Saturday, 22 December 2012

Ooh Saucy!

Merry Christmas! I know, it's been an age since I last blogged, but I haven't had anything to say. Instead I thought you might like a little yuletide sauce. No, not cranberry, this is my latest finished piece.

I hollowed her out badly, fired her to stone hard and then finished her with coloured waxes. That bit was great fun! It was like painting, very relaxing and therapeutic. 

I haven't done much recently - been too busy being festive! But Elvis is well underway and I'll post some photos when he starts to take a bit more shape. Oh it's such a pleasure to sculpt the King himself...sigh...

Have a very merry Christmas one and all xx

Friday, 21 September 2012

Something Fishy

Hello, is there anyone out there? I don't blame you if you've all gone off to do something more interesting. I've been just rubbish lately!

I seem to have lost the ability to string a sentence together. So instead I'm just going to post a few photos of my latest sculpture. As I mentioned in my last post, I had no idea what I was going to produce but just that I needed to get started, feel the clay in my hands and stop being so precious about the whole process.

The point about clay is that it can always be changed, broken down, remade, no sweat. She started off a bit more abstract than this...okay, I didn't take the time to get her proportions right and so I had to go back & alter them at a later date. This involved chopping her head off at one point (and putting her back together when she fell in half - but that's another story!)

For me it's a really healthy process to hack my sculptures about. There is always a point when I've worked into the detail a bit and don't want to admit that the underlying form isn't quite right. So I ignore it, thinking that I can live with it not being just so - only to find that the more I try to hide from the problem, the more it stares me in the face. Hm, a bit like life then.

I'm doing a day's life drawing on Monday - really looking forward to making a mess and just going for it. I'll also be picking up a bag of clay so that I can make a start on Elvis. I'll keep posting the photos even if I can't write.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


Hello to you all on this sunny day. How heavenly to be basking in this glorious heat! The fact that our wee shop is now full of winter woolies has not dampened my enthusiasm for sunshine. The rain will come again & our customers will come searching for warm clothes. In the meantime let us soak up the glorious rays.

I'm way behind with my blogging. I'm sure you'll all have given up on me by now. But on the off chance that some of my friends still glance my way, I'm posting you photos of my last sculpture to be glazed.

This one's called Creation. My idea was to combine Mother Earth and our spiritual side in the guise of the Angel Gabriel...don't ask, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I spray glazed this one like my heads. And like my heads, I had no idea how it would turn out. I knew that the thicker I applied the glaze, the more likely I would be to get elements of verdigris - rather than just a uniform shit brown. 

As you can see, the green appears where the glaze has pooled. Hooray! Otherwise it would look like an old pot.

I really like the finish that glazing gives and that the pieces are now stone-like and smooth. But the process was still scary and I'm not sure if I'll do it again.

I'm working now on another figurative piece. It's a woman rising up from the waves. I'd been a bit paralyzed - not knowing what to sculpt next and not wanting to start a new one until I'd finally completed the glazed stuff. Then I spoke to Max, my son, who'd been messing about with some air hardening clay. I was so chuffed that he'd chosen my medium to get creative in that it inspired me to get started again.

Ah, but my dear art college friend Ian came to visit last weekend and asked me why I hadn't yet combined my passion for Elvis with my sculpture and produced a bust of the King himself. Why indeed?! So now I'm all excited at the prospect of recreating my hero in 3D. I think I might try to cast it in various mad materials - who knows? The ideas always seem so plausible in my head, and then the translation turns out to be a nightmare. Wish me luck! 

Since I last blogged we've been to France & Scotland. France was hilarious & Scotland was cathartic & amazing. But we're off to London today for a trade show so I'll post this & write again on my return. X

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Finished Articles

I'm smiling because I'm finished - yay! Do you like my freckles? I didn't know that I would end up with them. Choosing to glaze my heads, I had no idea how they would turn out.

It was a nervous and frustrating day spent glazing. It's not an ideal way to finish sculptures. Applying glaze means biscuit firing the pieces first. This makes the clay hard but very fragile. See the chip in my chin? I did this when brushing the dust off my head! 

