Friday, July 26, 2013

Ho Hum........

I don't often get bored, there is usually so much to do, but I have to admit to feeling a little bored this week.

The reason for this is my frozen shoulder. I had one maybe two or three years ago, and it never really healed, and it came back with a vengeance not long before Quilt Festival, (I think it's the stress), and entailed several visits to the Chiropractor to get it into some form of working order. He gave me exercises to do which I have, and there have been periods of time when it has felt great, no pain etc., so I think I can work and the next day I'm back to square one. The funny thing is, I have become very aware of how I work, I suddenly discovered that I seem to pull my shoulder up on the left hand side which seems to cause the problem, so I find myself deliberately pulling it down.

Computer work aggravates it too, so I have tried to limit that, unsuccessfully I might add, and as I write, I am pulling my shoulder down to stretch those muscles.

So, I thought this might be an opportunity to bore you all with the finer points of China Restoration!

I mentioned in my previous post that this was my career prior to quilting. I sort of fell into it. The husband and I used to buy and sell 1930's china, Art Deco period and we also collected wonderful designs by some very innovative FEMALE designers. I put that in capitals as I think for the period during the two wars, it was pretty unusual. Clarice Cliff was one, and Susie Cooper was the other, and there were more, but these are probably the best known.

We collected the work of Susie Cooper, it was one of those things, you collected one or the other but never both. Miss Cooper, (forgive me, but it would be unforgivable to call her by her first name), came from a good family, and studied at the Burslem School of Art. She worked for Gray's Pottery, and I had some truly lovely early pieces of her work from the 1920's through to the 1960's when she worked for Wedgwood. Her designs were neat and well thought out, the early ones being colourful and then becoming more muted. She also designed ceramics, teapots, coffee pots etc., as she said that it was obvious a man had never poured from a teapot, and I have to say, that her pots pour beautifully, the best known design would be Kestrel, a really pretty shape and one of my favourites. I still have some of her pieces especially the very first coffee service we ever bought from a lady who is now a very good friend, but who dealt exclusively in Susie Cooper.

Clarice on the other hand, (and it's ok to call her by her first name), came from a completely different background. One of a large family, painted her bedroom black and orange, and caught the eye of the factory owner. She was asked to leave home. But again, one of the most successful designers of that period. Much more colourful than Susie Cooper, the designs were brasher but no less exciting, and if you were buying at antique fairs, her work commanded higher prices. Her workshop was laid out in a particular way so that if the girls were working on the Crocus pattern, which was one of the best known and most popular, there would be girls who would paint the orange crocus, others would paint the yellow, and others the green leaves, repetitive work, but they would have a jolly sing song while doing it.

I always got the impression that it would have been more fun to work for Clarice than for Miss Cooper, just because she was more "one of the girls".

This piece is by Susie Cooper, and dates to the late 20's early 30's. There are no factory marks or stamps on the back, but I have seen other pieces in this design which come from the Susie Cooper factory.

This is one of my favourite  pieces of Susie Cooper, a Sgraffito bowl, which means the pattern is incised, and an incised signature on the bottom, these were made during the 1930's and in various colours always with a matte glaze, I've seen them in black, pink and brown. 

This  is a sugar bowl/jam pot/marmalade pot I think, it has a small lid on the top. The pattern is hand painted onto hand painted bands of colour and would probably have been don in the 40's, it would reflect the more austere times. The mark on the bottom shows that this came from the Susie Cooper works in Burslem, the number refers to the pattern.

This is a soup bowl from the 40's, it has a handle missing and I had every intention of replacing it and putting it back to an almost original state. The pattern is a lithograph which was a method which had been developed of transferring printed design during the firing. The banding and handle is hand painted. I do have a banding brush which I bought in the Potteries and have used it on occasion. The trick is to put the ceramic on a small pottery wheel, give it a spin, get the brush loaded and then gently lay it on the area and let the paint flow.

