Masterclass - Ceramic books, drawings and decals

    I really enjoyed running my masterclass at the International Ceramic Studio, Kecskemet, Hungary. We packed a huge amount in to the five days, and covered many different surface techniques, including water etching, paper, tape and latex resist, inlay, incised line and underglaze wash, mono-printing, slip printing and trailing, sgraffito, plaster prints, lustre, on-glaze enamels and decals.

    The group worked really hard, and coped with a lot of information in a short space of time. We played and experimented, the important thing wasn't the final book pages that we made and fired, but trying everything out, giving it a go, and people were surprised that they enjoyed some of the techniques that they hadn't expected to.

    I hope to be returning next year to run it again, so if anyone is interested in signing up keep an eye on my Facebook page and the 2016 timetable at the International Ceramic Studio site -



    Work made on the 'Borders' symposium, at the International Ceramics Studio, Kecskemet, Hungary

    Much as I love porcelain, I enjoyed using a variety of clays, including red earthenware, smooth stoneware as well as the ultra white Herend.

    I made a stoneware book, titled 'Between wakefulness and sleep', and a range of wall panels. The theme of the symposium was 'borders', so most of my work illustrated the border between being awake and drifting off in to sleep, with a girl in bed, the cover of which was decorated with birds, as she began to fall asleep the birds began to fly from the cover, and when they had flown through trees and in to the dark she was asleep.

    I also illustrated the decorated border of clothes, and garden borders, in one with a high dark hedge, on the other side of which the roses bloomed gold.

    Experimenting with the edges of my usually straight slabs was interesting, with the birds, or head and shoulders of figures, defining the edge of the slab. Also playing around with 2D paperclay slabs, made separately and then arranged in layers and glued after firing.



    Different ways of making

    One of the big pluses of taking part in a symposium is seeing how other ceramicists make their work, from start to finish, all the stages, the tools, the techniques. It was great to swap tips, compare how we made our work, debate firing temperatures and clays and bounce ideas about. Very different from working in the usual solitude of our workshops, which has both it's good and bad aspects.

    It was a pleasure to see Richard Notkin work, with his intense and skilful attention to detail on a beautifully small scale. I learned a lot by sharing a studio with him.

    Richard Notkin


    testing, testing

    First off I tried out some of the clays, the Herend porcelain, the cheaper porcelain and the smooth white stoneware, with a fine grog through it. Good clays to work with, but I had to start making my ceramic book right away before I saw the test results, and as the porcelains usually fire very high (1330 and over 1400 ! at the factory) I decided to use the stoneware. But when I got my porcelain tests out of the kiln, fired to cone 6, they were fine for my work, especially after a polish with the diamond pads. I also tried painting the porcelain as a slip on to the stoneware, and that worked well.

    So the book will be stoneware, and the wall panels both stoneware and porcelain. Time is tight before we have to have work ready for the exhibition in Budapest, so trying to get as much made as possible before the final biscuit firing this week.



    Open day at the international ceramic centre, Kecskemet, Hungary

    It was rather hot here in Kecskemet today, 38 degrees or more, but had a good group of visitors for the open day. Richard Notkin and I did a slide show presentation.

    The wood firing was opened, all cones well down. Demos were done, and a huge amount of goulash was had at lunch time.



    wood firing the new Fred Olsen kiln

    They started the firing last night, and I had breakfast watching it get near to temperature. Seems to be a good design, and uses a lot less wood. Lots of reduction going on, I remember that smell well. It will be opened tomorrow at the open day.



    the making of a ceramic book

    Well on the way with my Kecskemet ceramic book, from the plaster mould of the book cover I press moulded the 'hardback', then rolled out slabs and cut the pages, using a cardboard template. It takes a lot of time making each page, as they have to be thinned at the edges, and each page must be as close to the others as possible, with the threading holes in the exact place.

    I've now got the cover, spine and pages made, so illustrated them with soft pencil, food colouring to finalise the images, then drew in to the clay with a fine sewing needle.

    book mould ”Read

    Different clays

    Got my book mould made on the first day here, and now testing the different clays. There are two porcelains here, but they go to a far higher temperature than my Magma porcelain, so though I've made some test tiles of them I think that I'll be using the white stoneware for my actual pieces.

    The biscuit firing of the test pieces cooled this morning, and I've got the underglaze on and back in the kiln. So tomorrow I'll see what the results are at cone 6.

    I've press moulded a book cover, and made the pages, not illustrated yet !

    Erna and I did our presentations last night, and they seemed to go well. Richard Notkin and Adam are presenting tonight, so looking forward to that.

    Richard Notkin from the USA, doing his meticulous detailed work -

    Richard Notkin


    The symposium begins

    The symposium was officially begun, with champagne and decisions with what was happening when. Erna and I will be doing our presentations on Monday evening.

    Getting settled in and getting down to some work. It's great to be working with such an interesting group of ceramicists, and such a change from working alone. We're an international group, from America, Russia, Finland, Hungary, Scotland but now in Denmark and Lithuania.

    We've got our studio spaces, and are finding out about the clays.

    It's quite hot, but cooled down today with home made mist in the garden.



    First days at Kecskemet

    Settling in at the International Ceramic Studios in Kecskemet, Hungary. Direct flight from Glasgow made it very easy to get to Budapest, and then a 45 minute drive.

    The studios are beautiful, an enclosed world of their own, in the centre of Kecskemet. I have my own comfy white room, and have had the guided tour, so know where the library, plaster room, laundry etc. is. Have also a workspace, beside Richard Notkin, who I don't think will be too noisy ;O)

    Have got down to some work, and made a one piece plaster mould of a book cover. It feel bad to ruin a book, even from the charity shop, so sorry to Marian Keyes. Looking forward to trying out the clays here.

    Some people have already arrived for the symposium, and more will arrive today.



    Off to Kecskemet

    My case is packed and I'm soon off to take part in a symposium at the International Ceramics Studio at Kecskemet, Hungary. Where I'll be working with an interesting group of ceramicists from many countries, including Richard Notkin from the USA. At the end of the symposium I'll be teaching a master class - 'Ceramic books, drawings and decals' if anyone is interested there may be some spaces.