Fire Away (no need to dial 000)…..

Cones at the end of a firing.

Cones as evidence of Elisa’s first firing.

It was a miserable wet Sunday in Sydney and the perfect day for firing my kiln for the first time. As many long time readers of my blog will know this has been a long time coming. I bought this kiln in an Ebay bidding frenzy a few years back, before I had a studio, and it has been stored in my Mum’s garage until late last year when it was installed in my little shed.

I have already admitted to be a ‘fraidy cat’ when it comes to firing and to honest I don’t know why I was so fearful about this side of ceramics. At university students had to organise their own firings whether going solo or fitting in with a group firing; at TAFE it’s a little different, you can book kilns but there are always a variety of firings happening and all you have to do is leave your objects on the appropriate shelves and they will be stacked in the kiln by our wonder studio technician Danni.

My escapade started on a Saturday afternoon when I finally pulled out the manual that came with the kiln. With a cup of coffee next to me I began reading and almost immediately shouted “WTF does this mean?”. I could write a whole post about manuals and the people who write them; surfice it to say when writing this instructional tome the author didn’t bother taking into consideration the (I’m assuming large) proportion of readers who just want very simple instructions for a very simple kiln.

I put the manual down and reverted to Professor Google and his sidekick Dr Youtube. Both gave me minimal success with some bright spark posting a 29 second video of the controller of their Duncan kiln. Boring cinematography and of absolutely no use to anyone.  After 3 hours of searching the net and trying to understand the manual I temporarily gave up on my quest and went to have a glass of red wine.

Fast forward to the following Wednesday and I’m at TAFE having a whinge to my friends about the woes of  kiln firing. Tann pipes up with “Have you tried “Help For Australian Potters – Advice & Tips on Facebook? Maybe post a picture of the kiln and controller and see if anyone can help.” So I did that and amongst the few good folk who answered my cries for help was Jocelyn Hee. We have never met but Jocelyn has my exact kiln and she not only went to the trouble of typing very specific instructions on how to fire it but also gave me her mobile number in case I became stuck. Jocelyn Hee you are my own personal kiln angel and I thank you.

What were the results?  After 8 hours the kiln automatically turned off, way too early for the firing to be successful; but at the end of it I felt like Leo DiCaprio on the Titanic shouting “I’m king of the world.”.  I had 3 shelves inside the kiln with temperature cones on each shelf so I could understand how the kiln fired and if there are cold/hot spots. The image above shows how the cones looked at the end of the firing.

I don’t really care that it didn’t work because it was a learning exercise and now I understand how the controller operates. It’s wonderful when you conquer your fears because even the small ones can keep you from achieving your goals. and yes Vicki Grima, I feel free, free free.

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Table Talk 2

Elisa Bartels at Kerrie Lowe Gallery

Hi Folks, you all know how passionate I am about welcoming handmade tableware into your home as I’ve previously posted the contents of my sideboard. Table Talk 2 rejoices in the beauty and rich narrative history of handmade tableware and so I was very happy to be asked by Kerrie and Elizabeth to participate in this exhibition. My bowls are certainly amongst illustrious company. Opening night is next Friday, 1 May. Hope to see you there.

PS: There are some perks to having your surname at the top of the alphabet. I’m first on the list of participating artists. Woot Woot.

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Tassels are so Downton Abbey…..

Ok I’m going to start by outing myself as a Downton Abbey tragic. Just last night I was screaming at the television “What do you mean it’s not on tonight!!!!!” All I could say was thank god ‘Vikings’ was playing otherwise there would have a been a prize winning tantrum.

Ceramic ornament by Elisa Bartels

Ceramic Ornament

I enjoy Downton for so many reasons other than the storyline. Actually, there are only two other reasons – the clothes and the house. I spend the good part of an hour sighing at the beautiful garments the women wear and the grandeur of the manor. Now whilst I would not be pleased to live in a time where women were seen as light-headed ornaments; the ornaments within the house have my blessing.

So I pondered to myself, “How can I bring a slice of Downton into the 21st Century? This line of thought ended up with a small production of ceramic ornaments. They are perfect for draping over a lamp or hanging on the sideboard.

Ceramic ornaments designed by Elisa Bartels

Ceramic ornament on my lamp

The balls have been hand-rolled from coloured clay and some have been glazed to add a little sparkle. They are the modern equivalent of the tassel, a very popular embellishment during various times last century.

Ladies and Gents, I’ve just added them to my store if you fancy adding a piece of modern Downton to your home.

PS: Small confession: I’d love a lady’s maid – someone who would put away my clothes at the end of the day and go to the village to buy me prophylactics for a forbidden tryst. Aah the ‘good old days’.