The technical aspect of glazing (especially when trying to digest it in a few hours) was baffling. Glaze itself is a combination of ingredients (minerals & clays & stuff - don't ask, I don't know). It's mixed with water to apply, and once the water evaporates it reverts to powder on the piece. Which can be easily brushed off - nightmare!

The numerous buckets of slurry all look the same - sludge coloured & nothing like their fired colour or quality. It was a leap of faith to pick a glaze and apply it. If the thickness is wrong it doesn't work; if the kiln is too hot or too cold it doesn't work. All my hours of sculpting down the drain, no second chance. Argh!! 

For the first three hours of my class it seemed as if I might not be able to glaze my heads at all. My wonderful tutor Alison is a tiny powerhouse with an infectiously hysterical laugh - think Barbara Windsor crossed with Kenneth Williams in Carry On Screaming: "Frying tonight!"

I was in stitches but no closer to understanding a word she was saying. Eventually she suggested that I spray the glaze on with a spray gun - fun! 

The process is extremely noisy & messy though, so I had to wait until the end of the day - panicking as I watched the ceramicists dipping & decorating their pots. But at last it was done - two heads & my winged figure. I could do no more. Let it go, pray for the best and wait for a phone call.  

We collected my heads on the day the Olympic torch passed through Petworth. Two momentous occasions in one day - eek! Alison recognised Chris from his portrait - a good sign. As we made our way to the kiln room she glanced back. 

"Oh we should have asked James to stay - he's a conservator." 
What?! "Why, do they need repairs?"
"Oh yes," she nodded cheerfully.

Oh no! Chris had survived pretty much intact but I was a little worse for wear. Well I did tell you I was cracked in the heid! I had a fine crack in my chest and the parting of my hair, and a bloody great crevasse in my back - ouch.

Not surprising considering we'd been fired to 1100 degrees. But now the clay is hard as stone. I may have a large crack but I'm well 'ard! 

I wasn't sure if I was disappointed or not. Chris, as ever, came to the rescue and raided his modelling supplies for Epoxy putty & enamel paints. I became my own conservator as over a week I filled & smoothed & mixed colour until the rents in our freckled flesh disappeared.

Now we're happily ensconced on the windowsill, welcoming guests on their way up our numerous stairs. Phew, job done.

PS: I'm off to collect my winged figure this morning. I've got everything crossed & will report back on its success or otherwise next time.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A Walk In The Park

Hello again campers. Ugh, camping... As a child we used to go camping to Pitlochrie - beautiful countryside, shit weather. In this respect I was born high maintenance. Give me a 5 star hotel over a tent every time. Perhaps if the weather had been more clement then my memories would be more affectionate. 

Always the drama queen, I was convinced that the promised fishing trip would result in me being caught on a fish hook, having been warned of the dangers of fish hooks & their irremovable barbs. Terrified out of my wits I did indeed become caught on a stray hook & screamed the place down (no chance of a catch after that). Knowing me, I was probably throwing myself in the line of fire, determined to prove my worst fears realised. 

Our tent's ground sheet was a magnet for creepy crawlies and I was apoplectic with horror as I scrabbled under the sheet to locate these squirming beasties. Finally exhausted by so much excitement I fell asleep only to be woken in the wee small hours by a horse's head in our tent. No, it was not Don Corleone perpetrating a dirty deed, but a real, live horse come to see what we were up to.

When the rain came and we were mercifully washed from the banks of the river back to our snug semi, I was overcome with joy. Little did my parents know as they plied me with new dolls to placate me for the aborted holiday, that I was convinced that my fervent wishing had led to this result.

But I digress (already?). My intention was to tell you some more funny stories, courtesy of my dear friends. Okay, so the first one isn't really funny at all. But you know how you used to get a fit of the giggles at school, and the less appropriate it was to laugh, the more you did? Well this is one of them.

A delightful customer of ours came into the shop last week to buy a pair of jeans. She'd just returned from a fortnight in Spain to see her daughter & grandchildren. It was a well - earned break because prior to that she'd been busy organising a big party for her aged mother in law's birthday.She'd been rather pleased with her gift to said lady - a special chair that reclined and moved upright at the push of some buttons. I know all about these as my own mother in law has one too, and loves it.

