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*NEW* Give it a Bash! workshop dates

Newly released Give it a Bash! workshop dates went live on the website this week. This includes a Christmas decoration making workshop at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. It seems a little early to be thinking about Christmas but myself and the Pewter elves are starting to make seasonal stock in the studio this week - eek!

 

Alongside this I will be holding a 3 hour Pewter Cuttlefish casting taster session at Porch Gallery in Woore, Crewe on the 4th Nov. It's great to be taking Give it a Bash on the road and I look forward to meeting new budding Pewtersmiths. Porch is a small gallery run by Amanda and is an absolutely gorgeous setting for the workshop to be held in her converted space. You can also do your Christmas shopping at the same time!! 

Book HERE and I hope to be Pewtering with you soon :) 

Back to Blackburn

This weekend I was really chuffed to be a part of the first ever National Festival of Making in Blackburn. Myself and my glamorous assistant master apprentice were hosting Give it a Bash! Cuttlefish Casting sessions in Blackburn Library. 


As I started my artistic journey at Blackburn College many moons ago I was delighted to be invited back as part of this festival and what an event it was!!! So much to see, do, create and take part in. A real celebration of making across generations and technology. 

We had two 3 hour sessions of casting, during which the budding Pewtersmiths created moulds by carving Cuttlefish bone before pouring molten Pewter into the moulds. We had some really fabulous and creative designs emerging with some inspiration from Blackburn in the form of a buzzy bee. There seemed to be an creature theme emerging as well with fish, ladybugs and pet portraits. 
        

After all the Pewter action on Saturday I had chance to wander around on the Sunday and Blackburn even invited the sunshine for the day - hurrah! 

I have been following the progress of various pre festival making on twitter and was extremely excited to see Bella May Leonards collaboration with Silent Night and whilst the tours were fully booked for Lazerians large cardboard pod installation in the old cinema it was great to read the renovation plans for the building of which I have fond memories. 

         

It was also fantastic to bump into some familiar faces. Helen Russell with her amazing blob birds at the Hopeful and Glorious makers market in King Georges Hall, where I have danced many a night away, as well as Oswaldtwistle based Jacqui from Print for Love of Wood who I think summed everything up with her fabulous Blackburn inspired prints. 

     

Thank-you Blackburn for an amazing weekend, being such perfect hosts and supporting National Festival of Making with gusto!
  

March Meet the Maker

I love this time of year. Spring is starting to bloom, the fist glimmer of light nights appear and the weather is a bit more forgiving during my cycle to work.

As a kick start to Spring we created a bright cheery window display in Studio 10 at Manchester Craft and Design Centre whilst over on Instagram I decided to take part in #marchmeetthemaker (with a little encouragement from creative buddy Nell Smith Prints).


  Spring manchester Craft and Design Centre     march meet the maker Flowers Buds Spring

March meet the maker is a daily prompt set up by Joanne Hawker and encourages makers across all disciplines to share a small portion of their world everyday. By taking part I hope to share some of my Pewter based adventures with you and also have a nosy into other makers lives.

The first week was all about introducing ourselves with a series of prompts such as You, Workspace, Raw Materials and Tools. 

  
   manchester Craft and Design Centre  Spring manchester Craft and Design Centre  Spring manchester Craft and Design Centre

I shared a more serious 'professional' posed photograph of myself for Instagram but this one is a lot more accurate of how I am when not Pewtering. Due to choosing to work under the name THIS IS PEWTER a lot of people don't realise it is just little ole moi behind the scenes at my workbench. However I am so passionate about flying the flag for Pewter it was an easy choice to switch from 'Ella McIntosh Designs'.

After all - Pewter is so super duper shiny nowadays, with the removal of Lead from the alloy, we wouldn't want to be mistaken for Silver!! ;)

I'm looking forward to the week ahead and sharing some of my favorite things with the prompts creative friends, helper and time to relax.

Happy Birthday THIS IS PEWTER

WE ARE FOUR - Hip Hip Hoorah!

 

It has been a whirlwind four years for me at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, especially the last year which saw a move from upstairs to a shared studio downstairs with Helen Tiffany Glass.

Thank-YOU!
Without my customers, Pewter fans and large behind the scenes support network my small business dreams would not be a reality.

I've lots of plans to see me into the next four years so I'd better get Pewtering....

