inlaid pottery

Of the decorative techniques I’ve fallen for while I’ve been studying wheel-throwing, inlaying is one I could spend years experimenting with.

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

I carved a detail on a plate, filled it with white slip, simply wet clay coloured with a mineral, and scraped back the dry slip to reveal the ornament. Now I’m trying this on an entire bowl.

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

After throwing a bowl on the wheel, turning the base to reveal the curve and give it a foot-ring, I drew a design and carved it out. I like to keep a project like this covered in my kitchen, and pick it up when I have a moment to work on it. I think I could easily have stopped there, and will on another piece. I like the carving all by itself!

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

Once I was happy with the design I filled it with slip. My teacher made a dark grey slip for me, deepening the colour with powdered manganese. I painted it on in layers, allowing it to dry and building up a thick coating over the carving.

inlaying plate © elisa rathje 2012

And then a bit of delight in scraping away the surface of the slip, not unlike scratching a lottery ticket. This piece of inlaid pottery will be biscuit fired, and then I’m going to attempt a thin white glaze. We’ll see if the pattern shows through, it’s definitely an experiment. I would happily draw on more pieces all day long, but I’ll test this little bowl first.

quilting & piping

I have been using our throw pillows as small studies in the fabric arts. They’ve enabled experiments in knife pleats and kissing pleats and smocking so far. I’ve had a terrible time with some stubborn ruffles on a piece which may never recover, though I’m going to see if a few rosettes will save the thing. I’ve been warming up my quilting skills on another placemat and then on a cushion, before taking on the large quilts, and decided to throw in a small lesson in piping, while I was at it. I’ve never tried piping, very exciting.

quilted & piped pillow © elisa rathje 2011

I used a wide bowl and some tailor’s chalk to draw out the pattern. If you like things to be very precise you could mark out lines first, but I’m both impatient and fond of a handmade sort of drift and wiggle. I’ve simply cut a piece of cotton quilting batting and pinned it in several spots behind the linen.

quilted & piped pillow © elisa rathje 2011

Come into my dim and grainy evening studio for a bit. I bought piping cord a whole year ago with good intentions. You’ll need to make or buy some very wide bias tape, as it needs to stretch round the corners of the pillow without puckering. Cut it long enough to overlap generously. Fold it around the cord and pin the cord into place along the fold.

quilted & piped pillow © elisa rathje 2011

This would be a good moment to switch to a piping foot or a zipper foot, to allow the needle to move along snugly beside the cord. I confess, having neither for my vintage machine, and not quite having the patience (hmmmm) to wait for dear friends to post me one (thank you!) I went ahead and sewed the piping anyway, with the foot moving along on top of the piping and the needle dropping in beside. I know. It did work, happily!

quilted & piped pillow © elisa rathje 2011

Pin the piping round the cover, raw edges together, easing the corners and then notching them with little triangle cut outs to help things stay smooth. Fold one edge of the piping, and when you get back around to it, tuck the raw edge inside it so that they overlap cleanly, and trim. There are some good resources for how to do this bit. Stitch round, as close to the piping as you can get.

quilted & piped pillow © elisa rathje 2011

I chose a slightly rougher, slightly darker linen for the back. I pinned the back of the cushion cover on to the front, right sides together, sandwiching the piping, and then sewed around again following the first line of sewing precisely, and stopping with enough space left to both turn the cover right side out, and stuff the pillow form into it. Best to choose what kind of closure you want in advance – I’m happy just to handstitch it closed and toss it in the wash if it encounters some messy little hands.

quilted & piped pillow © elisa rathje 2011

Quilted and piped!

potter’s wheel studies

All of my wishes for a pottery class finally came true. Not only have I found an incredible teacher in a nearby village who specialises in throwing, but I’ve met a sweet artist to take my children on adventures in the woods and in her studio, just round the corner from the pottery workshop. She once lived in the same village in London that we moved from, and we have friends in common there! Stars aligned.

pottery study © elisa rathje 2011

I’m giddy with throwing pots, it’s such a delight. I love the exact techniques, the precise positions and pressure of the hands, the process of wedging and drawing up and down, centering. It’s at once meditative and exhilarating, it reminds me of performing music or practicing a difficult yoga pose.

pottery study © elisa rathje 2011

Last week I was elated to finally learn to center the clay properly. My first cylinder was tremendously exciting, and a moment later collapsed and toppled, and I couldn’t quite get the second to draw up very far.

pottery study © elisa rathje 2011

So I was absolutely thrilled to successfully throw a couple of pots this week. I’ll attempt to turn one into a pitcher. Joy! I’ll be back here next Tuesday with a visit I paid to an apothecary. I’ll take twitter with me to the garden, the workshop, the studio, the kitchen, if you’d like to follow along. Don’t forget to sign up for the postcards, appleturnover’s first newsletter is out for the equinox next week! Have a lovely weekend.