The Pavilion Craft blog

Bringing you the latest news about our craft books

Hands up everyone who want to try out raku firing from seeing it on ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’ the other week! Here at Pavilion Craft HQ it certainly made us itching for attempting our own raku-fired sake sets. It’s not a technique for the faint-hearted – the risk of pieces exploding or cracking is high, and the results of glazing are unpredictable. But when it works, it produces beautiful results. Raku pieces are traditionally shaped by hand rather than being thrown, and are usually decorative. The word ‘raku’ derives from a Japanese expression meaning enjoyment or happiness. Read on to find out more about this fascinating firing process.

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A crackled or crazed finish is characteristic of raku ware. Here a thin-necked vase is carefully lifted out of the fire using tongs.

Chaotic, elemental, volatile: raku is one of the most spectacular, dangerous and technically demanding of all ceramics techniques. Glazed pieces are fired for a short time at a high temperature in a raku kiln, which is smaller than a regular kiln and pyramid shaped. They are removed from the kiln when they are red hot and then either left to cool in the air, covered in combustible material in a ‘reduction chamber’ or plunged into water. There is nothing gentle about the process whatsoever – steam hisses, smoke billows and sparks literally fly. The risk of pieces exploding or cracking is high, and the results of glazing are unpredictable. It is truly a high-wire act for experienced potters and novices alike.

‘Steam hisses, smoke billows and sparks literally fly’

The raku style, originating in the sixteenth century, was a significant development in Japanese pottery. From that period onwards, modest hand-shaped chawan tea bowls, often crackle-glazed in subdued colours, became an important component of the tea ceremony.

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Raku-fired pots, such as this simple tea bowl, are a key element of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

The British studio potter Bernard Leach (1887–1979) brought his own version of the tradition to the West, installing a wood-fired Japanese kiln at his St Ives pottery in 1922. Since then, many potters around the world have experimented with the technique, notably the celebrated American ceramics artist Paul Soldner (1921–2011), who said: ‘In the spirit of raku, there is the necessity to embrace the element of surprise. There can be no fear of losing what was once planned and there must be an urge to grow along with the discovery of the unknown.’ The use of a reduction chamber after firing was Soldner’s innovation.

Clays used for raku must be able to withstand immense thermal shock. To increase resilience to violent temperature changes, ‘grog’, or some other form of temper, is added to the basic clay. (Grog is clay that has already been fired, then ground down to a powder.) After throwing or shaping, forms are left to dry and then bisque fired, the timings determined by their size and mass.

Raku lends itself to experimenting with masking out. Patterns, lines and shapes can be created during the glazing process by covering sections with wax or tape that will burn off in the firing, leaving the clay body exposed. Wax is useful for creating curves, while tape gives a more linear effect. Glazes need to be applied relatively thickly for the best results.

‘A perilous process requiring nerves of steel, steady hands, long tongs and protective clothing to negotiate safely’

The final stage is where the unpredictability and drama comes in. After an hour or two of final glaze firing at a high temperature – around 1000°C (1830°F) – the forms are removed from the kiln while they are still red hot, in itself a perilous process requiring nerves of steel, steady hands, long tongs and protective clothing to negotiate safely.

What happens next depends on how the pieces are subsequently treated. In traditional Japanese raku firing, the final stage is to cool the forms slowly in the open air. Cooling them quickly, by plunging them into water, produces different chemical reactions in the glazes, instantly fixing them and giving much more vibrant colour effects, but at the greater risk of ruinous cracking and shattering.

Alternatively, fired pieces can be removed from the kiln and dropped into the potential inferno of a ‘reduction chamber’, typically a metal dustbin filled with some form of combustible material, such as sawdust – although one enterprising ‘Throw Down’ contestant used a mixture of dried gorse, bladderwrack and manure. The bin is then covered with a lid, which can be sealed with clay around its rim to make it more airtight. The heat from the fired pieces sets the combustible material alight and, as it continues to burn, oxygen in the chamber is reduced until it is pulled directly from the glazes and clay. After the charred debris has been cleaned away and the scrubbing process has been completed, any unglazed areas will emerge black, while glazes will have an iridescent sheen. Crackled or crazed finishes can be achieved by leaving the piece in the open air before the reduction process.

