Friday, 20 July 2018

Craft class - Pottery throwing

A very photo-light post today as it's about the pottery throwing class I went on, and being covered in clay is not conducive to handling your phone!

I threw a pot at the Manor House Hotel back in 2014 when I had a fab week there with my mum.  Since then, I've wanted to try it again, but could never find a class.  There is a regular class near to where I live, but it's at the same time as silversmithing so I'd never made it.  Then I noticed you could book a one-off class on a Sunday.  So I did.

10 of us gathered round a table and learnt how to wedge clay.  At this point, I was already a bit mistrustful of the teacher as she seemed rather rude.  As it turns out, it did not bode well.  Clay wedged, we went through to the throwing room where the teacher gave us a 10 minute demonstration covering everything from centering the clay to bringing it up, taking it back down, making the hole and drawing it up, then cleaning it up and cutting it off.  Then we were let loose.  Great, my favourite way to learn.

This was my workstation.  An electric wheel and a stool.  My first fight was to switch the machine to left handed.  The teacher had asked if anyone was left handed, just me, then told me I would try to throw right handed.  Having watched the demonstration, I knew I couldn't.  I just don't have any control with my non-dominant hand.  She was very pissed off with me.  Turned out that throwing left handed involves nothing more than pressing a switch on the side to change the direction of the wheel and moving the foot pedal to the left (which I did myself) which she also fought against me doing!  Years of sewing on a sewing machine meant that I KNOW I can't control speed with my right foot.  But what do I know?

So we began. At first there was much laughter, but then things started to go wrong.  No problem.  We were a room full of beginners, of course things would go wrong.  When they did, the teacher said, very aggressively I might add, "that's not how you do it!  Do it how I showed you!".  Hmmmm....  After being yelled at a few times, people stopped asking...

I was having trouble making my hole.  I could centre the clay and draw it up, but as soon as I put that hole in the top (to make a pot), it went off centre.  She refused to believe me.  Said the problem was it wasn't centred at the start.  So I showed her it was... then she'd walk off and not watch the bit I was having trouble with!

I threw 10 pots.  9 of which collapsed.  The survivor (which is crap!) is in the middle of the photo above.  At that point, I went home!  She said I could throw some more, but what's the point?  I was unable to solve my de-centering problem myself and she just gave me abuse if I asked for help...

(Mine is the one at the bottom).  NOT a good class.  I will NOT be going back.  I don't think pottery is my "thing", but I do think I could do better than this.  Maybe I'll try again with another teacher, if I can find one.

I have chosen not to name the teacher or the place I went to learn as I realise this is a very scathing post.

If my pot survives the kiln (which I doubt!) I will come back and show you the pot.  Oh, another thing!  She said they'd be ready in about 3 weeks.  I asked if she'd email us and she said she doesn't have time to email us and we have to email her to ask if it's ready.  So she doesn't have time to send one group email, but does have time to answer 10 people asking if the pots are ready (and if they're not, these 10 people will email again)... customer service??

Friday, 13 July 2018

Silversmithing - end of term

Silversmithing ended for the summer last week.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go to the last class as I fell down the stairs at work and badly sprained my ankle!  At the time, I actually thought it was broken, luckily, it wasn't, but it did mean I couldn't walk or drive.

There were three pieces I wanted to finish before summer.  The chain necklace I've been making for months which just needs to be cleaned up, I'm more than half way across.  This I could actually do at home, then just pickle and barrel polish it in September.  Secondly, the spinner ring which is a replacement for the one that didn't spin which was a replacement for the one that became too big!  And finally, a silver pendent using gold from my mum's wedding ring.

The pan-ultimate lesson brought some disasters.  See that raggedy bit towards the top left?  I melted it.  I heated it too much whilst annealing.  I had to file the whole things down.  I filed for about 90 minutes.  Ouch.

I took this picture about halfway through the filing!  You may notice that the join also split.  Oh dear, not going well!!

This is a new piece.  Sorry for the sideway-ness of the photos.  Apparently you can't rotate in Photobucket without it making a mess of the photo.  The bars are argentium, which I used in my brother's ring.  This makes it easier to attached the tiny gold circles which are cut from mum's wedding ring.  I used a hydrolic press with a set of circle cutters to cut such precise circles.  The idea was to attach them, then run them through the rolling mill to make an inlay, but I decided I liked them standing proud.  I just need to add tube to the back and clean them up and this will be ready.  Sadly, it will have to wait til September now, thanks to the fact I'm so clumsy!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Craft Class - Screen Printing

Last Sunday I went to a craft class at Two Little Magpies. You may (or may not) remember that I've done craft classes at this lovely little handmade shop before.  Once again, the standard of the class was high and it was great fun.

