Raku with Candone Wharton at Gaya Ceramic Arts Centre

December 20, 2013 § 4 Comments

In September 2013, Gaya hosted a workshop with Candone Wharton focusing on surface textures and raku firing. It was an engrossing experience and quite revelatory for me – I found that I love working with textures and pattern, and what better way to do it than with the batik stamps used here in batik production! Personally I love Candone’s work, so I let her work influence me in all its textural glory 🙂

Days 1 & 2: Tried making boxes like how Candone does. She creates a weave pattern entirely with practiced hands, using nothing but a cake decorating metal edge.


Red Top Boxes


Om Box

Day 3-6: Because I love to throw on the wheel, I worked with combining thrown forms with textured bits


Pedestal Platters


Bullet Vases


Turban Pot!

Day 7: Went crazy with all the stamps in the studio and made this!


And here’s a pic of me plucking pieces out of a piping hot kiln:


You can see the fire from pieces smoking in the tray at the back!


How To Make: A Throwing Stick out of a Wooden Mixing Spoon

March 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

First off, what’s a Throwing Stick? This explanation is for the non-potters reading this blog. Ok… imagine when you’re throwing on the wheel, a tall skinny vase… at some point, it’s gonna get so skinny that your hands can’t reach in anymore, but you still wanna pull up/shape some more. So you use a Throwing Stick as an extension of your hands! These things can be hard to find here in Kuala Lumpur, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for them. Before, I only had one large size wooden stick, and just had to make do for smaller pieces. So I kept an eye out… in the hardware store, in the pasar malam (street markets), and in supermarkets… and one day found a set of really tall skinny wooden mixing spoons. Perfect for my purposes. Now, I could very well just use the spoon as it is:

But if I want to use it in a really slim form, or one with a neck that’s already been brought in, it would be convenient to shave down the bulbuous shape at the end – because really, I only need half of that shape.

So these are the tools you would need for the project. Pencil. Coping Saw. Sandpaper.

And a bit of twine/rope (optional).

First, I marked out the area to be subtracted.

A note on which side of the spoon to hack away. If you throw on a wheel that spins counter-clockwise like me, you’d cut off the right side of the spoon (if it’s lying concave side up). If you throw on a wheel that spins clockwise, then cut off the left side of the spoon when it’s lying concave side up. Just a little detail that makes it a bit nicer to use in my opinion, cos then the curves of the spoon work nicely on the clay that way.

Then cut with coping saw. I guess if you had a proper woodworking shop you’d have a table and some clamps or something. I just had to watch out for the safety of my toe that was anchoring it down (left hand holding spoon handle, right hand holding saw).

Hacked! Looks broken but is more useful this way 😉 Now sandpaper comes into play… sand away any overly sharp edges. so it doesn’t nick into clay and make crazy lines in your work.

If you have beeswax or linseed oil handy, it would be a good idea to treat the wood before using it… that way it’ll last longer. I didn’t have any… dash it! So anyway…

At this point, you could stop and have a entirely functional Throwing Stick. But I’ve been feeling some strain on my hands lately, and wanted a more comfortable holding surface that was larger and easier to grip. So here’s where the twine came in handy:

Does it make a difference? Looks nice at least!

So there you have it, a new tool in 30 minutes 🙂


How To Make: Tiny Houses (Part 2)

March 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

So the blank shapes were left to set overnight under a piece of newspaper. It’s been more than 2 days since the last post, because that’s how long it’s taken me to finish carving out all the houses (about 40-odd pieces) in three separate sessions.

8. Here’s a blank house that has set with nice sharpish corners. And these are the tools I use to make the marks:

9. Putting the face on the house. First I go in and poke the windows, and then I make up the rest of the house around that:

The little soldiers waiting for their faces…

Finally done!

10. But not quite yet! What I do is wait until the pieces are dry, and then use fine fine sandpaper to clean up the bits where the clay has kicked up. Then done with the shaping and on to firing and glazing!

That’s all for now…

DIY Sunday – Bamboo Tools

December 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

In the last trip through the forest in Kuala Kubu Baru, I picked up some strips of bamboo. “Yeah I can make tools of these in a SNAP! No problem!”. Yet they sat wrapped in newspaper by my bed for three whole months, until a quiet Sunday like today  breezed in. And so, after about 2 hours of DIY-ing, I now have a bamboo rib and two bamboo tapered end tools. Simple tools that are solid essentials when throwing on the wheel.

Step 1: Split the bamboo into manageable widths. You may have a huge piece of bamboo like this goliath on the right here, in which case you’d need a chisel and a hammer (fun!) or you may have cut a lucky break and found manageable little splices. Hopefully the splices are about 1-2 inches wide and 5-8 inches long, which is ideal.


