Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Vintage shabby chic... and blog readers offer

I have just finished a commission to make a vintage shabby chic toy doll.

Voila.........



The doll is hand-painted porcelain with jointed arms and legs so that she can stand or sit.  Standing she measures just under 1 3/4" tall.

I just couldn't find the right shade of brown for her costume so I had to hand-dye the silk for her dress and bonnetShe has silk underwear, vintage lace socks and tiny silk shoes with leather soles.  Her dress is trimmed with vintage French lace and her bonnet is decorated with silky braid and pure silk buds and bows trim.

I'm really rather pleased with her and so enjoyed working on her that I am now planning to make a few more in different colours.  So for this week only I will offer blog readers the chance to order one of these little toy dolls at the special price of £30 (including P&P anywhere in the world) in the colours of your choice. She also comes complete with doll box with vintage illustrated lid.  

To order just email me to discuss your requirements, putting 'Blog Offer' in the subject heading.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Scorchio....

It has been really HOT here the past few days.  

Hot and muggy.

Hot, muggy and oppressive.

The promised thunderstorms didn't materialise yesterday and there was only the briefest of downpours today, accompanied by some distant, half-hearted thunder which has done little to alleviate the stickiness of the air.

So surely only a doofus would choose to do a kiln firing on these two consecutive days... the hottest on record since June 2006.

Hmmm.

Thankfully the firings in question were only china paint ones, which meant the kiln getting up to around 650 degrees Celsius but the additional heat pumped throughout the house, even with windows and doors wide open was ridiculous.

No matter.  

The firing today was the final one so tomorrow I can unload and pack away the kiln then set to work on the new range of tiny toys. 


Unless of course, according to Health and Safety Regulations, it's too hot to work and I'm forced to pack a picnic and head off to the beach with PP and Small Dog........





 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Sombre Saturday........

Despite the weather forecast predicting cloudless, blue skies and soaring temperatures, it has been resolutely grey and not at all warm today.  Every time I've listened to the forecast on the radio the promises of a return to proper summer weather have grown more and more frenzied, and apparently we should be having well good sunshine by now.

Not that I'm much bothered, as I've spend most of today in the workroom, guiltily making up for the time I took off this week.  It would appear that guilt is a much better spur than anything else as I've managed to achieve quite a lot today, completing the prototype of a new illuminated toy theatre and making serious inroads into the gargantuan task of the first china painting of all the tiny toys and dolls I fired last week.

So far so good.

One tiny ray of sunshine broke the gloom this morning when I received this gorgeous little tea set which I won on Ebay a few weeks back and which has safely made the journey all the way from Australia. 



It's a fantastic find, made by Dominique Levy from France, and created in paper thin porcelain, beautifully painted and glazed.  The mother rabbit 'teapot' even cradles a tiny little baby bunny in her arms and the tea cups have minute rabbit head handles.


Sheer perfection in miniature which is destined for my day nursery room box.  Sometimes it's the smallest things which cheer up an otherwise grey day......

Friday, 24 June 2011

Displacement activity....bored.... no excuses

Right.

Here's the deal.

If you really, really, REALLY like cats you might not want to read on.........

If, however, you have have had a glass or two of wine as Friday evening unfolds into the weekend................



-----Original Message-----
From: DALY, Christopher
Sent: 06 August 2010 13:53
To: HEATH, Peter
Subject:
Hi
I opened the screen door yesterday and my cat got out and has been missing since then so I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me. It has to be A4 and I will photocopy it and put it around my suburb this afternoon.


This is the only photo of her I have she answers to the name Missy and is black and white and about 8 months old. missing on Harper street and my phone number.
Thanks Shan.


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 9.26am
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
That is shocking news. Luckily I was sitting down when I read your email and not half way up a ladder or tree. How are you holding up? I am surprised you managed to attend work at all what with thinking about Missy out there cold, frightened and alone... possibly lying on the side of the road, her back legs squashed by a vehicle, calling out "Shannon, where are you?"
Although I have two clients expecting completed work this afternoon, I will, of course, drop everything and do whatever it takes to facilitate the speedy return of Missy.
Regards, David.

From:
Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 9.37am
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Poster

yeah ok thanks. I know you dont like cats but I am really worried about mine. I have to leave at 1pm today.

