Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Worker's Cup- Glazed!

So out of the kiln yesterday, came these 2 lovelies:

The one on the left is glazed white, and the one on the right is glazed with a transparent zirconium glaze. They're not quite stackable...
Well, with a little jigging you could maybe stack them in threes. But right now I can't try it because I've only got these two! Six more are coming out of the kiln tomorrow morning, ready to be glazed. I am still so in love with my subtle fluting on this cup, producing a gorgeous octagonal rim.

Here's the view from bottom up, showing the foot ring:

And most important of all- the steampunk test! Can an engineer in gloves use the handle on this cup? I put on the heatproof kiln glove to find out.

The answer was- just about. These are some crazy big stiff gloves though. With a slightly more flexible, tighter fitting glove, I would have been able to fit two fingers into the handle, I'm sure.

I am happy with these two cups, but there is definitely room for improvement. Firstly, the glaze was applied in a hurry by dipping, and ended up plastered on thick and with runs and bumps. This has produced a shoddy finish that ideally will need to be fixed (I can re-glaze these two if I have time/effort). The next 6 cups will be sprayed to avoid that problem.

I like the transparent glaze best, because I love the warmth of the natural cream clay body, but this means I need to be more careful with fettling the pieces before firing, because you can still just about see the seam lines, and it bothers me. I would also like to experiment with colour a bit. There's an amazing yellow glaze mixed up in the studio, and I think this cup would look great with a yellow exterior and a white interior. Almost like a beautiful daffodil.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Messing around in illustrator

Shh... I'm in class. I'm supposed to be learning Illustrator CS5, but the guy is taking forever and speaking like a robot so I'm teaching myself by messing around.

 Enjoy this picture of a bunny flying away from Miami (?).

Friday, 20 January 2012

Franken-sushi! Maki rolls are hard...

I love makizushi- you know, those little rolls with the seaweed wrapped around the outside. Unfortunately, sushi is damn expensive, and if you go somewhere with a conveyor belt it's all too easy to keep popping them into your mouth like toffees to the point where you've got a bill the size of Godzilla. So to satisfy my maki cravings, I decided to try and make some.

I tried to make sushi once before, way back when I was 13 and more weaboo (I'm still a bit of a Japanophile, but now it's based more towards actual cultural things like pottery and less towards OMG CARDCAPTORS). I hated it. I don't know if that's because it actually tasted nasty or just because I was an idiot who couldn't make sushi. Who knows.

So first I cooked my rice, following these two tutorials. About 10 minutes into my simmering, I started to smell burning and realised my rice was starting to stick and toast on the bottom. This actually produced some pretty tasty crunchy bits, but wasn't really ideal.

To get the right consistency and taste of rice you have to fold it around with a spatula to evenly distribute sushi vinegar, all while fanning it to cool it down. This was a fun exercise in ambidextrous hand-eye-coordination!

My fillings were red pepper and spring onions. It was upon cutting them that I realise that every knife in the house was blunt as fuck. Oh well.

Rice spread out with fillings on the edge (following this tutorial)...

And away I roll!

Uh. Hmm. The last step said to squish the roll with the mat to stick everything firmly together, but mine just sort of squared off. At this point I tried to cut some pieces and realised that the blunt knife was really not good. Nevertheless, if I had been able to cut proper rolls, they would look like this:

Which pretty much resembles a maki roll. Hooray! I made 2 and sliced them up to fit in my lunchbox.

They may be ugly, but they tasted pretty damn good. I'm happy with my first real sushi attempt, and want to try again in the future!

So here are my top tips for anyone who wants to try to make sushi:

  • Make sure you have the right equipment. A very sharp knife is essential, and when instructions say to use a pan with a tight fitting lid, don't substitute a pan with a plate over the top instead. If I had one, I would have used a non-stick pan too.
  • Keep the heat super low when your rice is simmering away. Worse case scenario, your rice takes a little longer to cook. It's much better than burnt rice.
  • Spring/green onion is a pretty annoying filling because it's fibrous and can be hard to cut.
  • You can add some zing to your roll by spreading wasabi paste over the area you leave rice free for fillings. It did this and it tasted amazing! I'd also like to try brushing on some teriyaki sauce.
  • Don't rush. If things go wrong, take a deep breath and focus. I had an hour and a half to make this before I had to leave for uni, and managed it, washing up included, despite all my little set-backs.
Unnecessary cat picture to break things up.

