A few of my Favourite Things!

Hello, hello, hello all!

I am back in action after the Christchurch Art Show!  It was very busy meeting lots of new faces and happily I found a few new homes for some of my pieces…yay!  This week is the busy number 7 week for classes…there is a lot of glazing going on and I will be hard out firing to get everything ready for taking home next week!  A good thing to remember for next week is settling up your clay and glazing account…I will also send out a text to let you know what your total is on Friday as well.  Please, please, please don’t forget to re-enroll asap to avoid waiting list disappointment!   Everybody has some fantastic work that they have achieved over the time of the course…so well done everybody!

All the SOUP can cups will be glazed  over the holidays when there is more time and space in the kilns.  If you are not coming back next term please let me know and I can send you a pic of your cup finished and let you know when the exhibition will be.

So as I was immersed in the Art Show over the weekend I got to thinking about ceramic artists and some of the amazing and fabulous work that they do.  Especially some based here in New Zealand, so I thought that I could share some of their abundant talent with you.

One of my favorite potters is Madeleine Child.  She is based in Dunedin and she was tutoring there when I was at Art school.  She has a unique take on using ceramics to explore tactile ideas with.  All of her work is very sculptural and uses amazing surface effects.  It was a pleasure to be able to attend one of her shows at the Dunedin Public Art gallery called ‘Snap, Crackle, Pop!’ which featured hundreds of hand sized pieces of vibrantly coloured ceramic caramel pop corn on the walls…accentuated by bubble wrap on the floors.  When you walked into the exhibition space the floor snapped and crackled under your feet.  I absolutely loved it.  The coloured candy corn had fantastic mat neon finishes with gold luster centers.  I had to remind myself that it is not good thing to lick the art work…even if it makes you want to!  This is what many of Madeleine’s works evoke…the desire to touch and interact.

Madeleine Child ‘Snap, crackle, Pop!’


Another potter who I meet in Dunedin is Jim Cooper.  Jim makes pottery work that you either love or hate.  I go between the two…but I really value it because it can do both!  Jim works with clay in a purely sculptural sense and explores people and relationships.  He made the most fantastic collection of cats at one stage and even sent one protestingly into the Norsewear Art Awards one year and took out one of the largest Art prizes in New Zealand at the time.  The cat is a real scream…’Snowy from Cavy’…and I guess the judge thought so too!  JIm’s work is inspirational to potters who just want to make sculptural items that haven’t any edge of the domestic usefulness about them…but that make you think.

Jim Cooper ‘Snowy from Savy’


Kim Henderson has been on the radar of new talented ceramic artists in New Zealand recently.  She makes the most gorgeous printed paper clay pots.  The technique is similar to the way we make our slip transferred paper images but far more colorful and layered.  She has an amazing graphic drawn and painting style.  One of her other inspiring tricks is to be able to make very large scale hand built tall cylinder pots that are completely decorated and super thin.  I think that her work shows that if you have a simple pot with a plain surface you can indulge in narrative  work…the large surfaces allow you to paint stories on them.  Her works are a great example of how to just use coloured slip on pots to provide interest.

Kim Henderson


Another ceramic artist who uses coloured slip in her work to create vibrant surfaces is Fran Maguire from Blenheim.  Fran is a consumate thrower and makes the most exquisite shapes and forms that are then enhanced by her talent with slip.  Recently she has shown in The Suter Gallery in Nelson a large work that was wall hung made of hundreds of perfectly thrown discs that look like speaker cones.  They were each coloured in a combination of red and black, with the natural white colour of the clay becoming part of the design as well.  The work was called ‘I’m Pulse’, and with all the work arranged on the walls that is the illusion that they created.  A pulsating wall.  This is an excellent video of Fran setting up the exhibition…it is well worth while watching if you are interested in seeing how ceramic works can be installed.

Fran Maguire ‘I’m Pulse’


And last but not least is our own dear Len Castle.  Len grew up to be fascinated with chemistry…so naturally pottery was a practical extension of this love.  As I often remind you fellas…pottery is alchemy in action!  Len had a magnificent studio in Titirangi and he was inspired both by the gentle nature of our flora and fauna and the geological turmoil in our lakes, oceans and mountains.  Some of his most memorable pieces of work are from the study of the three sisters in the North Island.  Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and the crater lakes.  He like the raw state of the earth, the sulfurous crust, red and black lava flow and the icy coolness of the lakes.  Many of these surfaces are embedded into his pots using a combination of raw materials and chemical concoctions.  If you love the sculptural quality of his work the book “Len Castle; Making the Molecules Dance’ is a real treat…the Beckenham library has a copy…so go and see it!  Len pottered at the same time as my grandmother and she had some really lovely pots of his that as a child we loved to hold and feel.  He was a national pottery treasure who continues to inspire potters today.