From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 10.17am
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
I never said I don't like cats. Once, having been invited to a party, I went clothes shopping beforehand and bought a pair of expensive G-Star boots. They were two sizes too small but I wanted them so badly I figured I could just wear them without socks and cut my toenails very short. As the party was only a few blocks from my place, I decided to walk. After the first block, I lost all feeling in my feet. Arriving at the party, I stumbled into a guy named Steven, spilling Malibu & coke onto his white Wham 'Choose Life' t-shirt, and he punched me. An hour or so after the incident, Steven sat down in a chair already occupied by a cat. The surprised cat clawed and snarled causing Steven to leap out of the chair, slip on a rug and strike his forehead onto the corner of a speaker; resulting in a two inch open gash. In its shock, the cat also defecated, leaving Steven with a foul stain down the back of his beige cargo pants. I liked that cat.
Attached poster as requested.
Regards, David.





From: Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 10.24am
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah thats not what I was looking for at all. it looks like a movie and how come the photo of Missy is so small?


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 10.28am
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
It's a design thing. The cat is lost in the negative space.
Regards, David.


From:
Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 10.33am
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Thats just stupid. Can you do it properly please? I am extremely emotional over this and was up all night in tears. you seem to think it is funny. Can you make the photo bigger please and fix the text and do it in colour please. Thanks.



From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 10.46am
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
Having worked with designers for a few years now, I would have assumed you understood, despite our vague suggestions otherwise, we do not welcome constructive criticism. I don't come downstairs and tell you how to send text messages, log onto Facebook and look out of the window. I am willing to overlook this faux pas due to you no doubt being preoccupied with thoughts of Missy attempting to make her way home across busy intersections or being trapped in a drain as it slowly fills with water. I spent three days down a well once but that was just for fun.
I have amended and attached the poster as per your instructions.
Regards, David.







From: Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 10.59am
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

This is worse than the other one. can you make it so it shows the whole photo of Missy and delete the stupid text that says missing missy off it? I just want it to say Lost.


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 11.14am
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster





From: Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 11.21am
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah can you do the poster or not? I just want a photo and the word lost and the telephone number and when and where she was lost and her name. Not like a movie poster or anything stupid. I have to leave early today. If it was your cat I would help you. Thanks.


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 11.32am
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Awww

Dear Shannon,
I don't have a cat. I once agreed to look after a friend's cat for a week but after he dropped it off at my apartment and explained the concept of kitty litter, I kept the cat in a closed cardboard box in the shed and forgot about it. If I wanted to feed something and clean faeces, I wouldn't have put my mother in that home after her stroke. A week later, when my friend came to collect his cat, I pretended that I was not home and mailed the box to him. Apparently I failed to put enough stamps on the package and he had to collect it from the post office and pay eighteen dollars. He still goes on about that sometimes, people need to learn to let go.
I have attached the amended version of your poster as per your detailed instructions.
Regards, David.



From: Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 11.47am
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Awww

Thats not my cat. where did you get that picture from? That cat is orange. I gave you a photo of my cat.


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 11.58am
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Awww

I know, but that one is cute. As Missy has quite possibly met any one of several violent ends, it is possible you might get a better cat out of this. If anybody calls and says "I haven't seen your orange cat but I did find a black and white one with its hind legs run over by a car, do you want it?" you can politely decline and save yourself a costly veterinarian bill.

I knew someone who had a basset hound that had its hind legs removed after an accident and it had to walk around with one of those little buggies with wheels. If it had been my dog I would have asked for all its legs to be removed and replaced with wheels and had a remote control installed. I could charge neighbourhood kids for rides and enter it in races. If I did the same with a horse I could drive it to work. I would call it Steven.

Regards, David.


From:
Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 12.07pm
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Awww

Please just use the photo I gave you.


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 12.22pm
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww



From: Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 12.34pm
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

I didnt say there was a reward. I dont have $2000 dollars. What did you even put that there for? Apart from that it is perfect can you please remove the reward bit. Thanks Shan.


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 12.42pm
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww


From: Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 12.51pm
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Can you just please take the reward bit off altogether? I have to leave in ten minutes and I still have to make photocopies of it.


From:
David Thorne
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 12.56pm
To:
Shannon Walkley
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww


From: Shannon Walkley
Date:
Monday 21 June 2010 1.03pm
To:
David Thorne
Subject:
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Fine. That will have to do.

