Make a Gift Day!

 

family bauble plate

Today is National Make a Gift Day and coincidentally it also happens to be one of our busiest days of the year!

We’ve had a very busy Christmas period as those of you who have been in over the last few months will know! Fingerprint Christmas Bauble

As usual, baubles have been our best sellers with hundreds of hand printed festive beauties having passed through our hard working kiln in the last four weeks alone.

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But we’ve also seen some other wonderful creations, including mince pie plates, Santa mugs and snow man tea pots. The loveliest thing for us is knowing that around 90% of the painted pottery leaving our studio is on its way to surprise a lucky recipient as a Christmas gift! There are many lucky mums and dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends out there that are about to become owners of super cute baubles where tiny foot prints have been turned into reindeer or plates featuring a Christmas tree made from little hand prints. P1030713.JPG

If you’re stuck for something special for a loved one- then there’s still time to make something at Crafty Monkey and have it ready in time for Christmas day.

 

Booking is essential at this time of year, so don’t forget to call us on 01480219222 to reserve yourself a table.

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How to use silkscreens on pottery – a Step by Step Guide

2016-02-1013.21.19.jpgWe’ve produced some lovely items lately using silkscreen and we’re so pleased with the results that we thought we’d be kind enough to share our secrets with you in our step-by-step guide!

Here’s how we made our funky Lambretta plate!

 

STEP 1

Begin by choosing the base colour for your plate. We chose white because we wanted to give our plate a stripy background so used it as a nice light colour for our first application of paint. 2016-02-10 12.53.01.jpg

STEP 2

Using a sponge, cover the plate in three coats of underglaze. You’ll need to work quite quickly as you don’t want the paint to dry out completely just yet.                                                                                                                                                     2016-02-10 12.53.32.jpg

STEP 3

If you’re making a stripy plate like we did, tear up some strips of paper and dunk them in cold water. If you wanted nice neat stripes then you can cut them beautifully, but we liked the idea of having a slightly rougher effect.2016-02-10 13.02.49.jpg

STEP 4

Lay the strips onto the plate to form stripes.2016-02-10 13.04.15.jpg

STEP 5

Using your second choice of colour, dab the underglaze over the plate, again do three coats. You could also brush the paint on, depending on whether you want a mottled or a block colour effect.2016-02-10 13.05.53.jpg

STEP 6

Carefully pull the strips of paper away.2016-02-10 13.11.14.jpg

STEP 7

Time to watch paint dry! Ensure your base coats are completely dry before you attempt the next stage.2016-02-10 13.11.47.jpg

STEP 8

Take your chosen silkscreen (in our case, a Lambretta) and lay it onto the plate, fixing it into place lightly with low tack masking tape. 2016-02-10 13.21.19.jpg

STEP 9

Before using a silkscreen, you need to thicken the underglaze up. You can buy professional thickening agents, but we mixed in cornflour which is just as effective. It needs to be the consistency of toothpaste.2016-02-10 13.23.46.jpg.

STEP 10

Apply your underglaze by dabbing it on with your finger. You can also use small dabbing sponges for this if your prefer. Different colours can be applied to different areas of the silkscreen if you prefer.2016-02-10 13.25.23.jpg

STEP 11

Carefully lift the silkscreen to reveal your design underneath.2016-02-10 13.28.33.jpg

STEP 12

Your plate is now looking fab and is ready to be glazed and fired in the kiln!2016-02-10 13.30.45.jpg

 

Ever Wondered What Goes on Behind the Scenes?

A comment that I hear from time to time is ‘You’re nice and quiet in here so you can relax’. It’s a lovely thought and I would love nothing more than to sit at the desk and stare at the side of the church opposite all day (or I could watch some paint dry very easily as I have the resources at my fingertips). The truth is that we’re always busy here at Crafty Monkey.

This time of year, believe it or not, is officially Christmas! Towards the end of September, we have many mums booked in to get their babies’ hand and footprints onto baubles (we love their organisation!) and mums’ group bookings become especially popular. By the end of October, we book our customers in back to back so that we can keep up with demand. We can eat lunch and have a wee in January- until then, we become super-human!

So, what goes on behind the scenes? Lots.

The most obvious thing is the production line. More than half of our customers will ask us to decorate their pieces for them. This means that every day, I have piles of stuff that need some love. Last year, I painted close to a million (give or take) antlers and red noses on footprint reindeers and I have written ‘Happy Christmas’ more times than Santa’s Elves have.

Our kiln is on most days during this period. Loading and unloading is something of a mammoth task and can take a couple of hours each way. It’s a top loading machine, meaning that we use heavy shelves and posts and it’s a bit of a balancing act…not for the faint hearted to say the least!P1070104

We then need to gather people’s orders together and organise them for collection. This is more difficult than it sounds as we have so much stuff constantly rolling in and it can get very hectic. We also struggle for space during Christmas as we are heaving with pottery and can’t fit it all into our usually ample window display space.

Other than that, we are packaging things up to post, dealing with the creation of imprints/outprints, painting commission pieces, receiving mail to be dealt with, ordering stock and battling with huge pallets when it gets delivered, keeping the shelves plentiful, answering the phone as it rings off the hook and attempting some form of tidiness in the studio. And the most time consuming and arduous task of all? Filling the little paint bottles up on the tables. If somebody could invent self-replenishing paint bottles, I’d be all over it!

