Wednesday 31 March 2010

Flat Eric, Released!

 No, of course you have no idea who Flat Eric is. I forgive you.
You might be advised to go visit an earlier post, if you're curious.

Flat Eric stars here, with Pharrel Williams in a guest-star role.
Phlat Eric, I mean.

Eric hit our screens in some condensed movie-like ads for Levis, way back. I guess hes been in jail since 1999.
Ever have one of those dreams?

P.S. Mr Oizo says"This film may never be made, Enjoy"

Monday 29 March 2010

Layabout, by John Brehm

Do nothing and everything will be done,
that's what Mr. Lao Tzu said, who walked
around talking 2,500 years ago and

now his books practically grow on trees
they're so popular and if he were
alive today beautiful women would

rush up to him like waves lapping
at the shores of his wisdom.
That's the way it is, I guess: humbling.

But if I could just unclench my fists,
empty out my eyes, turn my mind into
a prayer flag for the wind to play with,

we could be brothers, him the older one
who's seen and not done it all and me
still unlearning, both of us slung low

in our hammocks, our hats tipped
forwards, hands folded neatly,
like bamboo huts, above our hearts

From long ago

This was a stack of bowls,separated by clay wads, made from the field clay from behind the pottery, in southern Finland, they were too close to the flame path, and warped and fused. The flame was slightly reduced, too, you can see where there is a broken fragment the red iron in the clay has become black, Fe2O3 becomes Fe3O4. And reduction has a strong fluxing effect on red clay.

I rather like this thing, pity about the broken bit though. The bloke I know who'd understand why I like this is Matt Grimmitt.
Hey Matt! What's going on? no posts for a while?

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Sunday 28 March 2010

Phew! First Bisque Firing Results

Now I know that to all you seasoned potters out there, my little kiln firing is a trivial event.
I've had twenty odd (some very odd) years of becoming unseasoned, forgetting how to do all this. And I'm a man, so, of course, I'm not going to ask for instructions, or look it up. I reason that it's all been in my head once, and that somehow it will surface when needed, and if not, I'll try bluffing. or guessing
And I've never in my life ever fired a little round toploader, so I'm going to program the electronic minder and hope for the best. (I was, by the way, the first potter I knew to have computerised kiln control, back in 1985, it proved to me that computers can screw up just as well as humans). I kinda yearn for the old days of trudging out to the kiln shed in the pouring rain, to adjust gas and air, peek inside the glowing box, and sit on log, waiting, at past mdnight, for that cone-tip to bend down and kiss the shelf.
More nostalgia would include splitting wood all night and feeding it into the ever hungry bourry-box, one memorable firing, we had a crate of beer, and whisky, and the northern lights. And rye-bread, and cheese, toasting at the firemouth, potatoes in a pit of ashes. Mmm.  the firing was good, but a knotty log sprang back and whacked my hand, which swelled up in a bone-broken sort of way, before dawn.
At the time, I felt no pain.

Anyway, no further suspense, ta-daa!!!!  No disasters!
Fortune sometimes smiles on fools.

The alchemy of flame (well, glowing hot bits of wire) has worked its magic. Because the load was tightly packed at the bottom, and fairly empty at the top, I set it to soak for ten minutes at top temp, probably not really needed, but it all looks pretty even.

I'm inordinately happy with this one, disproportionately so. It was born of some wild clay, just up the road from where I was living, the field had been sold for building land. When the backhoes were busy digging foundations, I went in, and stole a digger-bucket's worth of clay. after no more preparation than a bit of wedging and slamming, it threw beautifully, really strong and plastic.

At the time, I was planning to pitch these to various mediaeval history venues, I'd done quite a bit of work before for archeaology units, museums, living history, etc, but the making of these coincided with some rather negative life-changes for me, so they got shoved, along with a load of other remnants of an earlier life, on a shelf, out of sight, out of mind. I always, however, harboured the idea that one day, one day, I'd come back to clay, and fire them. The source of that clay's under a housing estate and a school now.

And nothing collapsed or cracked in the firing.

I was at a wedding reception, whilst the trusty kiln controller did all this. I was only a little bit nervous.

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Into the Archives. and First Bisque Firing!!!

Up early on saturday, across town to get into my basement store before the road closes, (they're resurfacing it after the frosts destroyed it), I'm rummaging, because I know there are some unfired pieces, wrapped in newspaper, and this weekend... ta-----daaaa! I intend the ceremonial first firing of my kiln.
I thought of doing a full scale dry-fire test, but hey, let's do russian roulette, put everything in and throw caution to the winds!

No greenware in this box, but a few promising platters.

I did find them eventually, I'd totally forgotten that I had a few teapots in there.

And in particular a BIG teapot. Oh I love teapots.