Manchester Craft and Design Centre have a vacancy. Come and join our family of makers.

A celebration of ten- Pt 2 of #tensomethings

As Verity Howards 'Behind Closed Doors' at Manchester Craft and Design Centre ends I've been reflecting on the second part of our exciting collaboration #tensomethings.

In my previous blog I talked about how myself and Verity had set ourselves a brief which included start 5 'somethings' each and then swapping our objects. The next step was then to respond to each others work to create a table based object which crossed the borders between form and function.

Out of the 5 sandcast Pewter 'somethings' I sent to Verity my favorite was #2 (below), I think we may see more of this texture creeping into my work in the future as I love the linear effect it has created. When I posted them down to her I already had vague ideas how I would develop them if I'd kept them and was excited to see if Verity picked up on this or read them differently as objects.


  Verity Howard Ceramics   Verity Howard Ceramics

In return I received a lovely delivery of Veritys 5 'somethings' (below) which as I unwrapped them made me feel excited, nervous and a surprising amount of pressure. I didn't want to let Verity down and ruin her ceramics. I was also unsure of their fragility as I'm used to bashing around my metal, though you may spot Verity sent me 6 incase I broke one which I chose to disregard and work with the first 5.

  Verity Howard Ceramics   Verity Howard Ceramics   Verity Howard Ceramics

Out of the 5 my favorite was #1 as I was immediately drawn to the train track like pattern across the smooth surface. As I unwrapped them I realised I'd naturally laid them all down flat, as I started to stand some up using blutac to get different perspectives some ideas started to spark but taking this into a final form would require a lot more work. I was nervous of #5 and at a loss of how I was going to develop any of them!

So the sharpie came out...

  Verity Howard Ceramics   Verity Howard Ceramics 
 
This way of developing my designs is a usual part of my process helping me to quickly sketch various ideas and narrow it down until I feel happy enough to move to metal. A lot of the sketches are very speedy abstracts which myself and Verity found as a similarity in our design process. Since the collaboration I've been thinking of ways to incorporate these sketches into my final product packaging or have them for sale as the feedback on them was very positive and many people commented on them. Watch this space.

From this scribbles emerged a need to move into metal as I still didn't know how the metal would react to the Ceramics, I wanted to cast Pewter around some of Veritys somethings to make them stand upright but was unsure if this would work or not. Only one thing for it...get started!


  Verity Howard Ceramics   Verity Howard Ceramics 

Surprisingly some of the items I had the strongest initial idea for ended up changing as I worked with them discovering new possibilities or processes didn't work how I'd envisaged. My favorite piece switched from #1 at the start to #3 at the end as it was the piece I found the hardest to make and it took me on the longest journey. As I cast Pewter around #3 Ceramic I wasn't happy with the outcome but it forced me to reevaluate my intended idea, work with the mistake and keep pushing through until I found a way to love it.

This is definitely a lesson learned for me and my practice, something I will carry forward. Don't be scared of not knowing where to take a design, it'll evolve.
Don't dismiss mistakes..use them, learn from them and keep working with them.

See all #tensomethings here and in studio 10 at Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

An exciting journey of collaboration.

2016 is the tenth year of the MMU Graduate Solo Exhibition at Manchester Craft and Design Centre has been awarded and this year the exhibition space has been transformed into a beautifully curated showcase of winner Verity Howards Ceramic work 'Behind Closed Doors'. Alongside the exhibition, to celebrate to the 10 years, there runs a series of ten events which include 10 chosen Future Makers exhibited as a trail throughout the studios, talks and free workshops.

As Pewter is used to signify the 10th Wedding Anniversary, due to its high tin content, myself and Verity Howard have been commissioned by Manchester Craft and Design Centre to create a collaboration piece/series during the Behind Closed Doors exhibition resulting in a body of work to be displayed at the Craft Centre.

   Verity Howard Behind Closed DoorsVerity Howard Behind Closed DoorsVerity Howard Behind Closed Doors

To kickstart the commission Verity and I had an initial conversation in my studio at Manchester Craft and Design Centre briefly talking each other through our work, inspirations and process. This was an important conversation, which continued into email pingpong, as we were able to figure out the similarities and differences in our design and making process as well as tossing around some loose ideas and 'things to think about'.