Summer solstice sojourn.........

Today we have returned from the wilds of Kent, where we've been caravanning for a few days over the summer solstice.  Sadly the weather was far from summery, and we've brought back a sopping wet awning which we will hopefully be able to lay out in the garden to dry tomorrow.

However, the aim of the outing was achieved, ie to see how we would cope on a small CL site with no toilets, shower block, washing up area, drying room etc.  The only site facilities were electric hookups, a water stand pipe and a toilet disposal pit.

Nevertheless, the caravan performed very well, and we gave all of its 'mod cons' a thorough trial.

Of course the cost of taking weekdays off is that I will have to spend the next two weekends working hard to make up for lost time but no matter.  Along with Small Dog I'm counting down the days to our next camping trip but in the meantime here are some views of our bucolic waterside campsite pitch, deep in the heart of the Kent countryside.






Sunday, 19 June 2011

Displacement activity - Small Dog style......

I was sent THIS earlier by a friend and colleague.

Excellent displacement activity for all lovers of small dogs........

Simply type in a small dog-related command and see what happens  ... Sit, roll over, down, stand, jump, sing, shake, fetch, play dead, sneeze etc. It's even entertaining if you type in a command that's not recognized!!

Make sure you type in "Kiss," too, but do it last.

This post is brought to you with the approval of Small Dog, who could do any of those things if she really wanted to.

Loving where you live........

It's very easy to get blase about where you live.  I expect even the most stunning views can begin to pall after a while, or at least become less noticeable with the passage of time.

Hastings has never had the cachet of it's bigger, brasher, more successful south coast neighbours, like Eastbourne or Brighton, and it has suffered more than most over the years from all of the normal societal ills... unemployment, lack of investment etc.  However, over the past 5 years there has been a marked improvement across the board and it's becoming a really rather lovely place which I feel I should appreciate more than I do.

Which is why yesterday, PP and I went down to the Stade to see the opening of the next phase of the regeneration project there, the centrepiece of which will be the new Jerwood Gallery, due to open later this year.  With the new community/exhibition space ( The Stade Hall) and cafe/restaurant (Eat @ The Stade) the scruffy piece of land which formerly housed a lorry and coach park is now blossoming into a valuable asset for Hastings.

We also had a vested interest in the proceedings yesterday, as Prodigal Son was performing as a member of Section 5, a local drumming group. 




So we had a lovely, leisurely lunch at the new cafe, entertained by an assortment of local musicians, before strolling round the South Coast Artist's exhibition in the Stade Hall, followed by a visit to the beach-side fishing huts to buy fresh fish for dinner.

The amusingly named skate knobs and samphire may not feature on most people's 'favourite dinner' menu but trust me, they are delishus.   Skate knobs are actually skate cheeks, less familiar than the wings but lovely when simply cooked in butter for a few minutes then sprinkled with lemon juice and zest.  Samphire tastes of the sea and is the perfect accompaniment for skate knobs, along with new potatoes and loads of fresh parsley from the garden.  




Small Dog, who is a bit of a gourmand, pronounced the skate knobs outstanding, although she wasn't quite so keen on the samphire.



Good times.........
 

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Small Dog's worst nightmare......

Yesterday was not a good day from Small Dog's point of view.

It rained hard all day, and she HATES getting wet.  Then she had to go to the V.E.T. for her annual health check and booster vaccination and she HATES anything V.E.T. related.


Right on cue, as soon as we turned off into the drive leading down to the V.E.T she started trembling.  By the time we were in the waiting room she was shaking so much that the casual onlooker would have assumed that she was suffering from an advanced case of St. Vitus Dance.


Once in the consulting room she transforms from meek, mild-mannered sweetie into a twisting, snarling, whirling dervish, necessitating the use of the smallest size of muzzle, making her look like a small, hairy Hannibal Lecter.


V.E.T.s are made of sterner stuff though, and much to Small Dog's dismay, refuse to be intimidated by a 5lb ball of fluff, even if it does exhibit sharp incisors, and despite her  protestations she did eventually have her check up and vaccination.  


Back in the car she resolutely turned her back on us both and stared out of the window, ignoring us completely.  When we got home she stalked into the office, curled up in a ball in her basket and sulkily refused to have anything at all to do with us till dinner time.


Even then her day didn't improve as we had to give her a worming tablet, which we were assured was of a new 'chewable' type which dogs love.