Next comes the kiln packing. Awkward, as I only have the one shelf.. Damn. Next tuesday I'll get some more, but that's my first opportunity. So, stack the big things as carefully as possible, and start inserting the smaller pieces. It's like a pit-firing but without the cushioning effect of fuel. May get a few breakages.
fingers crossed, phew. Update tomorrow....

Friday 26 March 2010

Warning, by Jenny Joseph

This is in response to the excellent poem, “What Do Women Want?”, by Kim Addonizio, posted by Red Dirt Girl, at Through the Garden Gate.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Jenny Joseph

Jenny Joseph wrote this in 1962. I'm not sure if she's wearing purple yet.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

An Award.

Oh alright then, I made it myself. And awarded it to me, even though I've posted very little about pottery recently. That will be remedied though.
If you're a POTTER mudslinger, firer of earth, even a "ceramist" (hyuk hyuk!, silly word. In fact no, If you think you're a ceramist or ceramicist or whatever, and you make stuff with titles like "Votive Form No.14", then this is not for you. Shoo!), if you're an artisan who shapes argillaceous earths, this is for you. Just steal it, lift it, put it on your own page and invent some august body who might have awarded it to you.
Like the "Ersatz Soubriquet Institute for the Applied Arts (International)"....
And yes, I know it's not gender-neutral. Believe me, if I could have found an image of naked ladies firing a kiln, I would have used it.
In fact, if you have such an image feel free to send it to me.

The picture is from Cipriano Picolpasso's Second Book of the Potter's Art, written in about 1557, in Castel-Durante, Italy.

Monday 22 March 2010


Yes, I know this is all over the Internet, but I'm posting it here because it happens to have occurred close to home.
Consider it my 'local news' section.

The question that's been bugging me, since I first saw this, via... Um.. Arbroath? I think, is "How did that car end up there in the first place?"
Well, here's the answer. footage of the same thing happening in a tunnel in Melbourne, Australia.

In the local case, near Leeds, Rona Williams, a vet, was caught on the front of a bulk-tanker, and was interviewed later, by the Daily Mail
"As her Renault Clio was pushed along, she screamed: 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die.'
Mrs Williams had just joined the motorway ten minutes away from her surgery in Garforth when her car was apparently clipped by the lorry and ended up under its bumper. 'I just felt a knock and then I was travelling sideways – twisted 90 degrees clockwise,' she said.

She yanked on her handbrake, sounded her horn and flashed her hazard lights, but to no avail.
'I kept thinking, "Nobody knows I'm here. Nobody has seen me",' she said. 'I tried everything.
I was watching other cars, thinking, "Help me, just help me" – but they didn't seem to be doing very much.'

Read more:

Her car was being pushed sideways at sixty miles per hour, eventually the truck driver realised something was wrong, but not quite what. He pulled in and stopped,
and amazingly, she emerged unhurt.

The truck driver is suspended from duty, whilst the police investigate. I suspect he'll have a  career change in front of him, (instead of a small blue car with a screaming driver).

Quote of the day.........

"Unite said only nine of 1,100 cabin crew reported at Heathrow on Sunday and that the vast majority of planes taking off were without crew."

 I know there's been an autopilot flying me in the past, but totally autonomous jets? The perpetrator of this journalistic blooper was none other than the BBC.

Saturday 20 March 2010


As you may have noticed, I recently discovered how to add text to pictures.
It's a simple, free tool embedded in the excellent "Picasa", free picture organising editing utility from google. Yes google....
I'll get bored with it eventually.
Also check out Poster Forge......
Here's a quick Bad Ass Blogger award... It took me two minutes, because I was too lazy to change all the templated text.

Roadside Panhandling

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Wednesday 17 March 2010

Brain, Female.

Amazing, Isn't it, that you can get 900 of them in such a small carton.
(Nice to know  they're recyclable).
And that the instruction manual is unfathomably translated from mandarin.
The page for 'mapreading' is missing, but 'shoes' is a fifty-page pull-out,
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When Kitty Needed....

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Tuesday 16 March 2010

O Western Wind

 From my early memories of school, as soon as I learned to read, I was fascinated by the pictures words could paint, so much more vivid than photographs or paintings, I eschewed the illustrated books aimed at children, I  would lose myself in words, and, lucky me, I had parents who never begrudged me books, and a series of teachers who would guide me in my reading, and especially, one head-teacher, who would read me poetry, and lend me her own books.
 I grew to love poetry, and it's never left me. I'm not a great analyst, I don't seek to know the technicalities, I have no respect for the literary rules, I just read, savour, and am transported.
I've stood on Wenlock edge, with the Roman, in the biting, sleet-filled rain.

O western wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again! 

Anonymous, 16th Century
 A proof, that poetry need not be long and complex....