As she was leaving I asked how she was enjoying the chair. This dear customer looked stricken and said that she was having to remove it - probably sell it on Ebay. The old lady's carer had phoned to say that she just couldn't get the hang of it and as a result had suffered a nasty bump to her head. "Out like an egg it was." My poor customer was so upset and disappointed that her thoughtful gift had caused such an injury.

I felt deep sympathy for both of them. But at the same time I was trying not to laugh, as images of this nonagenarian catapulting herself repeatedly out of the chair filled my head. Terrible I know, but it still makes me laugh now.

This next one came courtesy of a lively discussion overheard in a pub in Edinburgh, when I was visiting my family in May this year: A group of Scottish dignitaries were being treated to a tour of Hopetoun House and it's extensive parklands. The park rangers had rigged a tractor up to a trailer and seated the dignitaries comfortably, ready to show them the special features of the park.

As one of them drove, the other sat in the trailer pointing out the herds of deer and glorious lakes.

"And to your left is the magnificent North Deer Park."
"And to your right..."
"And to your left another group of our famous Rhododendrons."

As the tour guide had turned and pointed to his right he had spied a bare bottom thrusting up and down in the bushes. Yes, an amorous couple had decided to indulge in some alfresco shagging! They obviously thought that with 150 acres to choose from they'd be safe from prying eyes. 

But it gets worse. The dignitaries now alerted to there being something not quite right...on the right, turned to see what was amiss. Whereupon the man leapt up in a panic with his trousers round his ankles, exposing himself to the tour, and then dived for cover into a bush! Too funny.

This last one is really just a moment but had me creased up with laughter. Our dear friend Georgie and her sister popped round last Sunday morning for a coffee with their kids. Jo had never been to our house so Chris offered to give her a tour. (No, no naked shaggers this time.) He took her up to our roof terrace with its fine views of the rooftops and the South Downs. Asking Jo how she'd enjoyed it, I was disappointed to see her looking a bit upset. It turns out that she suffers from vertigo - always has.

"Oh no, it's awful. My legs just turn to jelly. Once I had to attend a work meeting in the tall glass building that looks like a boat, on the banks of the River Thames. The clients led us to the window to see the view. My legs just buckled and my hands slid down the window. Then I had to crawl on my hands and knees in my work suit, with my bulging work bag slung over my shoulder, all the way to the lift."

No sympathy for Jo either - we all peed our pants laughing! As Heidi said, it was like a scene from Brigitte Jones' Diary.

Well, you know what they say: "You've got to laugh or you'd cry." And besides, it's good for you! 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sh*t My Friends Say

Hello campers. It's been a while since I last wrote. But as my Gran used to say: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

I've been a miserable beggar recently, and to be honest, communicating more than just the necessary has been beyond me. I finally confided my misery to my dear hubby & now I'm getting some help - both chemical & therapeutic - and I must say I'm feeling heaps better. Phew.

It's exhausting being miserable - and such a waste of time! All those conversations in my head, backwards & forwards between hopelessness & self reprimand. What the hell have I got to be miserable about?! I was certain I could argue my way out of my little black hole, but in the end I had to admit that I couldn't do it alone and ask for some help. Hard.

Anyway, I'm on the mend & learning stuff along the way. All part of the journey. Writing this reminded me of a notepad that my lovely friend & manager Louise gave me back in May, around the time of Therapy's 8th anniversary. She came into the shop when I was covering her lunch and presented it to me. "I saw this & thought of you," she said.

How lovely! The notepad was pale blue with a brightly coloured cartoon of a lady reclining on a chair, holding a cocktail glass & wearing a great pair of lime green wedges. "Nice shoes!" I exclaimed. The writing on the pad read: There's nothing wrong with me that ten years of therapy and a margarita won't cure.

I looked up to see Lou beaming at me. Oh my God, she's trying to tell me that I'm a nutter with a drink problem. I really need to get a handle on my depression. "So do you like it? I know Therapy's only 8 years old next week, but it's close enough."

