first day back at the artlog

Yesterday Peter, Jack and I returned from a week of seeing in the New Year in Oxfordshire, where we enjoyed wonderful company with friends old and new, cooked, read, walked in the countryside and had two happy visits to one of my favourite places, the Pitt Rivers Museum. Overnight Ty Isaf has been merrily whirring and clicking away, the boiler-room pumping and the Aga powering-up to cooking-temperature. When we first moved here there was no central heating and the house was almost unendurable in the winters, so I love it now when I hear the radiators surging with the hot water that makes us cosy.

On the sitting-room mantelpiece horses canter over leaf-strewn plates,  joining the ranks of painted blackbirds and staffordshire beasts. Evidence, if any were needed as our kitchen is groaning with the stuff,  of my 2012 love affair with decorated enamelware.

This is a brief post to say hello and wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s all strive to make it a good one. Here at the Artlog you will find new painting and exhibition projects, plus book collaborations and work on The Mare’s Tale at the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra about to begin. Exciting, busy times.

enamelware versus china

The china plate.

Two plates here, both decorated with the same design, though one is made of china and the other enamelware. The grounds impart completely different qualities to the drawings on them, the enamelware lending itself to vibrantly dense and hard-edged imagery, while that on the china has a much softer appearance.

The enamelware plate.

But which is the better? Hard to judge. I like the graphic, folk-art clarity of the enamelware. The ‘porcelain paint’ is bright and hard on the surface, and it’s as though the materials were made for each other. However china is undoubtedly better for serving food from. I’m thinking on these matters because I’m going to decorate plates as Christmas presents for friends and family, and I have to decide which to stock up on. The china is easier to work with in matters of sharpening the edges of the drawings with a scalpel, but in every aspect of visual preference, it’s enamelware that works best for me.

a final sprint to the hansel & gretel alphabet

The deadline for Alphabet Soup is nearly upon us, and yesterday I pulled out the box file of images I’d made for it. Collage is a wonderful medium, but sometimes images can get overworked, especially if they go through multiple stages of design, as these have done. (They were conceived as designs for a Hansel & Gretel nursery dinner-service, and then evolved into the subject matter for my Alphabet Soup submission.) Looking again at my first attempt at H ist für Hexe …

… I could see that it was missing the vitality of the first design I’d made for a plate.

Above: design for an enamelware plate

Above: the finished plate

So I got painting and snipping again…

… and I’m halfway to finishing a new H ist für Hexe with a bit more vim and verve than her predecessor.

Small adjustments can greatly improve dynamic. In the image at the top of this post the witch is standing. She could be waiting for a bus, or paused in thought. In the second and third images she’s clearly walking. But in the fourth she’s scuttling along at speed, and that impetus propels the character and invests her with sinister purpose. “Must get home! Must get that boy in the oven!”

I’ve knocked the letters off kilter to add energy… she might be impatiently kicking them out of her way in her determination to hasten home and start cooking … and I might yet re-cut the H to make it bigger. Though the pieces aren’t glued down yet, I can see the new collage is a significant improvement on its predecessor.

Another Alphabet Souper in progress, A ist für Asche.

service complete

Design for ‘Lost’.

The Hansel and Gretel enamelware nursery service, begun as a whim when I took a notion to make some unbreakable tableware for use by the very young children of visiting friends, has turned into a set of thirteen decorated pieces. Eight plates, a chocolate-pot and four mugs. I had no idea at the outset it would become such an absorbing project, having intended merely to make a very few pieces. Today I finished the last plate, ‘Lost’, and I can put my porcelain pens away for a while. No more trawling the internet for elusive 26 cm enamelware plates, and no more well-taped boxes arriving here with every post. My job is done.

the last lap

The last batch of enamelware arrived by post this afternoon. Already I’ve completed the ‘oven’ plate and I’m just waiting for it to dry before photographing it. My thanks to all who’ve left encouraging comments about this little bit of fun, both here and on Facebook. I’m surprised at how popular the project has been, and happy it’s given so many of you pleasure. Raising a smile isn’t always my aim when I’m working at the easel on the ‘serious’ work, but it’s heartening that the Hansel and Gretel service has an appeal that’s reached so far. I produced it simply for the pleasure of making, and were it not for the Artlog I doubt it would ever have been seen except by visitors to Ty Isaf. I hope the project encourages some of you to pick up your ‘porcelain pens’ and get creative with them.