Here's another well-loved poem, I've posted it before, but no apologies,

"On Wenlock Edge"
A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

Monday 15 March 2010

"Finding You"

I confess, I can't remember who wrote this, and my internet search failed me. I think I know, but I'd rather not risk ascribing it to the wrong poet. If you know, please tell me in the comments, and I'll give credit where credit is due, because I love these words, images, rhythms.
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Sunday 14 March 2010

On Blog Awards.

All over the internet, I see bloggers proudly displaying their awards. For the naive reader, that may all look pretty impressive, but the truth is less so. Anybody can create an award, anybody can give an award.
And pretty much anybody can steal an award. It's better than the Oscars! we can all win!
Over the last week or two I've had one of those Technorati "How Much is Your Blog Worth?" gadgets. If you click on it and go over to the Technorati site, you can input any blog's url (address), and get a 'valuation'. Ha!
How does that work? Techno has some complex way of calculating that basically looks at what links you have, where they go, and how many links the linked sites have etc.
What tripe.
However, when you cut and copy the code, in order to put it in your sidebar, you'll see the code is open to easy editing.  I've been fluctuating my blog's value daily, but I guess nobody noticed.
Just like antiques roadshow, it gives  you a price, a value. Let me tell you, a value is worth less than the mud on your shoes unless there's a sucker, I mean, a buyer, profferring crisp, fragrant folding money. And think about it. how much is your blog worth? to who? And why?
What use is it to a 'buyer'?
Your blog's value, its content, is you. If you sell it, and it no longer has you, or your writings or pictures, what is it then? what value has it got without you?
None. None whatsoever.
I am the source of the untold billions of value in this blog. 
Better give myself an award then.

No longer feel intimidated, inadequate, or impressed when you see some blogger's sidebar full of awards. You can have them too.

Get an award or twenty here.

Corylus Avellana Contorta

Also Known as "Corkscrew Hazel"...
For Jim, and to introduce my corylus to its bigger cousin in Kentucky.
My corkscrew hazel lives in an old kiln saggar.
I used to sell saggars as garden pots, back in the day, I bought them wholesale from Acme Marls, in Stoke-on-Trent.
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Tuesday 2 March 2010

"Cull Does the Rock and Roll"

This is, I think, My favourite of Cull's cartoons.

It so richly embodies the fantasy life of a portly little man in a grey suit, in a government ministry office.
Cull was ever optimistic. I'll bet, in his dreams, he was a demon dancer.

Ever the Optimist!

Oh I'm Burning My Brains In the Backroom,

"Oh, I'm Burning My Brains In the Backroom,
Almost setting my cortex alight,
Trying to find a new thing to go Crack-Boom!,
And blow-up a xenobathite! "

My Uncle Walter, (actually, great-uncle Walter) was what they called, in olden days in Britain, a "boffin", or a "back-room boy". The boffins were the scientists and inventors, and the tinkerers and makers, the thinkers and developers who were necessary to the progress of the twentieth century. "back-room-boys", so called because they were the hidden ones. A few heroic types made all the headlines, but the wonders of science in which they flew were designed by back-room-boys and boffins.
When I was a kid, in the nineteen fifties, Uncle Walter was my hero. He made all manner of things, he could cut and make an escapement wheel for his grandfather-clock, all on his own, I remember him drawing it out, calculating angles, cutting and filing by hand. 
The clock was always referred to as the Congreve clock, because it had once belonged to William Congreve .  (Walter's grandfather took it in part-payment of a debt, in the mid 1800s).
Anyway, when I was a child, visits to Sybil and Walter were eagerly awaited. We'd get to feed hens, collect eggs, dig vegetables, pick fruits that would be miraculously transformed into a table-full of good food.
And Walter would, on rainy days, get out the paper and pencils, and we would draw. The paper had other stuff already on the back. Printed in blue, stuff about boost gauges for a Rolls-royce aero-engine, or the wingroot modifications for the Mark IV English-Electric Lightning, the fastest supersonic interceptor in the world... Or the nitrogen tank modifications on the Victor nuclear bomber..
 Or something unknown on a Percival Aircaft. Probably a Percival Proctor.As here.

Walter worked for the Air Ministry, and he was, I think, a draughtsman. You might think the job of a draughtsman in the servive of the air ministry would be a dry-as-dust existence. It seems not. I inherited a folder of drawings, from Walter, some I'd seen, when a child, some, not until my father gave me them, telling me it was Walter's wish I should remember learning to draw, on those rainy afternoons. What I found in that folder made me laugh, and reconsider the back-room-boys. Here's a few samples,  all drawn by "Cull", who I remember meeting, once. A rotund, roly-poly little man, who was full of laughter, and smelled of beer and pipe-tobacco.....

Float your thoughts back to 1956..

The card opens to reveal a busty girl...
On the next page:

Another pic shows Uncle Walter, the keen gardener, who would take basketloads of his produce to work for his colleagues, as a market-trader, admonishing his assistant, Sid.

But it seems the old boy had a bit of a reputation...