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Extracted from The Great Pottery Throw Down by Liz Wilhide and Susie Hodge. Out now!

Raku tea bowl picture by Joanne Moyes/Ceramics John Moyes.

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The world of pottery was brought to life on our screens by the BBC series ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’. Now it’s back with a second series, airing on BBC2 on Thursday 2nd February at 8pm.

Pavilion is very excited to be publishing the companion book to the series. The Great Pottery Throw Down is a vibrant illustrated book, offering a complete introduction to ceramic history, culture, art, craft and manufacture, and celebrating its rich global heritage on every page.

To celebrate the launch of the new series, we are giving away 3 copies of the book. Simply enter your details below for your chance to win.

    Tick the box to receive our monthly newsletter straight to your inbox.
    Please read through our terms & conditions on: http://www.lovecrafts.co.uk/terms-conditions/. Competition is open until 19th February 2017 to UK residents only.
  • Please enter the words printed here.

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In Tie & Dye, Lizzie King shows how you can hand-dye your own clothing, textiles and accessories. Lizzie makes these colourful carnival socks every year in the run-up to the Notting Hill Carnival, but they work just as well for Mardi Gras made with green, gold and purple dye – or own choice of colours.

Lizzie’s top tip: I usually dye a few pairs of socks at once – you can get multipacks from markets and big high street shops

To dye three pairs of socks, you will need:

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3 pairs of white 100% cotton socks • elastic bands • rubber gloves • jug • spoon

Dye • salt • 3 squeezy bottles • bucket • 3 plastic bags

 

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1 Place two of your socks on top of each other on a clean flat surface. This is so that you get a matching pair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Accordion fold your socks, starting at the top of the sock and folding all the way down to the toes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Now secure with a tight elastic band on each end of the folded socks. Position the bands so that the socks are divided into three equal sections. Soak your socks in water, then squeeze out the excess water so they are damp but not dripping wet.

4 Mix up your dye and pour each of the three colours into your three squeezy bottles.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Hold your socks over a bucket, take the red dye and pour gently over one end section of the sock. For this project you don’t want to overlap the dyes to make a blended colour. Pour the dye up to the elastic band.

Remember that you have two socks folded together so the folds are quite thick. If you don’t want much white left on your socks, then poke the nozzle of the squeezy bottle into the folds of the socks and squirt some dye in there.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Now take the yellow dye and pour it over the middle section. Again squirt some dye into the folds, if you want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Finally use the green dye to dye the last section of the socks. Squirt some dye into the folds of the sock, if you choose to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Repeat the folding, tying and dyeing process on all your pairs of socks. Give the socks a squeeze and put each pair into a separate plastic bag. I usually wrap the bag around the socks then secure with an elastic band so that the dye won’t leak out and soak into the other parts of the sock. Don’t forget: green + yellow + red = brown.

9 Leave the socks in the bag for at least 12 hours. Rinse under cold water, then take the bands off and hang up to dry. Wash in the washing machine at 30°c then allow to dry.

The dye may run a little the first time you wash your carnival socks, so don’t wash them with anything white. After that the colours will be fixed and they are ready for the road!

Enjoy your socks and don’t forget to share a pic of them using tag #TieAndDye.

 

Find more colourful tie-dye projects in Tie & Dye by Lizzie King, out now.

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With the days getting shorter, there’s no better time to embrace the Scandi concept of hygge (the Danish word for cosiness). We’re offering you the chance to win a book bundle for hygge inspiration – whether you want to knit a pair of warming socks or press autumn leaves by the fire. 3 winners will receive:

1 x Winter Knitting by Swedish yarn brand MillaMia
1 x Fine Little Day by Swedish lifestyle blogger Elisabeth Dunker

Simply enter your details below for your chance to win. The competition is open to UK residents until 12th December 2016.

    Tick the box to receive our monthly newsletter straight to your inbox.
    Please read through our terms & conditions on: http://www.lovecrafts.co.uk/terms-conditions/. Competition is open until 12th December 2016 to UK residents only.
  • Please enter the words printed here.