Hm.


It must have looked and smelt reasonably appetising because she took it with no coaxing or coercion.


Then promptly spat it out on the floor and sat looking at us, suspicion written all over her little furry face.


Undeterred, PP pushed the tablet into a piece of lightly cooked liver and offered it to Small Dog again.  She sniffed it, licked it then took it gingerly into her mouth, holding it between her front teeth, before deciding that irrespective of what was concealed within the liver, it was just too delicious to forgo, and promptly swallowed it.


She's just about forgiven us, although when I moved her off my swivel chair earlier she did grumble quite a lot, so I would say that I haven't fully redeemed myself yet.  She's currently fast asleep in her basket, paws and tail twitching.


Wonder what she's dreaming of........







Thursday, 16 June 2011

You're fired...........

Perhaps predictably, my guesstimate of how long the kiln element replacement procedure would take was woefully inadequate.

In the end it took over 3 hours, with a further 3 hours thereafter to load the kiln.  The new elements must be made of Kevlar or some such other incredibly strong material.  Either that or I have developed the strength of a small child.

With my previous kiln I could easily stretch the metal coils to fit the kiln perfectly.  Similarly, a pair of wire cutters would slice through them with ease.  However the new ones were really hard to stretch and even harder to cut, which made the whole thing a bit of a sod.

By the end PP and I were barely talking to each other, and Small Dog wasn't talking to either of us, professing to being 'gusted at the language emanating from the dining room during the task.  After hours of being bent double, crouching to get  right down inside the kiln, trying to avoid taking our eyes out with the sharp ends of the wires flailing around, attempting to manipulate a pair of spanners on the nuts and bolts and generally feeling hot and fed up I'm not surprised that we let slip the occasional expletive.

Buggrit.

However, it seems to be working OK, according the brief test I conducted before the marathon loading session.  I'll do the full bisque firing tomorrow, as I'll need to be in attendance for the duration, just in case the kiln goes on fire or something equally disastrous.

I'm also concerned about the firing schedule, which will need to be adjusted to take into account the new elements.  Over time, the old elements became less and less effective, taking longer to reach the top temperature and failing to maintain an adequate soak time, so I had to adjust the programme to take that into account.  The new elements will go like a rocket, reaching the top temperature in just a few hours rather than almost 10 so I will need to re-programme the controller.  Also the pieces I'm firing are very, very small, so will mature more quickly.  

All of this means that the bisque firing will be somewhat experimental and consequently rather nerve-wracking.

*fingers crossed*

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

On a lighter note.........

My earlier musings on mortality might be entirely hypothetical by dint of dicing with death tomorrow.  This is because I will be replacing the elements on my kiln... an operation fraught with danger.

Apparently.

I've had the new elements for several weeks, but only today decided to thoroughly read the instructions so that I could conduct the ritual 3 hour hunt for the right size of spanners etc well in advance of the planned operation tomorrow.  

I replaced the elements on my previous kiln many, many times, but the current one is a much more complicated affair, and thus far I have only replaced them once, a good few years ago now.  As far as I can remember, the procedure went without a hitch, but on reading the new updated instructions I am somewhat trepidatious as there are several dire warnings.

Firstly there is the declaration that elements must always be replaced by a competent person as wrongly connected elements are a safety hazard and cause irreparable damage to the kiln.


Well, the very first time my previous kiln elements were replaced, I was so worried about trying to do it myself that I called in an electrician instead.  He read the instructions (he informed me that most electricians will never have replaced kiln elements!) and I watched carefully as he first disconnected the old, then reconnected the new then charged me quite a bit of money for his time and expertise.


It didn't look at all difficult, so the next time they needed doing, I did them myself.  And each time subsequently.


So far I haven't been electrocuted, or set fire to the house, or damaged the kiln in any way.

I'm kind of assuming that the 'HAZARD' and 'Danger of Death' sections refer to any doofus stupid enough to work on the kiln while it's  still connected to the mains.  Having unplugged it from the electric socket I even moved the plug as far away from the socket as possible, just in case some renegade electricity leaked out and arced onto the plug terminals while I was checking out the inside of the element cover.

I'll have to make copious notes and drawings on the current configuration of all the element banks, which look like this.......



