Gerry Grant

Gerry Grant
On The Wheel

Thursday, 30 April 2020

We like teapots...

Gerry has always enjoyed the challenge of making teapots with spouts that don't dribble. Here are a few he has been making during "lockdown".

A large 6 cup teapot glazed in a rutile glaze with iron oxide decoration


A 4 cup teapot, with a cut and shaped handle.
Glazed in a Japanese tenmoku glaze - iron saturated.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Reasons to be cheerful? Well ---- our accountant will be!

I began to prepare last years accounts..... Being self employed we have to submit our accounts to the Tax Man at the end of January for the previous year. And of course, like everyone else we know, we leave it until after Christmas and then it's a mad panic to get them in on time.

But not this year! They will be finished by tomorrow..... 

Having fun?????

Gerry is still working on the porch so I have put a picture of him doing this - just so he doesn't feel left out!

Having fun as well????

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

getting on with things!

Travis Perkins reopened yesterday so Gerry was able to go and pick up the wood that was meant to be getting delivered on lockdownday! They are not delivering things so Gerry borrowed Harry's trailer and we went and collected it - so now we can get on and revamp our porch.

It's coming on well!

Monday, 27 April 2020

Shopping first then getting some glazing done...

It's a big thing to do your shopping these days.... Up till the lockdown, I would go into Pocklington a few times a week and browse round the supermarket wondering what to buy and find inspiration for meals as I go... But not anymore! Because there are people waiting to follow you round, I try to be as quick as possible, armed with my list!
There was a queue outside so I  had to wait for about 20 minutes to get in.
The whole trip into Pocklington meant that nothing else got done in the morning.

But the afternoon was spent in the pottery. Julie had made some little anima;ls at home while she was self isolating - there were loads of them and they all needed glazing. I got stuck into that while Gerry glazed the final bits of an order for Roots Farm Shop near  Northallerton.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

From the Iron Age to the modern day.

I was reminded today about how little the techniques of  pottery have changed over the years when I dug up a sherd of Iron Age pottery in the garden.

I don't suppose many people would have noticed it, but Gerry and I both studied early Archaeology at University, so I picked it up and washed it.

It was obvious  that this was a bit of pottery dating back over 2,000 years to the Iron Age.

Judging by the curve on it, it must have been a large pot. It has grit in it which would have made it thermally shock resistant - perhaps part of a cooking pot.

It was made by hand - probably by coiling and is  black so had been fired in a wood fired kiln.

Moving on from that I went on to look at a Roman pot I was given when a school was getting rid of a box of artefacts and wondered if I wanted the pottery.

This Roman pot is what we would call a waster - it has become damaged in the kiln. Perhaps the kiln got too hot and warped the pot, or maybe the clay had an air bubble in.

It is a beaker - one with a narrow foot that probably would have been held on the table in a tripod. But it is different from the iron age pot - it is more refined, thown on the wheel, and burnished on the outside to make it slightly shiney.

Once again it is black - fired in a wood kiln with a lot of smoke present.

Now on to the modern day with our wood fired pit kiln.

This is one we wood -fired a couple of days ago in our barrel pit experiments. It was subjected to  a lot of heat, burning without much oxygen present and a lot of smoke. This changed the nature of the white clay - making a pot not so dissimilar to the ones found 2,000 years ago.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

"To burnish or not to burnish, that is the question"

Apologies to Shakespeare.....

To burnish or not to burnish, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The rings and furrows of the throwers hand
Or take spoon handles against a sea of lines
And by burnishing, end them.


An unburnished pot

A burnished pot

From now on, all the pots that we barrel/ pit fire will be burnished. This means that all pots will be put back on the wheel when leather hard and rubbed up and down with a metal knife handle to give a sheen to the outside of the unfinished pot. This has an effect on the final results.

Friday, 24 April 2020

My new "lockdown" pots!

While Gerry has been experimenting during the lockdown with his pit firings, I have also been working on different ideas.
I made some pots last week with filigree work around the rim. Although I had hoped to see some purple crystals in the blue glaze, the pots survived the firing and still look good.