Step 2: To make sure your tools last, you gotta cure the bamboo. I’ve been told that the traditional way to do this is to leave it submerged in running water for 3 months or so, in a river or in the sea. Since there aren’t any rivers or seas handy in the Damansara Heights area, I boiled the splices for 15 minutes. Theoretically, this would kill off any mites in the bamboo, and hopefully break down the starch in the bamboo making it unpalatable to any future mites.

Step 3:  Cut the rough shape out. Once the bamboo dried out, I found some tools – a coping saw and a mini planer. The planer is a beauty – made of finished hard wood, from Japan – when I bought it 9 years ago, I didn’t know what I’d use it for, but it was so beautiful I had to get it. Now my purchase is vindicated!

The bamboo was surprisingly easy to saw through. The coping saw allowed me to cut a nice curve for the rib, and I managed to keep it relatively straight for the tapered end of the sticks.

Step 4: Finish off the edges with the planer. Since I’m going to use these tools every time I throw on the wheel, they need to be comfortable in the hand.

I planed the grip edges of the tools to round. Sandpaper wasn’t even necessary, because the bamboo whittled off clean and smooth. And I kept the points as sharp as possible.

And that was it! Remarkably simple project, which I had put off for ages, suddenly done 🙂 I’ve still got a few pieces, which I’m planning to make into a throwing stick, scratch tool, and… who knows what else. I also want to make a coiled wire yumi…

Basic Bamboo Pottery Tools... Made At Home!


What to do with your mooncake moulds the other 11 months of the year.

December 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I can’t say I particularly look forward to Mooncake Festivals now that I’m semi-grown up. All adults get to do is eat lumps of heavy cakes filled with too much bean paste and not enough biscuit, and drink tea. And you can drink tea any other day of the year!

Now kids, they get to do the fun stuff, like stick candles all over brick fences, and whatever crevices the gate, letterbox and kerb provide, burn up paper lanterns (accidentally and not, by playing Lantern Attack) and burn up other stuff when they run out of lanterns. Like, leaves, scraps of monopoly money and dog tails.

I’m kidding!  HEE.  So I decided to make my own version of fun with the various  mooncake paraphernalia available…


This mould has two mooncakes in one. Very solid, with tiny pinprick holes at the base to release air into each form. This allows the cake to come out easily. Well, perhaps not so easily, as evidenced by those repeated dents at the end. Kinda whacked them hard on a concrete brick or two.

This nifty new innovation is a plunger style with spring release type mould. Just put a ball of dough inside and press the hell out of it!

A look at the design on the plastic mould. You can see a bag of corn flour in the background. I swiped it from the pantry. Also the metal mesh sieve. Don't tell mom!

A hardy and industrial old-school sieve. (to sieve the cornflour a bit so it's not lumpy)

TADA! Clay mooncake pats. 😀 This is before cleanup and firing - see that hole in the rather off-middle - that was later cleaned up to hold a thick stick of incense. I should have taken more pictures of the rest, but in my hurry to fire them, they went to the kiln already. Pictures post-fire to come soon (cross fingers and hope they fit in the next firing!)

A Nest of Succulents!

December 10, 2010 § 3 Comments

Today I took a mini break from potting and do some potting of another kind… with earth and roots and green stuff 🙂 A few days ago I got a free plant (woohoo!) at the mall, courtesy of Honda (tq Honda I drive one too!). A really nice succulent, which inspired this project…

First I dug out from the dusty recesses of a store cupboard, one pot with a very convenient crack at the bottom. I always imagined it’d be handy for a bonsai, but then I’m not one to be manipulative with plants – my approach to gardening is more like plonking plants in the ground or in pots, and then finding a spot the plant likes by asking it repeatedly ‘do you like it here? huh huh huh?’ and watching fixedly as I imagine them growing in answer. This was the pot – some nice Steve Tool action going on around the sides…

And then I trolled around for assorted small plants gathered from freebies at the mall, dark ‘n damp corners of the garden and the neighbourhood nursery. Didn’t really have much choice because the garden is a wild place filled with monster plants which are mostly too huge for this little pot. These were the suitables:

The white pot was the Honda plant. Nice huh. I chucked  out the old plastic pots and arranged the plants as and how they would fit together, and TA DA!

A spiky spanking new centrepiece for the worktable! Now I hope they grow really slowly because they fit just nice right now…

Home Studio with Toro

November 28, 2010 § 15 Comments

toro sleeps while i work - at my feet, on the bench, on his box, in the box

I keep the tools I use most often up on this shelf so the dogs can't eat them

the rest of the tools are in drawers

nice and neat, the way i like it!

new bats yayyyy... and canvas for slabwork...

used the bats for the first time, making these citrus juicers

here's where most of the work gets done

here's where the black dog sleeps... i call him snoopy now because he's often on top of the box!

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