One similarity which did emerge in our conversations is how we both use very specific starting points such as a photo, skyline or object and break them down into abstract shapes to use in our pieces. Verity does this by drawing and I do this by the process of casting into sand. Another was our use of quick, timed drawings in the design process. In Veritys work she uses photographs of buildings at night or glimpses through windows from which she makes a timed drawing to pick out the 'important' details and strip back the image to create the shapes and monoprinting in her work.
 
  Verity Howard Behind Closed Doors Verity Howard Behind Closed Doors Verity Howard Behind Closed Doors
Verity Howard timed drawings used as monoprint in her Ceramic pieces.

In a similar vein for my current UTENSiL range of work I use quick, crude, sketches to take my abstract sand castings into the next stage of deciding how to use each piece and then work from the drawings. Whilst we use these sketches at different stages of our process it struck me that our designing revolves around them and it is a crucial way of moving our initial inspiration towards their final forms.  

Verity Howard Behind Closed Doors Verity Howard Behind Closed Doors Verity Howard Behind Closed Doors
Quick sketches I use to build objects around my sand castings.

As conversations progressed Verity and I have also chatted about form vs function. This is an obvious difference between our work as Verity creates decorative sculptural pieces whilst I specialise in functional tableware. We talked about how we can play on the form vs function element and how neither of us wants to dominate the process by dictating the functionality (or lack of it) in the pieces. We still haven't resolved this element so watch this space for more.

We quickly realised we needed to set ourselves some perimeters to work within to get us started, Ceramics takes a lot longer in process than Pewter so we are in danger of running out of time if we don't get going! As the number ten kept cropping up and the timed element we soon landed on this as a way to guide the project along as our initial starting point resulting in a brief:

10 Objects (5 each)
10 Minutes per Object
10 x 10 x 10 cm per Object
then swap!

What will happen next?? Where will a swap take us? What will we do with each others creations?
Make sure you check back for more progress and the final results or follow our progress on twitter:
Verity Howard Behind Closed Doors   @verityahoward
   @THISISPEWTER

Journey of a Worker Bee

I've recently been working on new editions to my Manchester Bee Range, prompted by customer requests and my ongoing love affair with spoons.

My original Manchester Bee range, which can be found in my studio at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, has been rather popular with proud Mancs and tourists alike. I've seen many buzz off (!) to new homes and wanted to spread more Bee love around - after all the poor fellows are having a hard time of it! #savethebees


   Manchester Worker Bee  Manchester Worker Bee
Manchester Stick Pin and Keyring available in my online shop.

From this original Bee range I was asked to create a smaller Bee for a customers bracelet and so a new journey for the worker Bee began. Firstly I created a new master using Cuttlefish, a media I love working in as you can scratch, draw and press into the surface to create a mould into which I pour hot Pewter to reveal the design. A very immediate way of working which appeals to my making style whilst also using the natural product to create amazing textures.

   Manchester Worker Bee   Manchester Worker Bee   Manchester Worker Bee

From Cuttlefish mould I then set about creating a more durable rubber mould as Cuttlefish is very delicate and I only managed to get 3 baby Bees from this before it broke. The rubber mould is more long lasting but takes patience to create without pesky air bubbles or flaws!

As I waited for the rubber mould to set I started on Bee journey #2.1 which was to create a Pewter spoon and honey dipper. If you've been following me on twitter you'll know I've christened 2016 as #yearofthespoon so it was only natural a Bee spoon is on the agenda.

  Manchester Worker Bee   Manchester Worker Bee  Manchester Worker Bee
Mock ups and decisions about the shape of the honey dipper.

I set about mocking up various shapes and sizes of honey dippers before testing and asking twitter for opinions. I'm usually jump straight to metal, often using a mix Pewter and paper in mock ups so I can get the true feel of the design as I think that is important in a usable piece.

Once I settled on a honeycomb shaped design for the honey dipper I finished the final design (which involved a lot of working out angles) of the spoon and dipper on the larger bee as well as adding earring and cufflink backs on the smaller Bees.

Ta- da! Cufflinks and Earrings are now available in Studio 10 @ Manchester Craft and Design Centre. The honey dippers and spoons will be available very soon.
I hope you like them.