Bless her, she was thinking about the shop when she gave it to me! Paranoia, it's one of the symptoms I guess.

So I've been feeling progressively better over the last few weeks and have shrugged off some of the sense of detachment that is another symptom. It's a weird sensation & one I'm sure we've all felt at some time. When I was severely depressed many years ago I felt it acutely. It was as if life was going on around me but I was observing everything from under water. Social occasions, even with close friends, were torture. I felt as if I were completely disconnected from everyone and trapped, on my own, in an invisible prison. Most disconcerting!

But I didn't feel that bad this time around. I just didn't feel like going out much, enjoying myself. So I'm delighted with my progress because this weekend we celebrated my bessy friend's birthday. Now, Heidi has moved out of her house opposite our's and gone to Crawley, 40 minutes away on the train. But "don't go there!", as my dear friend Sonya would say. Yes I miss her but nothing stays the same, and nor should it.

So I was determined (and praying) that I would be in celebratory mood for Heidi's big night. And I was. I'd glazed my sculptures, completed 2 of the new season's buying appointments, completed preparations for a Therapy promotion, and, to top it off, my deliciously mad friend Cara was coming to stay - I was in party mood! We drank, we ate, we danced outrageously to all our favourite tunes, and staggered to bed at a suitably debauched 4am. I'd call that a success.

But there's more. On Sunday morning poor Chris was subjected to the strident whoops & cackles of four girlfriends, bejammied and lounging on sofas telling funny stories. Which rather protractedly brings me to the point of my story. I had intended to write some of these said stories, thinking: A - they're too good to keep to myself. And B - I've got nothing to say. Oops, how wrong I was. 

The title of this post refers to a blog & book called Shit Things My Dad Says. I haven't read it, but Cara explained that it's written by a man who had to move back in with his father and it's simply transcriptions of the daft things his dad says. It makes for hilarious reading because the truth is stranger than fiction. So here goes with yesterday's true stories.


Cara's husband Steve, newly returned from a snowboarding holiday & sporting a ski tan, was stuck in a London traffic jam. The traffic was crawling along when the Porsche behind him shunted him in the rear. The slow speed meant that no real damage had been done, but Steve got out of his car to check anyway and tapped on the driver's lowered window. 

The woman inside the car was talking on her mobile phone, seemingly unaware of his presence. He stood waiting until the woman paused in her conversation. "Hang on a minute," she said into the phone and casually turned her head towards him. "F**k off you orange-faced c**t!" she said and resumed her conversation.

Can you believe it?! Poor Steve was struck dumb. And ever since the incident his friends & loved ones have referred to him as the OFC.

Another dear friend (who shall remain anonymous for the sake of her relationship) told us some corkers about things her boyfriend had said:

On one occasion he was coughing and rubbing his throat. "I think I've got something wrong with my fallopian tubes," he said.

On another, he and my friend were driving along a road where a fatal accident had recently occurred. At the side of the road, beneath a small tree, were several bouquets of flowers. My friend solemnly pointed out the tributes to her boyfriend. "Look at the flowers. That's because somebody died there." 
To which he replied: "What, did they fall out of the tree?" 

I'll give you one final one of the many regaled over Sunday coffee & bacon sarnies - this from Cara again.

She was walking around Wimbledon in London one day, looking for an address. Reckoning that this was a nice area and the locals must be friendly, she approached a lady for directions. The woman had obviously noticed her looking lost. So when Cara approached her, she looked up & said: "Fuck off, do I look like a map?!"

Poor Cara, she was so taken aback that she slinked round a corner & had a wee cry. When she phoned her husband to tell him what happened he said: "Well at least you didn't get called an orange faced c**t." 


Okay, so they're not as funny on paper as they were at the time, with the accompanying faces and asides from the listeners. But that's the point really. Real life is funny. It's about the little things as well as the big things. It's about experiences and sharing them with people who love us.

So thank you to my beautiful friends & family who make living worthwhile.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Top Hat

"The weather is fright'ning 
The thunder and lightning 
Seem to be having their way 
But as far as I'm concerned, it's a lovely day 
The turn in the weather 
Will keep us together 
So I can honestly say 
That as far as I'm concerned, it's a lovely day 
And everything's o.k."