I used to visit the Potteries quite regularly, partly because it was on my way to the Wirral, which is where I did my Restoration diploma, and, if you look at a map of the British Isles, looks like the little arm sticking out between Liverpool and North Wales, but also because I chose to do my written thesis on the work of Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper, comparing and contrasting the work of both. I was able to gain access to the Archives in the Central Library of Clarice's work, it was amazing to see the patterns drawn out in pattern books with annotations.  I was unable to view the archives at Wedgwood which held Susie Cooper's pattern books, as, just before I was due to keep the appointment that I had duly made, several items went missing from it so all visits were stopped which was a great shame.

The Crown Works which was Susie Cooper's factory, I got to know quite well as it owned by a couple of young men who produced Moorland Pottery from it, I used to take people up for tours of the pottery which hadn't changed since the 1930's apart from the fact that it was fired in more modern kilns. The decorating shop was still up a set of rickety stairs on the outside of the building. 

One of my other favourite places to visit was the Gladstone Pottery which was a working Museum and one of the few originals left.  It was an experience walking into a kiln, and to find that a Sagger Makers Bottom Knocker really did exist! Not a lot of people know that when the Potteries were working at their fullest during the 19th Century, there were many kilns and lots of small family factories working from home, some of the best pottery and china in the world was produced in the six towns.

You may be asking yourself what that is. Stoke-on-Trent is made up of six towns, Hanley, Burslem, Stoke-on -Trent, Longton, Tunstall and Fenton, which was a smaller producing area. All I can do is to direct you to google "six towns of Stoke-on-Trent" and you will find lots of images. It was a place I was very fond of, but manufacturing of pottery was dying and has since all but dried up I believe with manufacturing being moved to the Far East in many cases. 

So, where are Clarice's pieces? Well, I didn't have very much and we did sell a lot before we emigrated, so I think I have one small piece left which I will have to find and post later. However, I do have some Wedgwood reproductions.

This is Blue Trees from the Wedgwood Centenary collection of Clarice's Bizarre ware. If you saw an original piece, the differences would be very obvious, but this was more affordable than the original.

There were so many factories producing during this period, so I have included a small selection,

This  beautifully decorated coffee can is by Crown Devon. The Crown Devon factory produced some beautiful pieces of ware, some were highly decorated such as this piece, and would have been very expensive, not only to buy, but to produce, this piece could have been through as many as eight firings, which means that it was baked many times. The gilding would have been added last and been the final firing.

Another of my favourite factories was Shelley. Both these pieces were damaged, if they had been perfect, I wouldn't be able to afford them. They are very thin china, and totally impractical! The cup shapes make the tea cold very quickly as there is too much surface area, and they are horrible to hold when full, trust me, I've tried it. But the design was modern and very stylish and it is a pleasure to own such pieces.

The Art Deco period produced so much that was exciting in the way of ceramics, furniture and clothing that it would be too much to list here, so it will have to wait for future posts. It also created a huge collecting problem, because we then moved into the 1950's, 60's and 70's. I am really going to have to clear some stuff out to display some of it.

But anyway, back to the finer points of china restoration....................

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's been a funny old week............

So, after the excitement of last Saturday, life was supposed to return to normal, but, as I mentioned in the previous post, we were hosting a soccer coach at the behest of my neighbour.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny, and I had a meeting planned with Cathy to go over Quilt Festival stuff, as we, or rather I,  need to be on the ball when I get to the UK in a couple of weeks. So we went out for lunch to catch up, and then went back to the studio to talk about various aspects of the Festival which always takes several hours rather than just one.

After she left, I made sure all was ok in the way of towels, cleaning etc., before going to the soccer ground with two children in tow, to pick up the coach. We went about fifteen minutes early as I thought that way, we would be ready and waiting at the appointed time. We got there, to find them already waiting for .........someone! Two young people, got out of the car, and we introduced ourselves, They noticed by the accent, that I wasn't local, so where was I from? "Croydon", says I, "No way!", says the girl, "I'm from Wallington!" Dear readers, that's about five miles or so from where we used to live, so we "knew" each others areas quite well.

The Coordinator and another family turned up so I made sure they knew that I was expecting to be hosting "a girl", and off we went.