  Manchester Worker Bee    Manchester Worker Bee   Manchester Worker Bee

New work - UTENSiL

UTENSiL -

noun

an implement, tool, or container for practical use.
a tool, container, or other article, especially for household use.

    Spoons Pewter   Spoons Pewter

Copper and Pewter using a combination of sand casting with sheet work techniques. Working in a newly responsive way of letting the sand cast shape then determine the final product.

  Spoons Pewter    Spoons Pewter

#yearofthespoon #function #copper #pewter #UTENSiL
Watch this space for more work and developments on UTENSiL through 2016.

  Spoons Pewter   Spoons Pewter

Inspiration and the British Ceramic Biennial

Have you been watching the Great British Pottery Throwdown?
'Who hasn't?' I hear you cry!

Whilst the Craft world goes potty (excuse the pun) for Ceramics I thought it was only fitting to visit the British Ceramics Biennial with Printmaker and top buddy Nell.

I didn't have time to research the Biennial before we set out to Stoke on Trent so didn't quite know what to expect though the visit came at the end of a very busy period of Pewtering for shows, commission and deadlines so my Pewter brain was feeling rather battered and bruised and I was desperate for some non Pewter visual inspiration.

Based at the original Spode factory site I was first struck by the variety of exhibits, the polar opposite scale of the pieces and the exciting chance for interaction with some of the works such as the Ceramic vending machine. With the festival laid out in sections across the vast hangar style building I kept being drawn to the original factory remnants and fittings which ran as a backdrop to the stunning work on show. The uneven floors, exposed pipes and peeling walls led me to photographs like these.
 

      british ceramic biennial      British Ceramic Biennial
Old soap dispenser in the toilets. Jonathan Keeps 3D printed work contrasting with the Spode factory and Geysers

As we kept exploring to the bubbling sound of the Geysers in the background I enjoyed seeing such a variety of ceramic, form and technique in one comparative space. Whilst walking through the exhibition, though Clay and Pewter are so different in working technique, I was intrigued by the pieces that drew inspiration from similar thinking to my own working practice. Work based on time, patination, the language of the material and process were scattered through the festival reminding visitors about the full journey of making.

 Claudia Wassiczek      Gail Mahon      May Wild Design
          Claudia Wassiczek, Gail Mahon - 'Longdrop' and  May Wild Designs '#systemsofproduction'

Despite being drawn to work which addressed the making process and life of an object I instantly fell in love with Jose Maria Salgados minimalist, sleek work in the ArtFood section of the festival.

  Jose Maria Salgados  Jose Maria Salgado
              Work by Jose Maria Salgados    Photo by Sebastian Zimmer


Whilst the tableware set was based around the concept of games it leapt out to me for its simple forms which don't dictate what they are meant to hold. They had a quality which made me want to move them around like a puzzle to see how they fit together and how they felt in the hand, compare the weight of the lines and feel how light/heavy they were. The stripped back form and removal of the usual, non essential, visual clues we usually add to tableware made me feel excited and inspired.

As I reflect on the visit, watch the Great British Pottery Throwdown and write this long overdue blog it makes me make a mental note to look up from Pewter world occasionally. I am guilty of having tunnel vision to my own medium, sometimes forgetting to look outside my own strictly imposed box. My Pewter brain is now refreshed and humming with excitement as the British Ceramic Biennial has reminded me to take the time to refresh myself on my own core inspirations and making values. 

Thankyou BCB, I'm looking forward to 2017!

A busy month and deserving awards

WOW! What a busy month it has been in Pewter world.
I've packed so much into this month that my fingers have never stopped making and I've been pulling long hours at the workbench.


One project I have been working very hard on are the Signature Awards.

This year the 2015 Signature Annual Awards were held at The Museum of Science and Industry Manchester and the organisers were very keen for a local Craftsperson to make the awards.

Commissioned earlier in the year myself and the organisers set about designing the awards, based on the Signature Award logo. We used a process of mock-ups, bouncing ideas back and forth via email whilst I tweak and convert the ideas into a 3D final design. I often work straight into very thin Pewter for the mock ups as I find it helps visualize the final proportions and overall design.

 
    Pewter Handmade Awards

And then the work began.

Using many different processes on each component the 7 awards were made in a series of stages with a major flurry of work towards the end once the winners had been decided. The range of processes involved  scoring, soldering, letterpunching, forming around a jig, mould making and casting before days of polishing for the final shine.