Irving Berlin

Have any of you seen Top Hat? It's one of my favourite films - an old black & white movie - a musical starring Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers - heavenly. Not only is the dancing dreamy, the musical score is by Irving Berlin, the sets are elegantly Art Deco and the script is hilarious - perfect for a rainy day.

I first saw this movie as a youngster when every week's TV viewing included at least a few vintage musicals. How sad (for me) that this is no longer the case. Many years later as a 4th year university student I had the joy of watching Top Hat as part of a 20th Century Design course. After 4 years of rather dry studies it seemed like the most enormous treat (and a bit 
of a skive) to be studying this old favourite.

Did you know that in the Venetian Lido scenes they dyed the water black to emphasise the contrast with the white sets? This is all that I remember from my university studies, and utterly meaningless if you've never seen the movie, but - hey - one day it may be on TV and you can impress your fellow viewers with this interesting fact.

The reason I mention Top Hat is that I watched it yesterday. I was feeling decidedly blue - hormones and bad weather getting me down. I forced myself to work in the morning, with the promise of feet up in front of this movie if I completed my tasks. Three Aspro Clear, a hot water bottle & a wee white wine and I was happily ensconced on the sofa - singing along and laughing heartily - bliss.

The week has been a bit flat after the extended & spectacular Jubilee celebrations. Not only were we all partied out but the weather disintegrated into cold, wet & windy - yuck. I know, I know, I'm Scottish & should be hardened against such meteorological melodramas, but I'm not. Perhaps I could get treatment? Hypnotherapy? Electric shock therapy? Anything to lift my mood when the clouds descend. Perhaps some cheery photos of Petworth's festivities?


Our street party was a roaring success with 800 locals in attendance & sunshine throughout the day - miraculous! The mad woman with the hoover was part of a husband & wife team of street entertainers. She spent a good hour stopping the cars for minutes on end while she hoovered the road in front of them - too funny. 

I know not everyone will agree, but I found the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations hugely uplifting & a blessed relief from all the doom & gloom of the "double dip recession". Double dip recession - what about the bloody double dip winter?! A week or so ago Chris Evans remarked on his Radio Two breakfast show that it was only 24 days until the nights started drawing in - I could have thrown myself on the carpet & wept. The only thing stopping me were my newly washed black trousers!

Now I know I told you last time that I was starting a self portrait in clay. I've finished it now - or at least I got bored and stopped. In some ways it was as straight forward to do as Chris's head and in others it was hugely difficult. I took all the relevant measurements and got the basics in place. But the details were hard to capture because I didn't have my own head in front of me - to view from all angles. Yes I'd got Chris to take photos but they're still two dimensional, and looking in a mirror didn't help because everything is in reverse - very confusing for the brain!

The other problem is that I don't really know what I look like - for the reasons above. Chris tells me that it does look like me. I guess I have to take his word for it. I should have taken some photos when the clay was still damp. When it starts to dry out it goes patchy & pale - difficult to picture as skin. But like I said, I got bored & distracted by the shop, and by the time I remembered to take photos it was too late.

I've a feeling she might crack the kiln that is. Mm, maybe it's a more accurate self portrait than I thought. It's entirely my fault. You see I was in a hurry to dry her out, wanting to get her fired by the end of the month when I've got a glazing course & will be doing Chris's head. Chris told me to let her dry out downstairs where it's cool. But oh no, I knew best - impatient like. So I bared her to the heat of the conservatory & now she's cracked. Cracked in the head, that's me.

Anyway, I'll let you see her so far:

Is that really what I look like? I look like I could use some lippy for a start! To be honest I was a bit scunnered after I finished her. I reckoned I could do with a break from all this realism and try a bit of an abstract figurative piece, just for fun. But I developed an overwhelming ennui and just couldn't muster the energy. Oh I am so fickle! 

This is me. I found this card in Selfridges when I was buying a Scorpio one for Lou. It made me laugh so much that I framed's so true!
Laura x