That’s a brief synopsis of what goes on behind the scenes…there’s actually a lot more happening but I’d be here all day if I listed it all!

So that’s us until December 22nd. The rest of the year is similar but we’re slightly more time rich and we get to eat lunch. If you’d like to pop in and bring us a mince pie, we’d be most grateful. And if you wouldn’t mind liquidising it and feeding it to us intravenously, that’d be great…

From Bare to Beautiful- a Pottery Make-Over

We’ve all seen the endless blogs, articles and videos on ‘make-overs’, but we’re used to seeing lackluster hair transformed into luscious locks and pale pallors brightened to supermodel standards.

But did you know that at Crafty Monkey, we’re the master of make-overs?

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This poor old mug was feeling properly dowdy and under-dressed. Our idea was to turn it into a unicorn mug. I think you can see for yourself how happy the mug was with the results!

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Usually, the client expects somebody to do their make-overs for them…not at Crafty Monkey! If you come here, we encourage you to do your own make-overs! One of our customers carefully applied this owl’s make up and now look at him!

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‘I want to look like a princess riding a unicorn’, she said. ‘No problem’, we replied. She was merely a shadow of a thing- now look at her transformation!

If you’d like to visit us at Crafty Monkey and learn how to perform make-overs yourself, we’ll show you how, it’s easy!

Call us on 01480219222 to book…see you soon!

 

If Painting be the Food of Love…

The quote doesn’t quite work as well as the original, I know that, but like music, art is a great creative stimulant and you may just find that a pottery painting session with your other half is an ideal Valentine’s activity!

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If painting as a couple isn’t up your street, how about making a lovely treasure with your baby’s hand and footprints?

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We’re absolutely certain that every mummy and daddy would love a piece like this as their special Valentine’s Day gift.

If you’d like to put your heart and soul into personalising some pottery for somebody you love, drop by the studio and we’ll show you how!

Twit Twoo!

Owls for some reason always remind me of Autumn time, as well of course of being wise old things, so are relevant this time of year as new school years have just started and we are heading into Autumn.

At Crafty Monkey we have a large range of owl related pottery. There really are some lovely pieces in the way of ornaments, plant pot holders and cookie jars. If you haven’t seen them you’ll have to pop in as they are very popular and we know you will fall in love with them as much as we did.

Before and after our owl pottery has been painted and fired.

How To Make a Clay Imprint

Ever wondered about the process involved in making our splendid clay imprints? If you’ve had clay imprints done at Crafty Monkey, or indeed anywhere else, then you’ll be aware that it can be up to four weeks before they’re ready for collection. Read our step by step guide to find out why!

 

STEP 1

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First of all, gather your equipment. For the first part of the process, you will need:

a. A happy baby

b. Clay

In fact, it’s not essential that the baby is happy, any baby will do. By the time we’ve pressed their little hand and feet into clay, we can quite often transform ‘happy baby’ into ‘utterly bewildered’ baby, but that’s just part and parcel of the imprint fun…

STEP 2

this one

Cut a lovely piece of earthenware clay with a wire cutter. It needs to be about 2cm thick and around 20cm squared, depending on the size of the child’s hands and feet. Roll it out beautifully, taking care to watch out for pesky air bubbles and general bits of fluff that may fly out of nowhere onto the clay.

STEP 3

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Hold baby in a peculiar ‘Superman’ type position and get those little hands and feet pushed into the clay, taking care to roll up sleeves and trouser legs beforehand. You need to press quite hard to get a decent imprint and although it may look like you’re torturing the poor child, it doesn’t hurt them as they’re being pushed into a soft surface (honest!)

STEP 4

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Check for any imperfections and smooth them out with a little water on your finger if required. Cut the clay into a shape. Most of our imprints are cut into a rectangle with rounded edges, but some people prefer a wavy or square shape. Use a sharp craft knife and finish by wetting your finger and running it around the edges to smooth down any bumpy bits. If the piece isn’t to be framed, then pop two holes in the top using the end of a paint brush so that it can be hung on the wall with ribbon or wire.

STEP 6

Feeling-Bored

Leave the clay to air dry on a flat surface for around 10-14 days. You can do other things during this time as it doesn’t need watching or petting, it just gets on with its own thing.

STEP 7

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When the clay has lightened and is completely dry, pop it carefully into a kiln and cook it!

STEP 8

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Anytime after it’s been removed from the kiln, it’s time to get on with painting it with pottery paint. This is the real fun bit and you wrestle with trying to get rid of brush strokes and get the colour even all over the prints! It’s a good idea to use two coats of watered down paint and then use a wet, very soft brush to get rid of any brush marks and even out the colour. Do this approximately a million times until it finally looks splendid. Decorate with a sponge border or whatever you require. Use a pottery paint pen to write the name and age and anything else you may want on there.

STEP 9

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Glaze the piece with specialist bisque glaze and pop back into the kiln for the second round of cooking!

STEP 10

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If the imprint is to be framed, then choose a lovely deep set box frame. Cut a piece of thick card and stick the imprint to it using specialist strong glue. When it’s dry, clean the glass of the frame and pop the imprint in and close the frame catches. It’s essential at this point that you undo the frame and do it back up again at least ten times owing to various bits of fluff and streaks on the inside of the glass.

STEP 11

amazed

Pop your finished piece onto the wall, prepare to astound your visitors and lap up all the compliments about your amazing work of art!

See our blog post on clay imprints and plaster outprints.