In terms of money saving, here's the breakdown of how much it cost:
  • From my local Wing Tai Asian supermarket I got: sushi vinegar £1.59, nori seaweed £1.59, the rolling mat £1.39, a pack of 3 spring onions 50p, and a red pepper 68p for a total of £5.75.
  • From Tesco in Slough I got: Yutaka sushi rice £1.51 and yutaka wasabi paste £1.51 for a total of £3.02. You can also buy many of the specialist ingredients at larger Tescos or other large supermarkets, for a lower cost than I paid at my Asian supermarket.
  • Overall total: £8.77
  • At Yo! Sushi that would get you an unlimited green tea £1.50, and 2 orange plate dishes £3.40 each, which is way less than I usually eat at Yo!. My bill usually clocks in at £15-£20.
I would say then that it's pretty cost effective, especially as you can decide exactly what goes in your rolls and some of the ingredients last a long time- wasabi paste gets used up smidgen by smidgen, you only need 1/4 cup of vinegar for every 2 cups of rice, and the mat is a one off purchase unless you own a knife sharp enough to cut through it.

Which, currently, I definitely do not.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Worker's Cup

I was on my feet for 8 hours today making these six cups.

They are stacked lip to lip to stop distortion, and save space. I like to say they're kissing, haha. You can't tell from the photos but the cups are actually lightly fluted, they're not a circle but a gentle octagon.

Each cup is cast in a three part mould consisting of 2 side pieces and a bottom containing the foot-ring. The handle is cast separately in a 2 part mould and then attached. I cast some of the handles hollow because I was concerned about weight and stability, but then I was concerned about them exploding in the kiln, so they have a little pinhole in them. 

This has been my first experience of carving and casting a handle. It was quite a journey! Carving the damn thing took around 6 or 7 hours to start with. It's difficult to know the limits of the plaster of Paris, I was constantly in fear of it snapping. If I had more time, I would go back and carve it further to see how refined I can go, but my assessment is on the 26th, so I don't think I quite have time.

The idea with the handle is that you rest your thumb on the top bump and your little finger on the bottom bump. I'm not sure the proportions are quite right, but it's impossible to tell until it's been fired because of shrinkage (and I have tiny hands, and I designed this cup for big burly men).

Why is it called the worker's cup? I don't really want to say because it's pretentious artschool bull, but the idea is I have 2 different cups, 1 representing the workers/dogsbodies/navvies, and one representing the fat cat/overseer/captain. It ties in with the steampunk stuff all this was originally based on. 
I'm thinking of stencilling something like "BOILER ROOM 3" on these, along with a logo I've designed for the made up "Global Steam" company. The more ornate cup would have a transfer printed logo, a latin motto "per deum et vapos obtinui" (through God and vapour [steam] I have obtained), and maybe some gilding.

That's if I find the time to finish the mould on the damn thing, and carve another handle. By next Thursday. Eek.

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Sorry for the lack of posts, but it's for a good reason- I moved house! I am no longer living with my parents in Slough, but with lovely flatmates in Camberwell. Unfortunately, that means I have no sewing machine, no knitting needles, no crochet hooks, no cake tins (or ingredients), and for the moment no garden (although I have a terrace and will be getting containers later in the year). It does, however, mean that my daily commute has been cut from >3hrs to <2hrs, so I'm spending more time in the workshop. My work is coming along nicely, I may have photos by next week.

Until then, enjoy a photo of my new feline friend, Vista.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy new year indeed! I bashed out Auld Lang Syne on my children's accordion (ohh yes, you will be hearing all about that soon) at midnight, and spent the evening before creating this, before being told by mum that we couldn't eat it until her party in a couple of days:

I'll give some gingerbread house assembly and decorating tips at a time when I'm less tipsy on champagne. Until then, it's out with the old and in with the new! 

HAPPY 2012!