Tea is instant wisdom — just add water!

From the last blog posting I have done more research into Chinese and Japanese tea drinking.  The particular area that has interested me has been the association with Zen and Buddhism. I really want to pursue the idea that tea drinking is relaxing and meditative.


Symbol for Zen


One prominent symbol associated with Zen is stacked pebbles. The symbolism connected to balance and peace. I tried to look for where this symbol comes from. it could be linked to a stacked stone cairns that act as waypoints on pathways , perhaps these forms of cairns are symbolic of a spiritual waypoint for guidance .o-MEDITATION-BENEFITS-facebookf2a874402c7a3e5d8b2365268f49a548Grean leaves over zen stones pyramid on water surface

Stacked stones


A possilbe reason this particular form of smooth pebble is associated with Zen is because of their use in hot stone spa treatments. Spars are associated with relaxation and meditation. A host of initial ideas were generated from my research. I have chosen to commit to the idea of making a tea set in the form of stacked stones to incorporate the ideas of relaxation and meditation into tea drinking .


Hot stone spar treatment

I have thought about the possible components for the set and how to make them. It seems that ceramics will be the best material to work with. If I want to get a true stone effect I will have to collect stones to cast in plaster. Making my own stones from clay is a option but I want the stones to have the texture of real stones. To achieve this I need to make multi part mould’s for slip casting.  The Multi part-casting workshop has been really valuable in this project.  I am really quite enthralled with the casting process. It’s very methodical and relaxing.



mould from multi part mould workshop

After completing the workshop I went to collect stones at my local reservoir. It was a wet and windy day but I found what I was looking for and many extras. I thought it would be better to bring more than I needed in case a second inspection showed a flaw in a vital stone.


Bottoms reservoir – stones collected from here



Playing the stones by stacking them in different combinations has helped to solidify and finalise the form that the set will take. I wanted to know other methods of casting so I did the lost wax-casting workshop. It was very interesting; it has a lot of potential uses in future projects, especially using organic material.


Carved wax stamps for lost wax casting workshop

Currently I am on track with all the stone molds made and ready to be used at the start of next week leaving enough time to get all things glazed by deadline. So far I’m quite pleased with my project and the way it has developed, it helps that I drink a lot of tea to get in tune with the subject matter.

A simple cup of tea is far from a simple matter

This project started off with a group research assignment on afternoon tea, with the aim of producing a 15 minute long presentation. It was an enthralling experience but initially I was quite uneasy about working in a group. During the first meeting we identified the areas of research we wanted to focus on:

• Origin
• Food
• History of tea
• Other cultures
• Objects
• Afternoon tea now

We divided the sections between ourselves. I opted to research other cultures and their tea ceremonies. I believed this would provide me with a broad range of areas that could proved sources of insperation .

We went to Teacup in Manchester’s northern quarter to try afternoon tea for ourselves. The whole experience was rather odd. Eating filling food in-between lunch and dinner is not something I usually do and resulted in a major loss of appetite. However having a structured break to drink tea was very calming.

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Teacup in Manchester’s northern quarter

During Christmas I began my research.We had set a group deadline of the 6th of January. Setting a clear deadline helped keep the group on track .

I found teas origin in china where it develops a strong connection to religion an interesting contrast to our own culture. where its drunk as a secular social beverage.

Patterns started to appear in my research. Not just between tea consumption and geographic location, but the objects associated with tea. For example turkey and Russia share the same method of a two part boiling process that is not present in cultures in other parts of the world.

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Turkish Çaydanlık (top)  – Russian Samovar (bottom)

The rules and methods of Japanese tea ceremonies are so intricate and precise that it makes the conventions of British afternoon tea look simple. It would be a great experience to be involved in a Japanese tea ceremony. If I ever go to japan I will have to try it.tea-ceremony-japan-scidmore_8028_990x742

A Japanese tea ceremony in progress

The presentation took a few sessions of group work to streamline. Having a different person write each section made the hardest part giving the presentation a coherent focused narrative. It was decided we should emphasize the difference between afternoon tea then and now. After the modifications it did give the presentation a better flow, allowing the audience to put the information into the context of their own experience.

From the other group’s presentations, I found a section expedition of particular interest. Explorers traveling to remote parts of the world, with only the supplies they carry with them to keep them alive. It got me thinking about the bear essentials needed to make a cup of tea.


Climbers drinking tea on everest

Over the next few weeks I plan to do further research on the cultures of china and japan because I found their interpretation of tea drinking the most engaging. I also want to look at the British East India Company and their role in the tea trade. By the next blog posting I would like to have identified some design ideas and to have started testing these ideas in the workshops.

Suck It And See

i have thought about my agenda for working and have settled upon this – my work needs to have a function or effect  – to clarify the function or effect need not always be its central role but still has to be present .

since the last post i have been to the metal workshop where i was intrigued by rolling metal until the point it started to flake apart . building on my glass blown bottle train of thought from last post i attempted to use soldering and twisting to create a cylinder that could become the neck of a bottle. during the soldering i found that when copper is quenched but not added to the pickle bath it left an interesting array of colours because of the coppers reaction with the solder . instead of buying new materials for these tests i chose to use pieces from the scrap bin , I found this process interesting in itself – odd shapes and cut marks that became part of the process while constructing tests , it posed an intuiting challenge .



in the ceramic workshop had the chance to experiment with a range different clays and was surprised by how different ones react under the same manipulation . carrying over the bottle theme I used a of wooden dole and built the clay around it to make a cylinder that could be the neck of a bottle

I had a strike of inspiration and used the laser cutter to create two bottles , one from vertical slices and one from horizontal slices to mimic the blown glass bottles this became the basis for my next set of ideas that were recreating the blown glass bottle shape of a long neck and rounded body in all the workshops I had been to .