I usually just take photo and whack them in my blog.  This time, a lot of them were taken sideways on, so I tried rotating and cropping a little.  They're looking very odd in this post as I write... I'm hoping they publish ok!  If not, I'll try to redo them.

We were learning to screen print using paper stencils.  We each had a handmade frame.  I thought this was genius, I may just have to make my own!

We cut stencils out of paper and placed them on top of a sheet of paper, under the frame.

Then we squeegeed paint on.  It was acrylic paint with a paint medium mixed in.  I didn't think to take any photos of this stage.

Ta dah!  I used copper paper and a turquoise paint.

You can use each stencil several times, so I added some metallic copper paint into the mix.  I made several more after this, adding a different colour in each time, including a bright pink, but they didn't come out great.  I put the excess paint into a little tub and it made the most amazing metallic purple colour!

Next we were let loose on the shop's stack of paper stencils.  Some hand cut, some cut using a die cut machine.  I found this circles template and picked out some little images to put in each "window".

I printed in silver on black.  I love this!  I'm so chuffed with this stencil/picture/paint and paper combination.  I did a couple more, then started to experiment.

Silver paint on red.  I'm also pleased with this.

Silver on grey, this didn't come out so well.

Possibly my favourite of all.  I used bright pink on orange paper.  Because I couldn't wash the screen between uses as the stencils were stuck to it, some of the silver from previous prints bled through.  I love the effect.

I had a vision of a train of dots in my hand mixed metallic purple on top of the black print.  I got a hole punch and some scrap paper and made a stencil.

I practiced first on the failure print.  I didn't like it.  Experiment over.  I'm glad I tried it on the print I didn't like!

The screens have to be washed between stencils, but it's a quick job, so I thought I'd have a go with some more of the stencils.

One negative gem, one positive.  A mixture of copper and silver paint.  Not exactly sticking to its own side!

I printed these triangles and balloon intending to print over the top, but ran out of time.  Actually, I did another and I DID print over the top - looks like I left that one in the shop as I don't have it!

This was a fantastic workshop, I love Two Little Magpies as a workshop venue and I really enjoyed screen printing, I just wish I were a bit more artistic.  Maybe when I've finished decorating my craft room (yes, still ongoing!), I'll have time to make a frame and experiment some more.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Craft class - Felted pod

Earlier in the month I went to a workshop at Needle and Thread in the deepest, darkest countryside of Lincolnshire.  It wasn't dark at all actually, it was a beautiful sunny day.  This was a new workshop destination for me, I'd seen they were doing a class on felted pods and fancied having a go.  I'll definitely be going back, lovely workshop, very friendly staff and amazing food!

The tutor was Robyn Smith, a lovely lady who was very knowledgeable and had devised a great class.  There were only 2 of us students, so we got a lot of attention.  The idea was to make a 3d wet felted vessel, using techniques to add 3d elements.  We started with the vessel.  A layer of merino was placed over a resist (a piece of plastic table cloth), then felted.  Wet felting involves soap, water and lots of rubbing and rolling.

We folded the wet edges over the resist, then added another layer of merino on this side and felted it.  I didn't take a photo of that.  We then put it to one side to work on the embellishments.

Above is a rope, this will be added to the vessel to give some texture and dimension.  It was made by laying out small pieces of merino, then rolling them up, adding water and soap and rolling more.

This is a spike, to go on the base of the vessel.  I wanted a few, so I tried a few different things, here I twisted two colours of merino roving together before felting.  The outcome of these two-coloured spikes was very hard to predict, well for me anyway!  The base of the spike is left unfelted so it can be attached to the vessel later.

Here you can see the rope, three spikes, and three balls.  The balls were not fully felted so that they will attached to the vessel.  I made another 6 spikes after this.

We also had a go at making pre-felt to add cut out shapes to our vessels.  I made a thick piece of felt by piling up lots of layers of roving.

A bit of wet felting later and I was left with this which I could then cut into.

Then came the fun bit - layering and arranging the embellishments.  I started with my spiral - the centre of the spiral will be where I cut the hole later.  I put the spikes around the edge as equidistant as I could and put the other embellishments in between.

On the left is one of the balls I made, then a little stack of the pre-felt, finally a few tufts of merino, then a piece of packing tape cut into a circle.  This will be removed later and is to form a crater.  I didn't add a fin which was another embellishment we could have made.