Another project I was working on was to see if I could make a jug using slabs similar to one I bought in New Zealand years ago. This has worked out well too, though I will need to work on the spout as at the moment it is a bit of a dribbler!  It needs to be cut off straighter.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Reasons to be cheerful - Lilacs and housemartins......

Every year we eagerly wait to see if the housemartins come back to our property. Today they arrived - two pairs.
They have claimed two of the best "houses" that remained intact from last year. There are seven nests that have survived the winter - sometimes sparrows come and claim them, making the entrances bigger - but not this year.
We are always happy to see that they have negotiated the Sarah Desert, and avoided being trapped in Malta. They will be safe here for a few months. I hope we see some more.

PS - this is not my photo!!

And the first lilac has blossomed in the garden. It's lovely at the moment - untouched by any late frosts....

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Good results make us happy!

Yesterday we had yet another firing in our old incinerator - now the barrel/ pit. We were experimenting to see if the pots that we had burnished on the wheel, and before biscuit firing, made any difference to the finished products.

Our results showed it does - they have a better sheen to them compared to the ones that hadn't been burnished first. On both firings ( non burnished and burnished pots )we used the new Renaissance wax and this also improved the appearance of both lots.

 The pots we put in were large ones and we also wanted to see if they would survive the direct heat from the flame. They did this too as the photographs show.

This pot was placed in a paper bag. The paper bag was filled with sawdust and seaweed strips.

This pot had copper wire wool wrapped onto it, and copper carbonate sprinkled around it.

This pot had onion skins, pineapple skins and spent ground coffee placed into its bag. It had copper carbonate and salt sprinkled around the outside. We think the salt contributed to a slight spotting of the glaze.

The rest of the day was spent glazing some pots, which seem pretty ordinary now,  to fire in our gas kiln. We lit it at about 10 and it has just been switched off now 6.30pm. It has been a slight reduction firing. Once again we will have to wait until tomorrow for the kiln to cool down, before we can have a look at the results.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Glazing pots.

This morning I glazed the "filigree pots" that had come out of the kiln intact. Quite often the rims break in the firing, but not this time!

I painted some iron oxide around the filigree work and then painted a layer of wax on top of that. I want the filigree work to remain unglazed, so the glaze will run off the wax.
I decided to glaze the pots in a bought in glaze called "blue star". We normally make up our own glaze recipes but was recommended to try this one by a fellow potter. If it works it should come out blues and purples- we will just have to wait and see. That is the thrill of pottery - you don't always know what you will get. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose!

We didn't have any blue star glaze mixed up so I had to mix it up and sieve it before using it.

This afternoon we fired the pit/barrel  kiln with the large pots that Gerry had burnished on the wheel. The special wax arrived today, but we will have to wait until tomorrow to see the final results......

Reasons to be cheerful - going global!

I am so chuffed that my blog, "Reasons to be cheerful..." has gone global! When you go onto the editing page, you can see where the viewers are coming from. To date most of the viewers are in the UK, as expected, but there are a few in Portugal, Cyprus, the USA and one each in Singapore and India. That's exciting!

And yesterday I eventually sent off an order to the USA, which was a bit of a trial. The customer had visited Scotland a few years ago and had bought a chalice set from Iona Abbey, but unfortunately had broken it. He managed to trace us down - (we have been supplying Iona Abbey for about 30 years), and ordered a new set.

So I researched how much postage was going to be via a carrier - too much, so then took it to the post office to see how much they would charge. They informed me that not all states were accepting deliveries and wanted to know which state it was going to but I hadn't checked. Anyway, the customer was quite happy to pay the £18 cost and I took a risk and took it back to the post office. Fortunately Michigan state wasn't in a state of lockdown, so it's gone now.....

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Reasons to be cheerful - Burnishing on the wheel!

If this works it will save time.

Gerry thinks that he will get a better finish on his pit fired pots if they are burnished first. Burnishing provides a sheen on the pots by literally polishing them when they are slightly dry, and before they go in the kiln. It is usually done by hand rubbing and rubbing the surface of the pot with a back of a spoon or a pebble. However, Gerry decided he would try it by putting the pot  back on the wheel and  holding the spoon against the surface when the wheel is turning.

Gerry tried with the back of a spoon and found, although it was shiney, you could see "throwing marks" where the wheel had been turning. So he tried something different - a spoon handle, and this seemed to work better.

