mid June and summer is just crawling into gear, although this morning early, under a blue sky, the temperature was only ten degrees. still the roses are flowering, and there are tons of tiny apples on the trees – though I never saw a bee on the blossom.

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even the reluctant ash trees have opened all their leaf buds now.

I have been trying new things in the workshop. firstly I put several bags of clay through the pugmill, mixing st thomas reduction and premium crank, with added dust to 8’s grog, and sand and feldspar nodules from my finca in Spain. this gives me a strong stoneware body with interesting texture and not much shrinkage, a good toasty colour and fairly plastic to work with.

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I have been making jars with lids. I tried this a couple of times before, either failing on lid flange construction, or making lids which had very low functional qualities!

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this time I cut around the dome of the finished pot and then added a strip to the inside of the upper part to made a lid which sits satisfactorily securely and doesn’t change the shape of the whole thing. I also started mark-making on the bare clay with a sharp nail – the same one as I used to sign the pots – and I have continued this mark-making through the next few batches of pieces.

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next, I had been to see Jean-Nicolas Gérard’s work at the Goldmark gallery, and loved his way of making slabbed bowls and platters. I thought I should get a bit freer with something I tried last year and I felt didn’t really work (plus several of them cracked in the firings). firstly I rolled out a big block of my new clay body fairly thickly, and carved it up into sections, using the natural edges wherever possible, and made pleats, or tucks to pull the flat clay up into a curved shape. I supported the shapes with wedges of sponge until they were reasonably stiff, or on hump and slump moulds, then added square feet, usually three.

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having the moulds out, I thought of a way to make slabbed bowls by joining rather than pressing, but still using a mould to hold the shape. then I progressed to making rough newspaper moulds held in place by an existing bowl (thanks to Nic Collins!). so I had two large bowls made by the first process, and four medium ones by the second. the joins are left visible on all these. still mark-making with the nail, and sometimes using a lovely wooden comb I bought at Anglian Clay.

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further to this I progressed to smaller bowls made by folding a circular piece of clay in on itself

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and pressing down the centre until I got a stable base.

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I made several of these. all the pieces survived the bisc firing, except one of the largest bowls which sadly lost its bottom – either the firing was too fast in the early stages, or it still had some damp in it.

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next decision – how to glaze something that is in fact intended to be food-friendly (also inspired by J-N Gérard’s rough and exuberant slipware, which is all meant to be used). for my stoneware firings I decided wood ash glazes would be the best, the marks would hold the glaze, which would be perfectly safe with food, and I had a bin full of wood ash, saved over about eight years, also some tests with ash glazes over the same clay from when I first fired my kiln.

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so here is the first firing with tests of pure ash, an artificial nuka (I had not fully processed the ash at this point – it needs to be washed and dried so that it can be weighed along with the other glaze materials) and some other pieces which are glazed with my frozen snow combination – three large bottles and five or six small ones.

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firing to be opened tomorrow.

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