Len Castle

Well that’s all folks…I hope that there was something in my ramblings to inspire you!

Have a great weekend and I will see you all next week to discover all your pieces of ceramic art fresh from the kiln!



Tatyanna a.k.a The Busy Finch

p.s I leave you with a few pics from my exhibition 🙂


‘How to’ from Around the World!

Hello everybody!

Well it certainly has started to cool off into winter with the wet weather settling in to stay now…I hope you all stay safe and warm in this season!

Sometimes when I am in class I always want to tell you so much more than time allows for.  There are so many different facets to pottery that I want to share with you!  I thought that this week we could go on a creative trip around the world and look at some of the traditions in ceramics that are still alive and very much kicking!

To start with I remembered coming across a type of pottery in Mexico that is revitalizing the way that the people there are thinking.  They hand craft the most exquisite ‘Pineapple’ pots.  The fascinating part of the story is that pineapples are not readily available in these local villages and that the name is an accidental translation meaning ‘fruit of the pine tree’ or pine cone.  But these gorgeous pots look just like fantastical pineapples…I guess the world really is full of serendipity!  Have a look at how these are made and marvel at the way simple tools and hands craft these beauties.

Mexican Pineapples

Next on our tour has to be Native American burnished pottery.  This is when the clay reaches leather hard and is then polished and buffed to give a mirror polish.  Because of the low fired temperatures that are achieved in the firings clays that are red and black are used to provide contrast and colour applied as a slip before polishing.  All of these pots are hand made from pinching and coiling using local clays.  Again I love watching the apparent simplicity of the techniques…but as we know this is often misguiding.  Just making a simple symmetrical thin walled pinch pot brings many beginners potters to tears…well maybe just me!

Maria Martinez

And now for all you decorating buffs out there looking for inspiration and colour we are going to Italy where the tradition of Majolica still dominates ceramics.  Majolica was developed to mimicry middle eastern decorating techniques found on tiles.  It was taken and adapted to decorative ware that dates back to the early middle ages.  Some factories have been around since 1400.  The technique involves painting coloured underglazes or stain formulas onto a freshly white glazed surface.  Then the plate is fired and the results are vibrant and glass like.  The patterns and images can be unbelievably complicated with many colours and extremely precise brush techniques.  This quick little video will inspire you to invest in some good brushes if you too like pattern and colour!

Italian Majolica ware

In England there is a strong tradition of studio potting.  This means producing quick, precise and vibrant tableware from a small studio.  In the mid 20th century Bernard Leach brought value back to simple handmade domestic ware produced locally from local materials that adorned peoples tables.  He believed that the mark of the maker should be part of the intrinsic value of these pots and was heavily influenced by the similar eastern philosophies of potter Shoji Hamada.  He disliked factories who cast multiple soulless white plates to eat T.V dinners from and brought a tradition of studio potting that had almost disappeared back to be eagerly picked up by a new generation of potters.   Leach Potteries is still a vibrant studio that produces hand thrown pots for homes and carries on the educational traditions of potting that he spent his entire life sharing with others.

Leach Potteries

And finally we end our journey where some of the most influential traditions began, China.  China has been producing fine ceramics from times before Bodacia new how to ride a horse!  Most well know for their skill in porcelain China held onto the secrets of this illusive material for thousands of years.  Through the ancient trade routes from east to west pieces of porcelain were highly revered and valued.  The Majolica that copies the middle eastern tiles, copied the originals made in China.  But is wasn’t until the mid 18th century that the west finally understood the true secrets of porcelain.  It was a magical material that was white as snow and rang like a bell when tapped.  Colours, glowed on it and fantastic shapes were made from it is seen as the king of ceramic clays.  China has managed to maintain a strong tradition in producing awe inspiring porcelain ware during its turbulent recent years.  I was honored to attend a workshop here in New Zealand with a living treasure of porcelain painting from China a few years back and I have a massive respect for potters who work in this difficult but beautiful medium.  If you think you find it difficult to center your wee lump of clay have a look at the video link below!

Huge Sanbao Porcelain Pots!

Well that’s it from me this week!

I am looking forward to seeing you next week to help you with your plans to take over the world with pottery!