The logo colour of hot pink and grey were added at the final stage by fellow maker, jeweller extraordinaire and resin wizardess Katy Wimbush who collaborates with me on all my colour work. We have previously collaborated on award projects and a red Robin Christmas decoration. Check out her fabulous figurative, colour popping work here.


 KATY WIMBUSH RESIN HANDMADE     

The Signature Awards have been a great project to work on and a great honour to be asked to make them. I have been reading the background on their website of all the nominees and winners alongside Signatures work in improving access for Deaf and Deafblind , they really are inspiring stories. Currently I can only sign my name and parts of the alphabet but this project has encouraged me to learn more, watch this space!

Thank-you Signature for choosing handmade and Congratulations to all the winners.

  

Why blog? And the never ending to-do list.

So here we are on my second blog and I find myself wanting to tell you why I've decided to blog.

My twitter followers often see a Monday morning post about writing my to-do list for the week and it has slowly become more useful habit than regular procrastination. Though I must confess I have secret to-do lists as well; ones that stay static, ones with bigger tasks on and a to-do list that quite simple says 'DO A BLOG' (written in pink of course)!


 

So here I am, many to-do lists later finally getting around to blogging. Hurrah.

But starting this isn't just an item to cross off my to-do lists, though I will heartily enjoy tossing that one into the bin and replacing it with 'UPDATE BLOG'! Throughout social media I have enjoyed revealing commissions, telling you about my Pewter world, as well as giving regular updates but I often want to tell you more.

The nature of my practice means that I perform each step of the design and making process myself. I take a piece of Pewter on a journey from design all the way through to final piece, for me this is the most exciting part of my business and I'd like to share it with you. This is especially exciting when working on new projects/commissions and I'd like my blog show this. I will be using this page to take you through the steps I undertake on a project, show you behind the scenes, look at how I work and give you an insight to being a full time Pewtersmith.

As most people will tell you I'm a great talker, I can talk for England AND Jamaica. Sometimes eloquently, often not and I hope my blog will reflect that. I will sometimes commit grammar whoopsies and spelling oversights but I hope it gives you a flavor of my life as a Pewterer, portrays the excitement of a piece coming together and gives the background to some of the amazing commissions I have the pleasure of making.

 

Rightio, back to the to-do lists again.
And, yes that is a filofax!

First blog and some exciting news!


Welcome to my blog and what an exciting subject to start on!

Three years ago today I launched my studio at Manchester Craft and Design Centre with champagne and jumped straight into the whirlwind of being a full time Pewterer.
 

This is Pewter
 
Three years on and I have a new change ahead as I move from Studio 20a, upstairs at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, to downstairs Studio 10 where I will be sharing with the talented Helen Tiffany Glass.

As a girl, who grew up without a television, I had two favor
ite hobbies to pass the time; one was making simple beaded jewellery often roping my brother into counting and sorting the beads for me, the second was to play shops to supplement my pocket money by selling cooking apples we had collected, making cookies and even drawing my own newspaper before forcing the neighbours into a weekly subscription. So you can imagine my joy when three years ago I launched my own 'shop' at Manchester Craft and Design Centre.
All my favorites rolled into one, albeit the jewellery had grown in scale to Metalwork and Homewares. 


This is Pewter
This is Pewter
In the last three years I have spent every minute growing THIS IS PEWTER in Studio 20a and have relished having my own space to do so. I've been supported by my nieghbours &made and Wall of Art whilst being encouraged by all at Manchester Craft and Design Centre. I've laughed, I've bashed and I've danced around my studio. I've roped in family to help out at busy times, I've loved having my very own 'shopfront' to dress and I even had a branded top made...! I've Pewtered late into the night and I've enjoyed every minute with my amazing customers, Thank-you.

One aspect of moving into Studio 10 is I will be sharing with the very talented Helen Tiffany Glass and sharing the shop duties with Helen. As a maker/creator/designer/artist/Pewterer I will use this time outside of the workshop to grow, breathe, teach, seek inspiration, look around and feed this back into my work. So look out for new developments, work and updates. However, I will never be far away from my workbench!

It's been a great three years and I'm raising my champagne glass towards the next three with Helen in Studio 10/11 at Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

Pop in, say Hello and see my new space.

Ella

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