Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mudlarking

For anyone who may not know, 'Mudlark' was the name given to people who scavenged for valuables in the mud of the River Thames at low tide in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now obviously that's not exactly what I've been doing but I have been playing with a different sort of mud with the aim of making something that might have some artistic merit or value...


One of the things I really love about being part of this AJE team is the huge capacity my team mates have for sharing and supporting one another. You may just have noticed in the last couple of weeks that some of them came back from ArtBliss very excited about the new techniques they'd learnt and were eager to put into practice and about this time last week, that excitement got us all talking about mixed media work and where we wanted our creative paths to go.

I'd been saying for a long time that I wanted to have a go at making ceramic beads and I even bought a sample pack of clay way back last year. I only have a small, low temperature kiln so am limited to what I can do and have to admit to being a little bit intimidated by long and what seem to me to be complex firing schedules. But my team mates were having none of that and immediately proffered advice and information on how to get started and, more importantly encourage me to just have a go. Well, they got me so fired up (pardon the pun) that I got up on Friday morning and set straight to making some little tiles for glaze tests and some beads...


I found working with the clay very therapeutic especially as you have so much longer to work with it than you do the metal clay I'm used to where speed is of the essence to keep the clay conditioned. After a couple of hours I had a good few beads which I left to dry so they changed colour to a dusty grey...


At this point I had to do some shopping as I had no kiln furniture or glaze for the latter part of the process and I have to admit that I did disregard some of the advice I'd been given. Karen quite rightly suggested testing just one or two glazes before investing more but I'm afraid that's not in my nature. When I start something new I can't help diving in headlong and I was helpless when faced with an array of gorgeous colours and so of course I bought 10 of them! Some of them are hiding from Karen here...


I also ordered myself a bead firing rack and was very impressed when it arrived the next day until I realised they'd sent the wrong size...how frustrating to have your plans delayed when you're so excited!

But anyway, I needed to bisque fire my beads before I could do any glazing so after pestering people with a mass of questions all weekend I bit the bullet on Monday and put them in the kiln and left them to fire overnight. Next day I was delighted to find this little pile of goodies all intact and crack free - phew!


By Tuesday the replacement bead rack hadn't yet arrived arrived so I set to and glazed my beads so they'd be ready when it did. It was not at all disconcerting that from 10 glazes I could only discern three colours most of which were nothing like the colour they would be when fired!


So yesterday the bead rack arrived...eek! Now I really had to be brave! After another round of questions about cones and ramps and soaks (might seem simple to you ceramic folk but it had my head spinning!) I took a deep breathe, programmed the kiln, shut the door, walked away and started counting down the hours...

The firing finished late last night and I was literally holding my breathe when I opened the kiln and found these...


Not perfect by any means but all in one piece and nothing stuck together so I am totally 'chuffed' (very, very happy) with the results - especially these two...



I would just like to say a huge thank you to the AJE team for their encouragement over the last week, especially Karen and Caroline who have answered and explained endlessly and without whom I couldn't have done it (excuse me while I have a Gwyneth moment...) and who were waiting like expectant grandparents for news last night.

And if you're wondering if I'm hooked...well I was looking at high temperature kilns yesterday and one of these just happened to fall into a shopping cart...oopsie!


So who has something new they want to try but is a bit nervous about giving it a go...do let us know. I would thoroughly recommend diving in if you can as it's such a great feeling of achievement when you do.

Lesley 
The Gosssiping Goddess

26 comments :

  1. Lesley these are fabulous,wow wow wow i am sooooo impressed clever girl there is no end to your talent xx

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  2. I must admit, I little lump in my throat when I saw your finished beads! They look fantastic!

    Well done on jumping in the mud... Can't wait to see more!

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  3. Good for you! They look wonderful. Give your self a pat on the back.

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  4. You are quite the mud stomper! I was also so very excited to see your results, I could hardly stand the wait! I have to admit that I'm a jump-in-with-both-feet gal myself, so I can't blame you for going full steam with your first glaze fire. You are going to LOVE high fire clay and glazes! I can't wait to see where you take this!

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  5. Caroline and Karen - Thanks again to both of you for your invaluable input...I had so much fun and am really looking forward to developing my own style and improving my techniques.