Hmm.  Reminds me of those bomb disposal scenes in films where a trembling, sweaty hand, holding wire cutters, hesitates over which coloured wire to cut.  Thankfully I won't be cutting any of the coloured wires.

That would be foolish.

However I will have to cut the elements in order to avoid any damage to the porcelain isolators, and that is a tricky procedure which will probably involve a fair bit of colloquial Anglo-Saxon.

I'm tentatively 'pencilling in' a 2-hour time slot for the entire process which may turn out to be hopelessly optimistic but we'll see. 


EDIT - I was looking for a good picture to illustrate just how dangerous electricity can be and came across THIS which tells you all you need to know.


My favourite is this one......







I have NO IDEA what this baby is doing but it is clearly extremely dangerous. Leaving it unattended on a such high bed with no sides beggars belief, while the vicious looking hook left within easy reach on the bedside table verges on the criminal.  Electrocution is the least of its worries.
Feel free to nominate your favourite.....

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

This mortal coil..............

I had to go the the hospital yesterday for some tests.  Sitting in a hospital waiting room, surrounded by people, some of who are clearly very unwell, does tend to concentrate the mind.

So during the evening, it felt rather serendipitous to stumble upon a television programme on assisted dying, especially as I had missed the media ballyhoo preceding its airing.

Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors, has become a champion of the assisted dying cause, since his diagnosis with Alzheimer's a few years ago.  The programme, Choosing To Die, made uncomfortable viewing, especially for me as it featured a MS sufferer who despite looking reasonably chipper, had obviously had enough, for he made the journey to Switzerland to the Dignitas clinic to end his life just days before Christmas.  Terry also followed a married couple, he suffering from motor neurone disease, who had made the decision to die.

For those of us cursed with an over-active imagination, it was reassuring to see that the setting was rather hum-drum, from the blue prefab-like building set on a road in an industrial estate, to the endless cups of tea in brightly coloured cups on offer throughout.

The final administering of the poison though, and the subsequent obvious discomfort (and perhaps fear) were harrowing and difficult to watch, although mercifully it was all over very quickly.

I have no doubt that the death he chose was surely infinitely preferable to the horrors (real or imagined) of terminal motor neurone diseaseWhat is sad is that he had to die perhaps sooner than necessary, as he had to be fit enough to make the journey to Switzerland and, critically, administer the poison himself.

It is strange that in such a humane, enlightened society as ours, there is no legal provision for those with terminal conditions, to choose the moment of their demise.  Leaving aside the need for all the essential checks and balances, it would seem to be a sensible option.

I also wonder when suicide was rebranded as 'assisted dying'. It's always been perceived as a rather dirty word but even so.....

In a similar vein, this thoughtful and thought-provoking blog post caught my eye this week.  Jane Laverick is well-known for her witty take on the miniature world, but this serious piece will have struck a chord with anyone who has ever been affected by suicide, myself included.

For many years I could never imagine being in a position where it would ever be a viable option.   I do not intend ever going gently into that good night, and will indeed rage against the dying of the light.  However, just knowing that there is an option to slip away painlessly, should the raging eventually prove ineffectual, would be a comfort. 





 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Brrrrrr.........!

It's hard to believe that a few weeks ago we were basking in a tropical heatwave.  I've been so cold the last few days that I've resorted to switching on my electric blanket at night to take the chill off my feet, which have felt like blocks of ice.

We even had a fire in the sitting room at the weekend, much to Small Dog's delight, especially when her basket was moved right in front of the fireplace.

So, today, back to work and I'm finally on the home straight with the interminable soft cleaning.  Of all the technical (as opposed to artistic) tasks in porcelain dollmaking, it is the one which I dislike most.  However I estimate that by Wednesday I should have finished the last tiny piece and can load up the kiln for a full bisque firing.

Huzzah!

Thereafter, I can return to my various Research and Development projects, which have been temporarily put on hold, and upon which I've been musing while my hands have been semi-permanently immersed in tepid waterAll being well, we should have several new miniature toys to unveil in the not too distant future.

In other news, according to the letter which arrived this morning, Small Dog is due her annual health check and innoculation at the vet.

So that's something else to look forward to then.........



Friday, 10 June 2011

Is it Friday already.......?

Thank goodness though.  

I've done enough soft cleaning this past few days to last me a lifetime.  Despite that, it will be another two days before I've finished.  This highlights yet another drawback to moving down a scale from 1/12th to 1/24th...... it takes sooooo many more smaller pieces to fill my kiln.