I put some bright pink merino over the packing tape circles to provide a coloured lip to the crater.

Then it was time to make the batt for the top of the vessel.  Of course, we could have used one colour of merino, or stripes, but we were offered a go on the carder, so of course, I had to have a go!  I have used one before, many years ago when I learnt to spin, and I have to say it's still as much fun!  You push bits of merino in a variety of colours in at the front, it is grabbed on the spikes as you turn the handle.  

This is what it creates - a batt of a mixture of colours.  You can then tear it up and put it through again for more of a blend.

Two layers of the batt were put on top of the design

I also added some of this curly fleece and a few strands of silk - the fleece is the white, the silk is the dark green.

It was all gently covered with plastic, then we rubbed and rolled and rubbed and rolled and rubbed and rolled...

and rubbed and rolled some more!

We cut our holes, mine was centrally in the spiral.  Out came the resist (with surprisingly little effort), then we had to do some pulling and pushing and rubbing inside to get the shape we wanted and make sure the inside and edges were well felted.  I stuffed it full of plastic carrier bags to keep its shape whilst it dried.  You can also see in the picture above that I'd cut the holes for the craters and removed the resists.

It took several days to dry, and this is what I'm left with!  You can just make out the rope spiral towards the top.  It was not as pronounced as I'd imagined.  I perhaps should have started with a thicker rope.

The small purple patch is the stack of pre-felt with the colour coming through.  To its right, you can see a pink circle - that's the crater.  They worked pretty well.

Unfortunately, the balls all but disappeared.  I perhaps didn't work the final layer of felt over them well enough, or maybe they also weren't big enough.

Here's a view of the inside.  It's blue as that's what I started with, the base layer underneath my resist.  

And for some reason I took a picture of the bottom!  I thoroughly enjoyed this class and was chuffed to bits with my "alien" at the end of the class. I'd definitely take a class at Needle and Thread again, and a class with Robyn.  I also want to try out some other ideas I have for wet felting... just got to get that damn studio finished!!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Foxy messenger bag

It was my boyfriend's birthday at the beginning of June.  This is the first birthday we've celebrated together and so I had no idea what to buy him!  He's very ethical and won't buy anything that's not fair-trade and ethically sourced, so I thought I'd make him something, that way the only slave labour is my own!

This is a free pattern from a blog.  To my shame, I can't find the link.  I was sure I'd put it in a "WIP" pinterest board, but I can't find one on my profile!  It wasn't so much a pattern as a bit of a how-to.  I changed the dimensions and the strap construction and added a zipper pocket inside. UPDATE! I found it Link to free how-to.

His favourite colour is orange, so I wanted orange fabric.  I thought a waxed canvas would look nice and be fairly masculine (not that he cares about gender stereotypes like that, he's rather partial to pink).  It was really hard to find and so I had to forgo looking for organic fabric (which he would usually chose - he's also a bit of an eco-warrier).  The lining also isn't organic as I couldn't find any fox patterned organic fabric that I liked.

The 2 magnetic snaps and the handmade scroll were from Sew Hot at the Bag Retreat which is where I started sewing this.  I also bought the zips there.  I added a zip pocket in the lining, as you have to have a zip pocket.

This is a very special zip pocket though... look...

Bicycle fabric (yep, he's a cyclist, nope, he doesn't own any Lycra), and...

Another, hidden zip pocket!  This time lined in the waxed canvas.  No, that's not a person in a hat at the top of the photo, it's my hand and a blur!  

Apparently I thought you'd like a closer look at the pocket lining!  No, the fabric isn't upside down, the photo is.  Again, it was surprisingly hard to find bicycle fabric and impossible to find organic.  The problem was that 99% of the bicycles had baskets on them!  I didn't want a cutesy bicycle.  

More Sew Hot hardware there.  I messed up this strap.  I like the way I did it - I folded over 1/2" on either long side of the waxed canvas, and slightly more on the bicycle fabric, then sewed one to the other.  No turning!  I hate the usual method of strap making and much preferred this.  Problem?  I forgot to interface and forgot to add fusible fleece!  So the strap is very thin and a bit uncomfortable.  I nearly didn't give him the bag because of this (obviously I'd left it til the last minute and didn't have time to make another), but in the end I did, with a promise to make him a new strap.  I'll do that tomorrow at quilt guild.

I put a few little treats in the bag for him and he seemed really pleased.  I knew that he would appreciate hand made (he loved the crap sloth I crocheted him!) but have no idea if he's just being polite!  He has been carrying it around so he can't be completely mortified by it!