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Nudinits, the book from the award-winning animation is here! Meet the villagers of Woolly Bush, a village positively bursting with Britishness, where the inhabitants are all in the nudie and the innuendos come thick and fast. The book includes knitting patterns for villagers Bernard and Barbara and all their favourite things, including Fufu the cat, complete with litter tray.

To celebrate the release, we are giving away 5 Nudinits bundles, worth over £20, consisting of:

Nudinits book
Nudinits 2017 calendar, from Carousel Calendars
Nudinits greeting card (assorted designs)

Simply enter your details below for your chance to win. The competition is open to UK residents until 5th December 2016.

    Tick the box to receive our monthly newsletter straight to your inbox.
    Please read through our terms & conditions on: http://www.lovecrafts.co.uk/terms-conditions/. Competition is open until 12th December 2016 to UK residents only.
  • Please enter the words printed here.

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Nudinits by Sarah Simi (Portico £9.99) is out now.

Kerry Lord

Kerry Lord is the founder and creative director behind TOFT – a UK leader in the manufacturing of homegrown woollen yarn and the design of DIY fashion knitting and on-trend crochet kits. Kerry is the author of three bestselling books, including Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium, published by Pavilion this autumn. Here, Kerry’s shares her crochet story and the inspiration behind her books.

How and when did you first discover crochet?
I first picked up a hook when entering my final few weeks of pregnancy. I had been a knitter for a number of years, but had truly always viewed crochet as something very difficult and if I’m honest not particularly desirable. I think there was a real lack of inspiring crochet patterns even as recently as three years ago. Thankfully that’s all changed and there’s no better time to learn to crochet.

How has your love of crochet developed since then?
In a word, obsessively. I still can’t believe what a whirlwind the last three years have been. I do still turn to two pointy sticks when I’m looking to make something to wear, but the rest of the time I can’t imagine not having a hook in my handbag.

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What was the first crochet item you designed? What inspired it?
I spent one determined night on You Tube learning the ‘single crochet’ (or as I now know, the British double crochet) stitch. The next day I sat down on the sofa and crocheted what would become Bridget the elephant from my first book Edward’s Menagerie. She did of course have some limbs inside out, (and her eyes were perhaps a tad wonky), but as soon as I shared my creation with my colleagues back at TOFT I knew I was into something.

Tell us about your new book Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium?
Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium is a very unusual pattern book. Rather than giving you a fixed number of projects, patterns and their accompanying instructions, it provides the building blocks, technical tuition and inspiration to enable you to make an almost infinite number of unique projects.

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Describe, if you can, your creative process when coming up with a ‘monster’ for Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium.
My creative process when designing a new monster will be very similar to the process I am asking others to do when using the book. You flip through the shapes to select a head, arms and legs that the your fancy, and then you move onto selecting colours, patterns and any added extras like tails or wings. Sometimes I will sketch out my idea first, but at other times I just start with the yarn I’ve got closest to hand and see where it takes me. Ever taken time to think about what the creatures at the bottom of your garden might look like, or visualised the dishevelled hairstyle of the sock monster who lives in your washing machine?

You have been involved with all aspects of TOFT, from alpaca shearing, business management and designing to workshop instructing – what’s your favourite part of your job?
The variety of every week is the favourite part of my job. In the last ten years I really don’t think two days have ever been the same and that keeps me and my team very motivated, flexible and very adaptable to respond rapidly to trends.

Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium is available now. Don’t forget to share a pic of your monster creation online #edsflipbook

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Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium by Kerry Lord is now out, and to celebrate, we’re giving away three bundles, each consisting of:

  • A copy of Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium
  • Yarn from TOFT (colours might vary)
  • Crochet hook from TOFT

Enter your details below for your chance to win.

    Tick the box to receive our monthly newsletter straight to your inbox.
    Please read through our terms & conditions on: http://www.lovecrafts.co.uk/terms-conditions/. Competition is open until 3 October 2016 to UK residents only.
  • Please enter the words printed here.