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  6. Brilliant post Lesley, I used to be a fearless crafter, I wouldn't think twice about trying out new materials but since being diagnosed with ME 5 years ago I have been too poorly or too nervous to try anything new like this. but I think you may just have inspired me! Thank you and well done you! Claire xx

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  7. WOW that's so cool. This is something that's been on my to do list for some time, it's so much fun to see you doing something I wish I could. Go for it!!!! I'm excited to see the process on your end!

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  8. I so love your enthusiasm Lesley. And of course, I think your beads turned out fantastic! I do have a technique in the beadweaving realm that I am nervous to try, but going to plunge into today. Wish me luck!

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    1. You got it Shirley but I know it will be amazing.

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  9. Your beads turned out fabulous, I can only see them getting even better from here on out. I've been wanting to play more with some polymer clay but just haven't had the extra time for it so far. One day soon!

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  10. I had been following your questions and the process and I have to say I agree with Caroline on this one I was a little choked up too at your results!!! Amazing!!!!

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  11. Great job, Lesley. Your beads look awesome. Especially the heart!

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  12. I am still giggling over "mudlarking"! I love the beads you made. I did mineral clay for 40 years, off and on and loved it. I never did operate the kiln, though. I am having fun with polymer clay, which I bake in the oven. I am crazy about your flower bead and your darling mouse.

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  13. "Oopsie" very funny. Great post, while I was reading it I was chanting " I will not start another hobby, I will not start another hobby...." Wish me luck.

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  14. I have been following this blog for a while, and have rarely (if ever) needed - NEEDED - to post a reply - I just love lurking and reading and learning :) But this one demanded I reply to say:

    What an awesome post! My grin got bigger and bigger as your story went on. Your journey through this sounds very much like what mine would be, right down to about 10 glazes LOL This is something I'd love to try one day, but I don't even have a kiln. I've dabbled a teeny bit in polymer clay to get a feel for just clay, and am sitting on a small pack of PMC3 which I can torch fire. But one day I *need* to get into copper clay and bronze clay, so at that point I'll have to get a kiln, and then I know where to come for beginning instruction on all of this! I love how your test set came out. I love them ALL, and particularly love the green heart you pulled out.

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    1. Thanks Jordana - much appreciated.

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  15. What a timely post. I just posted on a couple of Facebook boards asking for advice on making clay beads. Can you share the info you got? I'd lik to get suggestions on the type of clay, info on firing (I've done glass fusing so I understand soak...but don't understand this cone stuff) and also suggestions on kilns and info on glazes. Thanks!! Your first time beads are fabulous BTW...

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    1. HI Cheryl - the advice the guys gave me is spread across endless message threads that would take forever to pull together and as a novice I wouldn't want to attempt to summarise it here myself on case I gave the wrong info. However, the Beads of Clay and Ceramic Bead Artists blogs have lots of information sources, tutorials and discussion forums and would probably be a good starting point...I jave certainly been dipping in there...

      Hope that helps

      http://www.blog.beadsofclay.org/
      http://ceramicbeadartists.com/tutorials.php?pg=dx17

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    2. Thanks Lesley! I'll check those out.

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  16. I am so glad you got bitten by the "mud" bug! They look great - whats the glaze on the green heart? Gorgeous. And as a ceramic/mixed media artist who hates making beads - havent you noticed I only make charms and vocals? - I welcome clay beads! Hurrah!

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  17. Wow, Lesley, your 1st beads are amazing! They look like you have been playing with clay forever! Now, I'm jealous, as I don't have the cash to jump into something new that I want to play with!

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  18. I am totally chuffed on your behalf, Lesley! I especially love the heart and the wee mousie too

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  19. Hi Lesley,
    Your clay beads are wonderful, it looks like you have been doing this for a while in stead of just starting. I jumped two feet first into a couple of new things over the summer PMC certification (never even touched PMC before that class) and glass fusing. I can understand your excitement in jumping in feet first into your new component making adventure.
    Therese

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  20. You're a prodigy!! I can't believe how perfect your first tries came out!! It was meant to be...Can't wait to see more!

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  21. Wow, your items all came out super amazing!! How beautiful. Since I no longer have a kiln (the hubs busted it!) but I do have a toaster oven, I've wanted to try polymer clay, but I'm still a bit 'scared' for lack of a better word! :-)

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  22. Lesley, your new beadies are STUNNING! I'm so impressed by your determination to just DO it--and so proud of what you've done. I want to do it too! I've just made the first steps toward learning how to work in polymer clay, and I feel like I have the coldest feet in California. And now I wanna be a mudlark too! :) Good on you!!

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