The new art of cooking by Frankie Unsworth

This week my copy of the mouthwatering 'New art of cooking' by Frankie Unsworth arrived. Hooray!

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You may have seen her work on Khoollect, but now she's published her own book and I'm delighted to see some of my work making an appearance.

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Right now the watermelon and tomato salad with Sichuan salt and the easy aperitif spread for friends are looking very appealing, but I'm also looking forward to trying the one pan breakfast beans with crispy kale and goats curd once the weather cools down enough for something a bit more hearty.

Well worth checking out if you're looking for culinary inspirations.

An Orkney album

Last month we journeyed up to Orkney for a loooong awaited trip. We were only to get away for a week so just scratched the surface of these stunning islands, and were soon saying 'next time...'.

Here's a selection of tourist views plus some of the forms and textures that particularly caught my eye.

High temperature magic

I have been known to describe glaze chemistry as high temperature magic and nowhere is this more true than with my Evergreen glaze.

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All 9 of these tiles were made using the same clay and glazed with the same batch of glaze, dipped in the same way for the same amount of time and fired in the same kiln with the same firing cycle.

As you can see the results are surprisingly different!

It's a crystalline glaze so I expect to see time black and rust coloured crystals in the finished peices, but the amount and location of these sets of crystals vary depending on the thickness of application, the speed of cooling, where the item was in the kiln and what else was nearby. Every now and then a particularly heavy crop of crystals develops entirely hiding the green - for reasons know best to itself. Where the glaze is particularly thin it can yield a matt black, perhaps a thick layer of black crystals, and when even thinner shows up as a clear transparent. The depth of the green colour comes from the copper oxide in the glaze - as does the red where it was positioned close to the gas jet of the kiln and was effectively reduction fired in and oxidised firing cycle. All told it makes for an interesting but rather unruly glaze!

New designs for kitchenware in the pipeline...

Every now and then people make special requests for new designs. A recent flurry from friends and family is approaching critical mass and looks line turning into a new kitchenware collection. Here's some early trials for storage jars and pestles & mortars. Fermentation crocks and are also on the agenda. If there's anything your kitchen particularly needs that you think would be a good addition to the collection do let me know.

Some of the pieces feature water-etched detailing which will allow me to introduce some more variation which I do enjoy.

There's lots of work still do to refining each form individually and reviewing how they sit together as a group but it's nice to see an initial peek!

Fresh out of the kiln

Lots of work has now come out of the kiln. The black bowls are for a stockist, I've not made them with this glaze before but they are rather striking. I also made some small changes with the white pieces, giving them a reduction firing that draws out the iron speckles from the clay and gives a cooler tone. Most of these will be coming with me to West Dean at the end of the month if you want to see them 'in the flesh'.

How things land

My eye is often caught by unintentional details, juxtapositions of forms that create an interesting composition, how abandoned forks land in a mixing bowl, unplanned groupings etc - or in this case, rows of rabbit guards on new trees and the outlines of windblown plastic caught in trees.

I don't know why, but it triggered memories of tree-based forms I was playing with about a year ago, and prompted some new combinations that may form the basis for a new vessel idea I'm pondering.

A whole forest of paper maquettes resulted...

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Daily creative challenge, Jan - Feb review

I'm now 2 months into my new challenge to do something creative every day for a year. I've mentioned it briefly on instagram early on, but then decided to track it privately in a notebook.

I have given myself very very loose guidelines on what counts as creative as the idea is to enjoy it, not get all perfectionist and stressy about it. Despite that, I have missed a few days so far, mainly because of illness. I'm now tracking why I miss a day to help me find ways to see that challenge in advance and think of things I can do whilst lurking under the duvet with a lurgy or whatever. Hopefully in time this info will be valuable in developing strong creative habits for life!

So how's it going so far?

So far this year it hasn't encouraged me to tackle any larger or more finished pieces of work, but it has definately encouraged me to make more of an effort each day. On work days I have used it as the impetus to get around to making prototypes of new designs I've been thinking about for a while and to do more creative play to develop ideas, make maquettes, test out new surface finish ideas etc.

On days when I wasn't officially at work I've been drawing a lot more and even carrying a little sketchbook around with me on my travels to enable that day's activity. I've also made an effort to try new recipes, and when all else fails to get my half-finished knitting out.

Recently I've noticed that it's starting to effect all kinds of activities, for example whilst driving I'm noticing details of the landscape around me, however humble, and that's triggering ideas for new work.

Keeping the tracking notebook is also helping me to begin to understand my own creativity a bit more, to note what feels creative when and to begin to see a longer term process coming to light. This is showing that I need to be out an about looking at things in order to stock up on interesting mental imagery, but also that I then need to leave it alone in the back of my brain for a while to settle in, connect with other images or ideas in ehatever subconscious way so that later on, in their own time, new creative ideas can come to me. This is helpful in encouraging me to make sure I keep looking at the world all the time and don't worry about trying too hard to force ideas out before they are ready, that tends to lead to too much thinkiness which for me is less interesting.

All told I'm really glad I started and look forward to seeing where else it will take me. If/when there are new developments I will post an update.

New traditions

It's taken me a while to make my peace with the whole Christmas thing, but I do love the togetherness and lights and the decorations and all the spicy scents of festive foods as well as time to go to ground and cosy up with a good book or 3. So these days I don't worry about the 'meaning', I just try to enjoy the good bits as much as I can in order to counterbalance the looming midwinter cold and dark.

For several years now my parents and I have been enjoying a new tradition of meeting up together in London to hear a concert of festive early music. This year we went for something a bit different; a mix of C20 & C21 music performed by the choir Tenebrae with a guest cellist. The cellist also performed a solo of "Three high places" by John Luther Adams. It's played entirely on open strings and harmonics to give the most amazing sound evocative of mountain tops and wind and ice. I shall certainly be seeking out more of his work to listen to!

Whilst in London I also saw the Basquiat exhibition at the Barbican. It's an intense viewing experience but I left feeling super-inspired by his creativity, his prolific-ness and his interested-in-everything-ness. That made it a great 'art date' for me as I had been feeling pretty tired and uncreative after several busy months, hooray! Highly reccomended if you need a bit of creative energy & it's on til Jan 28th so there's still time.

On the subject of traditions, I came across this post on minimalist holiday traditions and liked the idea of several of them - right now I firmly intend to make a shared advent calendar for us next year. Maybe some of them would appeal to you?

A personal tradition for me at this time of year is to spend some time reviewing the previous year and thinking about what my intentions are for the new year. Since I started I notice that lots of people publish frameworks to help with this process. This year I am pondering these from nosidebar.