Have a great weekend and remember to plan to come and see me at the Christchurch Art Show next Friday, Saturday or Sunday! ( I leave you with some pics for the show below)


Tatyanna a.k.a The Busy Finch

p.s click on the red writing below each picture above to view the relevant video link.

How to make a Tin Can SOUP Mug!

Hi all,

This week I thought it would be a great idea to give you some pics and instructions for all the mugs that you have been making.  Everybody has done amazingly and it is a lot of information to cover in one little mug.  So here goes!

1.  Use a mug template that fits around a cylinder at the right height and with about a fingers length extra.  Make a label template that is a good inch lower and higher than the top and bottom of the mug template.  Make a handle template that is about a credit card and a half long x a credit card wide with a curved edge along the sides.


2.  Roll out you clay evenly to fit the pattern plus enough to make a base for the mug, about 4mm thick.  Place templates on to the clay and cut around.  Leave a piece of clay big enough for the base…but don’t cut it out round yet…just leave it as a left over shape for now.  Put your mug and base clay out of the way ready for later.

3.  Tip…do the handle first so that you have nice soft clay and re roll/ re cut clay and template if you need to roll it thinner.  Take the handle piece of clay and press down the long edges to thin them out.  Gently encourage them to roll over…a bit like a wave cresting…until both sides roll over and meet in the middle.  Now with the rolled side facing you carefully shape the handle into an oval with the ends nearly meeting.  Set aside until needed.


4.  Now make your label!  Use newsprint to sketch your design onto…it is nice and absorbent.  Remember if you have text you need to make it a mirror image.  Use slip to paint onto the paper, leaving it to dry out a little between colours and layers.  If you use a fine black slip trailer first you can make nice sharp definition lines and then layer the colours on top.  This technique is like painting backwards…you need to put on the fine lines first and then fill in the solid colours and then finally the back ground colours.  I also like to use cut stencils and coloured slip directly onto the clay.  One of the tricks of getting this to work on fresh clay is to blot the moisture out of the applied slip with newspaper before you put the next layer on…that way there is no smudging!


To Transfer the image from the newsprint wait for the slip to become matt dry and the lightly spray with water out of a spray bottle.  Allow the image to bend slightly in the middle and then place gently onto the clay.  Smooth out and re spritz with water.  Now use newspaper to blot all the water back of and when it has removed enough water you can peel of the paper to leave the image transferred onto the clay.  I like to compare this technique to the old ‘lick n stick’ technique for tattoos.


Now you can add impressed texture to your design as well if you like.  I have used some text stamps to press SOUP into the clay.  When you have finished adding all your design elements you are ready to make your mug.

4. Take your large mug piece of clay and use a texture roller to make a crimped edge along the top…this makes it look ‘can’ like.  Use a ruler and a blunt tool to make some tin can lines top and bottom…not to close to the bottom edge otherwise you will paste over them when the bottom goes on.  Thin both short edges, wrap your cylinder with paper and then with the tin lines underneath roll the clay onto the cylinder, slip and score the short sides and press to attach.  Now place your spare piece of bottom clay onto some paper…so that you don’t stick to the table…and slurry up a circle to fit your mug.  Place the cylinder on top and cut trim up excess clay to within a millimeter or so on a slight undercut.  This excess clay you can now paste up onto the side of the mug to make both bits marry together.  Now pick up the mug and crimp the bottom edge with the texture roller.  Tip…I made my roller out of dry round/disc of clay with a hole in the middle and carved some lines on the outside edge…bisque it to make it more sturdy.


5. Now slurry up the back of your label and then firmly press onto the mug to make it stick.  Use a tool to push into the corners of the label to make mock rivets…this helps to stop the corners from lifting as they dry.  Now slurry the ends of the handle an fix to the mugs back seam about a fingers depth down from the rim…give the corners a rivet here as well.  Hey presto…you now have a Tin Can SOUP Mug!  Tip…don’t take the cylinder out until you have finished sticking, bottoms, labels and handles to it!  (p.s put a pin hole either side into the handle when the pot is hard enough to handle to let air out and to stop it from exploding in the kiln!)

6.  Take out the cylinder as you place the mug handle against a support and dry slowly.


Now that I have saved this idea for you…you can use again at your own leisure!

I hope you have a great weekend and I am looking forward to working with you on your own projects now that you have a few more techniques under your pottery apron strings!  Please bring along all your ideas next week and you are welcome to explore the pinterest page for inspiration in pottery and ceramic jewellery.

A big thank you to Gwen, my handy dandy photographer for this project!


Tatyanna a.k.a The Busy Finch 🙂