I did research into glass bottles and jars attempting to identify the key elements that are important for a bottle or jar . the first question was why is glass used for these objects and not another material ?, the answer seemed fairly obvious – glass is used because of its transparency allowing a person to see the contents . this put an interesting twist to my plans because it meant to be an effective bottle glass needed to be involved to let the contents be shown . the second question was how important is a label ? this was a little harder to answer – in the commercial market the label is everything , eye-catching , informative and even instructive – on a personal level a label is less important ( if its even needed at all ) because the user will know the contents . i settled on the latte option as all these bottles would be one offs .





I have enjoyed this project as it has allowed me to get familiar with all the workshops and helped me feel more relaxed in the working environment. over the past week I have noticed a measurable improvement in my skills that i hope to keep building on in the future .




The cylinder effect

the digital workshop last week showed me the potential of using computers for aiding work. the level of precision possible is incredible and would help my work as my measuring ability needs improvement .

during the workshop I created a spiral laser cut section in a test piece of 3 mm MDF  . while other people were looking at the sample they were always drawn to the spiral section. Noticing this I plan to test out a range of spirals and see if I can find it a useful application for it

the progress review helped to identify points that need improvement in my work . the most important was the need to bring my own agenda to the project . over the next couple of weeks i will focus on what thinking about what my real agenda for making is so by the next blog posting my agenda will be clear .


wood workshop this week with Joe Hartley was insightful as I am not familiar with wood as a material  . I practised riveting and got the hang of it after blocking the machine numerous times . I used the riveting technique to create a long cuboid using 48 rivets . realising this was a large amount of materials and time going into one test peace I cut it into two matching cubes that could now be experimented on in different ways .it worked really well to start with a basic form and change it in different ways . Perhaps in the future it would be good practice to produce multiple forms then experiment on each one individually ?

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played around with tension seeing if it was possible to attach two object without invasive gluing or cutting . After much experimentation I eventually created this  object that is more of a curio that people assign their own function to . it’s quite interesting to see people pick it up and figure out their own use for it .this whole session enlightened my view of wood as a material . potential for a line of investigation making object with a deliberately ambiguous use so the user decides

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I have become really charmed by a small blown glass bottle I made in the glass workshop . using  the advice given in the tutorial session , I have done extensive research into long necked glass bottles and contemporary glass makers . I intend to explore the possibilities of creating small bottles in all the workshops I have been to and all the ones to come . 

Everything we do is driven by cuboids.

The initial paper cube making session used the parameters of a basic form and challenged me to take it to the boundary of what was possible. Naturally as the first artistically testing thing post summer it took a few tries to get the hang of it.  The most interesting thing from this session was the individual response to the brief varied so much between people as they dealt with it in their own way.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAMy set of three cubes



During the group cube making session it illuminated the effective uses of subtlety within work that up until this point has been a concept that has eluded me.



Sequential thinking session Highlighted that ideas don’t need to start complex, in fact the inverse is more practical. Starting with a key idea and evolving it can leave you with a developmental history of an object and a clear pathway of thought process leading to the current design.  Giving you ideas more clarity when communicating to others.

The first of the rotational workshop sessions in glass this week banished all preconceived ideas of glass as a material. From my time in the glass workshop I have received the impression that glass is only dangerous when not treated with the respect it deserves. After tuition in cutting, gluing and sandblasting techniques separately I wanted to explore the effect of using all three techniques in combination.SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Glass is a material where precision and timing matters. In the past I have been made aware that precision is not a strong suit of mine so I took it as a personal challenge to construct a box from glass using the techniques I had learned, taking extra care with precise cutting and measuring to ensure that all the components of the box aligned perfectly.


I also tested to see what effect sand blasting text into glass gave for a later comparison with the laser engraving processes.


From the first group tutorial session and seminar sessions I have realized how important having a sketchbook is to me. For storage of ideas and inspiration without it I am lost to fleeting thoughts that stroll in and out without reflection. Having realized what an important role a sketchbook takes and that (with exception) books are cuboid in shape, my first ideas are based around exploring book construction using different methods and materials.  I was informed at the first group tutorial that this weekend the 8th Manchester Artists’ Book Fair was taking place in the Holden gallery so I thought it would be prudent to have a look at practicing contemporary bookmakers seeing how they interpret books.

While at the book fair today I came across a book artist called Michelle Holland who makes books using ceramics topped with glass found on the beach.  She informed me that she now uses a piece of Perspex for the back cover because when she used to make both covers from ceramic people were afraid of putting them down and damaging the book.

Michelle Holland’s blog – http://michellesaxon1.blogspot.co.uk/p/art-book-craft.html


Cube, cuboid, cylinder


Does a cube have to have 6 sides? How many different ways can the sides be joined? Can you sit on it / wear it / play with it / eat it? Can you climb inside it or place it on your fingernail? Can it be flat packed? Is it a one-off or a multiple? Can you see through it? Or hear something inside? Can a cylinder have a function? What happens if you play with the height / diameter ratio? Or add texture? Or change the interior space? Or the thickness of the edge?……