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Man bag ? I think not….

Eco-Dyed Purse

Eco-Dyed Purse

The other day I was listening to a radio program which was devoting an hour to discussing gender neutrality. What it means and where it’s at in the 21st Century. Various people rang in mainly discussing their children; little boys who wanted to wear dresses and tiaras and girls who played pirates and zombie ninjas. One of the conclusions was that children didn’t see a gender divide until it was pointed out to them by family, friends and that anonymous but pervasive beast, Society.

Fast forward to a few days later and I saw a client who had just purchased 2 purse from my store. “Guess what Elisa?” she exclaimed. “I gave one of those purses to a male friend as a gift and he loved it.” “Looks like my pieces are gender neutral.” I quipped.

It’s an exciting time to be alive when both men and women are breaking out of tight prescribed gender confines and collecting aspects of both gender which fits them mentally and physically. More so I’m pleased that there’s a guy out there enjoying one of my creations and using it on daily basis.

Now I realise that the topic of gender encompasses a broader range of issues both physical, mental and phycological  and has more nuances that I have discussed. However, it’s funky seeing it play out in such a small but, I believe, significant way. As with anything, ie gender, which has become ingrained over millennia it will take time to break down barriers and configure new definitions. A bloke with a purse is a great start.

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Feeding the beast…

Elisa Bartels visits the studio of a metal artist

Ironmonger’s Studio

When you are an artist running a creative business you wear many hats. Some of them exciting – making floating mosaics and blackfired vessels and other onerous but necessary. One of those task is feeding the beast that is social media. This year I included Instagram into my creative life and I am pleasantly surprise by how much I enjoy feeding this little beastie.

What happens when you fire earthenware to a high temperature.

What happens when you fire earthenware to a high temperature.

ceramic tools

Tool of the trade

It’s quick and easy and  I enjoy using my phone to capture certain times of my day to share with you. I never feel alone and love being able to share surprising moments, crazy situations and unexpected beauty.

There is a wonkiness to my images and pardon me if they are not slick but I see Instagram as a means to share my day with you and most times I take an image quickly between jobs and can’t always make them pretty. I want you to feel as if you’re beside as the action is unfolding. Having said that, I have included a few images in this post which I’ve tried valiantly to pose and primp.

Come follow me @elisabartelsdesigns

Elisa Bartels blackfired bowl and plate

Blackfired Bowl and Plate

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Eco-Dyed Purses and Pouches

Elisa Bartels Designs - eco dyed cotton purse

Elisa Bartels eco dyed cotton purse

Reach into your bag and find your cotton purse which is imbued with nature. Your fingers gently caress the maple leaves which are printed on its surface and you smell the faint scent of Lilly Pilly and Eucalyptus.

As you hold this purse you begin to breathe deeply and gently even if you find yourself on a bustling city street. For a moment you have been transported to the country.

Elisa Bartels Designs Eco Dyed Cotton Purse

Elisa Bartels eco dyed cotton purse

You smile knowing that each time you hold your eco dyed purse you will to experience those sensations.

(To find my eco dyed purses and pouches go here.)

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Elisa Bartels ceramics kiln

Promises. Some people make lists to keep them on track. They write down each item on a ‘to do’ list and meticulously tick them off upon completion. I am one of those people right up to the point where I reach a task I realllllllly don’t want to do. Now, I have cleverly put that job close to the bottom of my list so I feel as if I’m on the path and achieving my goals. It feels great putting a line through all my ‘to dones’

Then I reach that one thing I really don’t want ‘to do’ on my ‘to do’.

After much soul searching and mediation I have come to the conclusion that the best (and only) way to beat the petulant toddler that resides within me is to make a promise. Not just a promise to myself by a public promise and what more public a forum can there be but the world wide web. I give you MYOP (Mind Your Own Promise).

I’m invoking MYOP when it comes to my kiln. I bought this kiln a few years ago when I didn’t have a studio. So it sat there and I said to myself ,”When I have a studio I will connect it and use it.” Easy to say a little harder to do. You see good readers I get nervous when it comes to firing. I’d like to believe that I’m quite fearless in many aspects of my art practice but just looking at this kiln gives me the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Today I gave myself a pep talk in the mirror. Don’t snicker, I know there are others who practise this form of tough love. “Wake up to yourself Elisa. It’s time to take charge and show that kiln who’s boss.” I said with gusto.

So folks this is my solemn MYOP to myself and you.

I Elisa Bartels will commence making items to fire in my kiln. The first firing will be done before the middle of the year.

PS: Feel free to keep reminding me of my MYOP. I’m counting on you to give me a pep talk to keep my MYOP

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