled the cats proteciton league would be if they knew!

5. Once kiln has dropped its temperature to somewhere cool enough not to shatter its contents once lid is opened, I take a deep breath and open kiln and breathe out with huge sigh of relief, as nothing has exploded and, taking care to not drop now fired bisque pieces and place them somewhere safely away from small boys and cats until they are cool enough to glaze. In theory I should wait until the kiln reaches room temperature before daring to open it but as its so cold at the moment this could take until August.

6. Cover entire kitchen table with bright orange and pink checked cloth so that table will not be ruined by over enthusiastic glazing of youngest offspring. It goes without saying that I have a perfectly adequate studio with a vast table which has a sensible wipe clean surface which I never use, as glazing at the kitchen table is much more fun. Here I can combine it with bright witty conversation from partner, as he replenishes the coffee pot ,and shout maternal advise to boys about not killing each other and getting on and tidying their rooms without having to move , plus of course, make lunch and answer phone and all those trifling multi tasking activities that make being a modern woman such fun!.

7. Having carefully mixed small quantities of glaze, wiping any spillage with my elbow and cleaning my brushes on my sleeve, I remove cats from table and assembled a vast array of paintbrushes ,rags and jars of water , place fired lump of clay (now miraculously transformed into a something which is not an elephant) on to banding wheel and proceed to paint. Our cats like drinking the dirty water in which I have cleaned my brushes and stretching luxuriantly on large sheet of glass on which I have mixed the colours. Now, although a pink and green floral patterned cat may be unusual and even attractive , as I am constantly warning my children, as I lick the brush to get a fine point, glazes are not really meant to be consumed as some contain toxic chemicals such as lead. I am still trying to decide if cats are mad due to licking glazes from their fur or whether they are mad and that is why they do it. I have already established I am un peu loufoque so the effects of long term brush licking are not open to discussion.

The glazing process goes like this. I load my brush and steady my hand then stop to remove cats, break up some territorial fracas in playroom,and let dogs in and then out. I then start again which is why it takes so long. Once I have completed glazing all the animals and figures leave to dry in safe place. for about 24 hours. Clean kitchen of all traces of pottery activities, make snack for hungry offspring and then repeat stages 3 and 4..., making very sure no glaze has sneaked onto bottom of figures otherwise they stick to the shelves ( and when I say stick I mean nothing but breaking them will get them off and then you need to grind shelf down to remove all traces of glaze so next time the glaze does not sneakily re melt and stick anything sitting on it to the shelf , also need to check that none of the pieces are touching each other a they will then stick to each other, and which is why all potters should know how to use an angle grinder)....and then I wait..

This is the worst waiting bit. It takes about 24 hours or longer for the kiln to fire up to the right temperature, then cool down again. With a bisque firing or first fire, if I open the kiln with all its little unglazed bits in before it is really cool no real harm will be down as long as the temperature is below 100 degrees. If I open it too soon after a glaze firing the gentle ting ting ting of crazing can be heard and like Pandora's box once opened it is to late, the harm is done . If the inhabitants of Noah's ark keeping warm in the kiln need a gloss glaze I then have to repeat stage 4 with a gloss glaze....a very messy business for which one should always wear an overall, or not in my case.

And at the end of it all this is what you get...... hopefully..

and finally ,this pair ....

At this stage I should really apologise for the way photos are so badly laid out and for the length of this blog..more like a dissertation really..but I shan't because the layout is blogger's fault as its playing up today and if I am too verbose for you then no one insisted you read what I wrote so you only have yourself to blame.. anyway you have a nice day and I'm off to do what I love best of all playing with clay.. all creatures great and small are of course available for sale via my ( oh dear blatant self publicityI shall be shot!!) or rather they will be once I have found time to upload them...