I have to tell you that we had a truly wonderful week. Our lodger, Bailey, was just lovely and fitted in very well with us and was no trouble to look after, I was delighted to have her. She worked hard, and did manage to have a couple of afternoons off, so we went Maple Syrup hunting one afternoon, and then to Grand Bend the other free afternoon. That was probably the hottest day of the year, but we had fun. I enjoy shopping, (please don't tell the husband, the less he knows the better), and so does Bailey, so it was lovely to have someone to go with. We putzed in and out of the stores, and did pick up a couple of pieces. We had a brief walk through very hot sand and then got back into the car and straight to the neighbours house for supper! We also took her to Ipperwash to see the sunset, which would have been lovely but it was a little cloudy, but still beautiful.

From her point of view, it was a funny old week. The Soccer camps vary from place to place, and while she had some kids who really wanted to be there,  I got the impression that it was very much a babysitting exercise this time. There was very little interaction amongst the majority of parents, and, I don't think anybody thanked them for all the work they did with the kids. I have to say that I was lucky enough not to cook for several days this week, as the neighbours were extremely grateful to me for having one of them, and the kids had a lot of fun, but they were the exception. Very disappointing for them, especially when I hear about what other clubs did for them over the past few weeks. Oh well, I guess that's how it is.

We went out for supper on Friday and had a great time. Bailey is a big Timmy's fan, so I will be taking a surprise for her and leaving it with my friends in Croydon, then, I will have to send her on a scavenger hunt to find it! Didn't want to make it too easy for her. Sadly, I won't see her when I'm in the UK as she will not be back until the end of August, we miss each other by about two weeks.

This week for me, is going to be very busy. I have to finish my slide presentation for the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. I am very excited about this, and will be spending the next few days working on it before going to the Apple store to learn how to" bed it in". I must admit I thoroughly enjoy my sessions, but wish I could remember it once I finish!! The hour goes so quickly and there is never enough time to write it all down, so I forget what I'm supposed to be doing. But I will try and struggle on this week with it, I managed to get an appointment for later in the week.

I am excited about meeting my teachers in Birmingham, and hope that all will be well. One of them is teaching in New Zealand this week, and tells me that there are earthquakes happening, she said she was not sure if its her presence causing it or nature at play! Knowing what she's like, I'd like to think that the earth is moving for her.

I will be out of the studio for a while, but have been trying hard to keep up and get some work done for the Gallery. I will try and go down this week and put some new things in.

The other thing I am looking forward to on my trip, is visiting Museums and galleries in London. I already have my ticket for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and want to go to the V&A to see the David Bowie exhibit, that might be a stretch as I have to do that the day after I land in England as it ends when I'm in Birmingham, and the Club to the Catwalk exhibit there too, so lots to do. Will try and get to Tate Modern and look around to see what else is on. I am hoping not to take too much with me as I want to do my Christmas shopping, yes, weird I know, but fun, and I want to shop for me!! I'm also hoping to meet up with friends for lunch in various places so that should keep me out of mischief and I know my second week will fly by. It will also give me the opportunity to tie up any loose ends, but I don't think there will be any-fingers crossed!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A perfect ending..

This entry will not be a quick one. I am still assimilating information and pondering on what was a very interesting and wonderful day, you might be hearing about this for weeks!!

As I mentioned in my last post, we were going to the Sabbath service at the Synagogue, and then the Kiddush lunch afterwards. The husband and I arrived at the Synagogue and walked in, to be greeted by the Programme director from the Community Centre, and a good friend of mine who I knew from the Embroiderer's Guild. The husband donned a kippah and we entered the Sanctuary.

We entered and sat with our friend Fred and several other committee members, and it struck me that we were lucky and privileged to be there. I have always had the deepest respect for Jewish people and have known and worked with many over the years, so I tried very hard to take everything in as I didn't want to forget a single detail.

It was an amazing sight. The synagogue wasn't particularly full, but the Sabbath service is two hours long, and people kept arriving throughout. My delight was in seeing men and women in prayer shawls, and that the bulk of the service was sung or chanted rather than spoken.  The young lady who led the Torah service had the most beautiful voice. Fred told us which pages to turn to, and helped us along, the service is in Hebrew, and it was lovely to hear the words. The opening of the Ark was breathtaking, and the lights sparkled on the finials to the Torah's stored there.