Also the individual pieces are incredibly delicate, especially in their fragile soft-fired state and I have to handle them so carefully that all the muscles in my arms, neck and shoulders go into painful spasms, necessitating frequent breaks.

The only upside is that I can put my brain in neutral, go on automatic pilot and give myself over to listening the radio. 

And of course the sense of achievement when I'm finally finished the whole batch and can load everything into the kiln for its bisque firing.  Probably around the middle of next week.


Hopefully.


And speaking of hopeful,  I do hope that the bottle I put in the fridge earlier this afternoon is now thoroughly chilled and ready for opening.


Cheers..........

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Blue sky thinking.............

I've been doing a lot of strategic planning of late.  Despite the fact I've never been very good at planning ahead.

Well let me qualify that.... I AM quite good at PLANNING ahead, it's the implementation of the plans I'm pants at.

However it's never too late for a leopard to change its shorts, so I'm going to really, really try to get ahead of the game this year.  Which is why I've been immersed in Christmas this week.

Now if you're squeamish about the C-word you'd probably want to leave now so don't say you weren't warned.

However, before I invoke the ghost of Christmas future, I'll fill you in on the latest instalment of my epic slip saga, the denouement of which is still unfolding.

After the requisite amount of pummeling, the new NYDP slip appears to have come up trumps.  Lovely, creamy consistency, not too thick, not too thin.  Quick set up, easy mould release and practically no clean up.  Putting tiny stringing holes in the tops of very thin arms and legs was effortless, thanks to the plastic elasticity of the greenware.

Perfect.


So the experimental batches of castings (including what I could salvage from the disastrous Ultra Chic sessions) are now in the kiln undergoing their soft-firing.  


So far so good.


Part of the rationale for the castings sessions was to make an early start on my Christmas stock, as I've been brimming over with ideas for new toys, perfect for the miniature festive season.  The lead time for making little wee toys and dolls is such that it's no use waiting till September to get going as there simply won't be enough time.


I speak from long, bitter experience.


Also, we have 99.9% decided that we won't be exhibiting at KDF in December this year, so we need to have something spectacular up our sleeve to make up for it.


More details will be forthcoming in due course but for the moment we are sworn to secrecy. 

As is business mascot and sleeping partner, Small Dog, who is notoriously bad at keeping secrets, despite being extremely enigmatic while in possession of one......


Monday, 6 June 2011

Rainy Monday.......

It rained all day yesterday, all night and it's still going strong.  After weeks and weeks of little or no rain I can practically hear the newly reinvigorated grass and weeds battling it out for supremacy.

Inevitably the weeds will prevail and by the weekend they'll be knee-high. 

However, despite the grey and dismal weather, I'm feeling quite sunny today, as a box of the new NYDP casting slip has arrived, compliments of my UK supplier and I'm eager to try it out today.

They've abandoned the traditional plastic gallon jars with an innovative  heavy duty plastic bag, contained within a cardboard box, so instead of having to sieve and stir the slip thoroughly prior to use, apparently I only have to pummel the bag a bit to take out any lumpy bits and help it regain its creamy consistency.  

Also, as the bag is vacuum sealed, there is no possibility of introducing tiny air bubbles during the pummeling stage.  These are very difficult to remove and invariably lodge in the most conspicuous areas of the moulds..... right at the end of a tiny nose, or over an eye, spoiling the casting and rendering it unusable.


Hurrah.  


Can't wait to get started.......

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Rainy Sunday..........

Flaming June is only 5 days in and is already living up to its reputation.

As in "flaming June..... why can't we have some flaming good weather for a change".

Actually yesterday was really lovely, if a bit windy, but today is cold, grey and wet.  I shouldn't be complaining as we've had no proper rain for weeks and the garden is parched.  However a day's rain will lead to the rapid uncontrolled growth of everything, especially the weeds.

So what is there to do on a rainy Sunday?
Why, snuggle down with Small Dog on the sofa and watch old black and white films on TV of course.

Although Small Dog is very upset that Lassie Come Home isn't on......




 

Friday, 3 June 2011

There's many a slip..........

Right.

I know what you're thinking.

Enough with the slip already.