The pots were dry enough to put in the kiln and will be fired tonight, coming out on Tuesday.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Experimenting with a wax finish....

It's been a creative day!

We did another pit firing, experimenting by refiring bland pots - pots that had very little colourful effects on them.

I wrapped banana leaves around one, then put it in a large paper bag which was filled with sawdust and seaweed. The results were lovely - we got blues, purples and greys around the pot. There were bits of red which were probably  caused by the copper which Gerry had sprinkled around the outside of the bag, which had obviously burnt and exposed the pot to the copper carbonate.
The  fire had got really hot - much hotter than in previous firings. We had used some harder wood which we had obtained from the Rocking horse Shop and this might have had an effect too.

Once the pots have cooled down they need to be washed to remove any ash or other impurities. To give the outside of the pots a shine, they get a wax finish applied. Up to today we have been using Annie Sloanes soft wax - which is really used for polishing up "distressed furniture", and we've had some in the house. However, Gerry thinks he can achieve better results by buying the proper stuff, so has bought on line something called "Renaissance micro Crystalline wax.   Sounds impressive, but we will have to wait until next week to see if the results do in fact improve.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Reasons to be cheerful - spending a day making things!

Today we have spent all day in the pottery making things! In the morning Gerry made some pots in the Superwhite which he will pit fire. Last weekend he successfully pit fired some small pots so he wants to try again with larger pots. If the weather carries on like it has been - these should be dry in a few days, and will be biscuit fired.

In the meantime, I made twenty-four scouring pad holders in the shape of sheep. Why sheep? - we did a few "wool shows" last year, selling pots connected with sheep, alongside our yarn bowls. The product that sold best was the scourer pad holder and we continued to sell them at shows throughout the year. We haven't any in stock at the moment so nows the time to remedy that!

And to finish - a few pictures of other things we make to do with sheep!

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Reasons to be cheerful - packing up children's work

We are going to be unpacking a biscuit firing tomorrow and will be doing some glazing, so need to make some space to enable us to do so. Some of the pots went into the store room, while others were put on display in the showroom.

Before the lockdown, I had been into two schools to do some pottery with the children, so there were children's pots all over the place. I sorted them out into classes and boxed them up, so they can be stored until the children go back.

Over the years that we have been potters we have always enjoyed working with children. Their creativity is endless. So I am posting some photos of work we have done with children in the past. It varies from indiviual pieces to collaborative work.


Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Ice cream on a hot day!

It's been a bit of a "bitty day" today. The pots that Gerry made yesterday weren't ready to be turned and finished. So in the morning he cut the lawn and I made some home-made plum and amaretto ice cream and some ameretti biscuits to go with it. I think I may not have whisked the egg whites enough because they were a bit thin - but still delicious.

Come the afternoon, the pots were leather hard so we were able to work on them. Gerry turned the bowls for me to finish off with a filigree pattern, and then he finished his small salt pigs.

Then just to end the day, we ate some of my nice home made ice cream and biscuits!!!

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Happiness is learning how to make a video!

Today I taught myself how to make a video of Gerry and post it up on facebook. It is too big to go here but you can view it on www.facebook/fangfosspottery.

It's a video of him throwing some bowls on the wheel for me to work on tomorrow. I will be cutting out shapes in the rims producing a filigree pattern.

I'm going to be busy tomorrow because he made lots of small salt pigs for me to finish off - some of them have little mice on.

We make three sizes of salt pigs. They all get thrown on the wheel, left to dry overnight, then the front is cut out and another piece of clay attached to form a rim. The ones Gerry made today are the small size and don't have handles, whereas the larger ones do.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Reasons to be cheerful; - fresh air!

No pottery today - just a walk we've not done before (followed by a spot of gardening)

We have lived in Fangfoss for over 40 years and have never done this walk - over the fields to Bishop Wilton, via Gowthorpe and back via High Belthorpe.

As part of our daily exercise we did it today - nice views across to the Wolds and it was so clear you could see Drax Power Station in the distance, on the way back.

It was lovely to see some wildflowers in the hedgerows - bluebells (I think they are the native species, and not the Spanish ones, but I'm sure someone can put me right on this) and cowslips.