A Torah was then lifted out, and carried around the Sanctuary, and the congregation came down and either touched a corner of their shawl, or bible (although I don't think it's called a Bible),to the Torah, before it was taken to the lectern. The finials were removed and the cover removed, and then the Torah was unrolled. The Torah reader then used the Yad to follow the writings  while we followed in our books. To be honest, it seemed at times a bit chaotic until you realised that all the people on the dais had a role to play. There were several readers, and we had help from a lovely young lady in knowing which page we should be on.

The second service was led by our friend, and was lovely. Again, there were readings and several moments of private prayer. I found it fascinating. The Torah was then rolled and put back into its cover and the finials replaced, then taken around the Sanctuary again before being replaced in the Ark. The doors to the Ark were closed, and the service continued. Then, a short while later, they were opened again and then closed. The children then came up and closed the outer doors to the Ark which was lovely.

The President of the Synagogue made a closing address and then the Rabbi did a Kiddush toast, cleansed her hands and broke bread. After this, the service ended and we all started to make our way to the hall for lunch.

Everyone was so welcoming. There was not one moment when we were left on our own, we were well looked after and the food!!! Oh my goodness, it was lovely, salads, bagels, lox, hummus and a dessert table laden with fresh fruit and pastries.

I actually felt a little overwhelmed by it all. I had taken my camera thinking I would take photos at the lunch, but completely forgot about it, but then perhaps there were other reasons too. It will be a long time before we ever experience anything like this again, a community opened its hearts to us in grateful thanks for something we just thought would be fun to do, I don't think we even gave a thought to the impact that it would have but I am so pleased I had that opportunity to make new friends and to experience so much.

I also found the service interesting, looking at it from the viewpoint of an outsider. I converted to the Catholic faith at Easter from Anglican. Not too much of a stretch as the faiths are similar in a way, the Catholic Church is perhaps more rigid. I'm sure it will shock some people, but I had a rough year last year and needed an anchor to hold me steady. I have, over the years, had many Catholic friends and been to Mass more often than any other service in an Anglican church, so for me it was a natural thing to do.

Hmm, this is quicker than I thought!

So, what does today hold? Well, I will be having a visitor for the next week! My friend's children are going to Soccer Camp and they need a billet for one of the coaches, guess who was volunteered?? I have never had, and neither has the husband, any interest in Soccer so it should be a very interesting week, I hope they don't mind. I am also going to be having three young ladies over to do some"Art". I put it like that as one of them called to ask if it would be ok if they came to do something with me, I am always pleased to have company in the studio so said yes, what would they like to do? Something "abstracty" was the reply. Well, that was helpful, I will also spend part of today tidying the studio and preparing for the workshop and looking at the fabric I dyed on Friday, so, busy, busy, and thinking about what I will be teaching these girls, I do have one or two ideas but we'll just have to wait and see.....

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Oooh! The anticipation!.........

I don't normally wish my life away, but I really cannot wait for Saturday this week!

The Quilt Festival committee have been invited to the Synagogue for the Sabbath service and Lunch, which is being hosted by the Jewish community as they wished to show their appreciation for the Quilts of Israel show we held in May.

One of our contacts in the community, Fred, has been instrumental in putting this together, and I for one, am extremely touched and honoured.

It turns out that Fred is a bit of an artist himself. He had read that my previous career had been as a Ceramic/china Restorer/conservator, ( I have to put both ceramic and china in, as if I don't, people think you do one thing and not the other. The times I've been asked when I say I repair china, "oh, don't you do pottery?' or vice versa), and told me that he had had a go at doing stained glass. He has ben going to Port Stanley on a regular basis to take classes with a stained glass artist there, and sent me photos yesterday, one of which I will share with you as it is breathtakingly beautiful work, and deserves to be seen.