But bear with me and I promise I won't slip in any more references to it.  I may have been labouring the point, but casting porcelain is a vitally important raw material for me......I use it to make the majority of our tiny jointed toys and animals, as well as an extensive range of little doll's dolls, so it just has to be right.


It was incredibly annoying, not to mention frustrating, to have slipped up and run out of my favourite casting porcelain just when supplies had disappeared, apparently never to return.  However, there may be a glimmer, a slip of redemption, on the horizon, courtesy of my supplier, Lesley Edwards of Ellie's Doll Workshop in Bournemouth.  I contacted her with details of my slippery problem and she has informed me that she is now stocking the New York Doll Products porcelain, which is made to an original Seeley's formulation.  She's even sending me some so I can test it out.


How good is that?


I'm certainly not going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers and await its arrival with bated breath, hopeful that it will cast like my beloved Seeley's, which I've been using since I was a mere slip of a lass.

So, as I slip off into the promise of a lovely, relaxing weekend, I can rest more easily, knowing that potential salvation may be just around the coroner.

Sorry, corner.


Freudian slip........


Edit.....is it wine o'clock yet? 








Thursday, 2 June 2011

Is my slip showing...........?

I am so fed up with worrying about casting slip I can't tell you.

If only I'd known the parlous state Seeley's was in I'd have stocked up on 10 years worth of their lovely, lovely slip.

And I wouldn't be in this mess now.

*sigh*

In other news, our notoriously unpredictable British weather has returned to gloriously blue skies and relentlessly climbing temperatures.  Perfect weather for camping but I have resolved to crack on with no end of languishing projects so I have put all temptation firmly behind me.

For the moment.

*sigh*
In other, other news Small Dog has gone feral since her return from camping at the weekend.  Presumably, spending all hours out carousing round the campfire with her mums trips a switch in her mental synapses, and she reverts to 'wolf mode'.




Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The jury is out.............

Having read that Ultra Chic casting slip was supposed to be 'the gold standard of porcelain' perhaps I expected too much.

However, to say I'm unimpressed is something of an understatement.

I've done 3 hours of casting this afternoon, and have only 4 undamaged toy doll head/torso and limb sets to show for it.  If I'd been using Seeley's slip I could have cast around 40 completely perfect sets in the same time.

Fortunately, I only cast a few moulds to test it out initially and found the following problems.

  • It sets up way quicker than Seeley's, almost twice as fast, so I can only cast half the quantity of molds otherwise I run out of time.
  • Almost every mould, when opened, contained a cracked casting, usually around the neck, wrists or ankles, which I assumed was because these thinner areas had dried out too quickly and/or been left too long in the mould.
However, cutting the length of time the castings were left in the moulds caused even more problems.

A quick Google revealed further information suggesting that the slip was too thick.  It looked absolutely fine to me..... the consistency of single cream, but apparently that wasn't thin enough.  So I added very small amounts of water until the end of a wooden spoon, when pushed to the bottom of the container, 'bounced' back out again.


The resulting slip looks way too thin and I suspect that it will seep out beyond the seam lines, making it difficult to open the moulds without damaging the castings, which is what I am seeking to avoid.


I'm casting yet another test mould at the moment to see whether the thinned slip will release easily.  The mould has already had 15 minutes set up time and it still won't release so I'm not hopeful.


*sigh*


Update - Buggrit..... castings still cracked despite thinned slip and further various attempted set up times.  

Buggritbuggritbuggritbuggritbuggrit.

If anyone out there in the blogosphere has any hints, tips or suggestions on using Ultra Chic I'd be extremely grateful to hear them.  

Alternatively, if anyone knows the whereabouts of a gallon or two of Seeley's porcelain slip for sale, please, PLEASE.....FOR THE LOVE OF GOD let me know.



First day of summer.............

In my book, the first of June marks the first day of summer.  I'm very 'old school' when it comes to seasons.

March, April, May = Spring
June, July, August = Summer
September, October, November = Autumn
December, January, February = Winter


Having experienced an exceptionally warm and sunny spring, I'm hoping that the trend will continue throughout the summer.


First day back at work today, after our Bank Holiday not-so-short break, and more casting beckons.  I finished the very last of the now unavailable Seeley's porcelain slip last week, so today I'll be trialling the new Ultra Chic slip.


Lots and lots of exciting new products and projects in the pipeline so I need to have a proper organisational session later, to get all my thoughts in order and make a list.