I love the colour and the movement in the design, and hope that I will see it in the flesh very soon. The Shofar I think is particularly interesting. When Fred told me he was doing this, I started thinking about Art in general. There are so many different types, and along the way, we might get to experience working in some different mediums, painting, fabric, metal and other types, what draws us to do something different? I once did jewellery making. The husband was doing an evening class in it and thoroughly enjoying it, he thought I would like it and be good at it, after all I fiddled with minuscule pieces of ceramic from time to time. Well off I went full of hope........and hated every minute!!!! It was the longest ten weeks of my life, and the only thing I have to show for it is a copper ring that I made and never wear.

I recently took two classes at the Quilt Festival in Cincinnati, loved one but didn't care for the other, I wonder if it's the subject, teaching, or, how I approach it. I taught china restoration, (see, there I go), for almost 10 years and didn't lose too many students along the way, and although I left the UK 10 years ago now, I know that some of them still meet on a regular basis, which makes me feel that I at least gave them enthusiasm for the subject. I would often be asked to demonstrate it at various places, but believe me, it's like watching paint dry. One of my classes always said my epitaph would be, "yes, it's coming on, but it needs a bit more filling".  I was extremely lucky to have been taught by a wonderful restorer who did a lot of private work, but also a lot of Museum work too, and I was lucky enough to go to the Museum in Birkenhead and watch her repair some of the Della Robbia collection that is housed there.  She is also an extremely talented Botanical artist, and I did take a couple of classes with her which I really enjoyed. Helen used to tell me that I was a better restorer than she was(!), which astonished me as I thought I wasn't very good, although I did get a Distinction after doing a two year part time Diploma. I think my problem was that in my mind I could see how I it should look, but to me it never looked as good as it should have done.

Having said that, I am a dab hand at painting freehand straight lines, copying flower designs and colour matching. It's a long process which I won't bore you with, but when the filling is so smooth that it blend in with the original, then it is ready to be painted. My dears, there are two schools of thought on that one!! I used an airbrush, some people would faint dead away as they painted everything by hand. Imaging doing a crack and hand painting it. I can, but it's so much easier and smoother to use the airbrush. So, you would have to match the background colour of the piece. Not a lot of people realise that the background colour is actually just the pottery/clay colour covered in glaze, and, please, don't get me started on thick glazes which would leave a shadow line which would cause angst and trauma because it looked awful, and no, it is not an option to paint the ENTIRE piece just because that would get rid of that problem, (although I have seen that done, but that's another story). Anyway, in a perfect world, you would have airbrushed the repair, seamlessly sprayed thinners into the edge to lose it, and then and only then could you get down to the best bit which was the hand painting usually a sprigs floral design or a gilded line, -there's another story too.

I find that working with textiles and fibre is much easier. I can put things on, take things off, and if it's a bit out of alignment, then the whole thing can, if I wish, be straightened with the stroke of my rotary cutter. Ceramic (sorry), works differently, for one thing it's not pliable, so if it is out of alignment then it causes all sorts of problems. Depending on the piece I'm working on, it doesn't matter if I rip it, cut it or shred it.

I did try artistic metal work once as well, but the husband does that better, which reminds me, I need to get him to fire the forge up when the weather cools down a bit to see if it still works. We have a relationship of me, artistic director and him, artisan. I need to get him back into that as he's really quite good. 

A plant stand in the Art Nouveau style

Pottery was another class that we took together and both enjoyed. The husband would do lots of different things and I did sheep. They would be singing, one even had a pair of knotting needles at the base with a strand of "wool" coming from its body, there was a builder, a Barrister and I even did an accountant. They were quite fun to do.

So now, I am looking forward to working on the next piece of fibre art. I had a brainwave in the middle of the night, I have beautiful piece of ice dyed silk which is lovely and I had started working on it and was thinking the piece would be about 18x22 inches, a little boring and predictable. So what would happen if I cut it into three pieces? Well the result is a lot better than just the one piece.

I started putting the backing on one piece and hope to be working on it again very soon and will have better photos of it, but I am pleased with the way it is looking, quite inspiring. But, for the moment that will have to wait. I have a two hour dental appointment tomorrow, so will be playing the poorly invalid, and that way I will get to play in the studio all day Thursday and Friday!

So, then I will be ready for a really lovely day on Saturday.