Seaweed pinch pot

Seaweed pinch pot

Friday, 10 April 2015

making whorls

Something other than pots! Last year I was approached by the lovely Rebecca of Needle & Spindle about the possibility of making some ceramic spindle whorls. Spindle whorls?  These intriguing little objects are something straight out of ancient history - they were/are used for spinning yarn. Rebecca is an amazing spinner and knitter with a keen interest in ancient technologies (check out this blog entry of her's to get the picture). 

I didn't know a thing about spindle whorls when Rebecca approached me about this but a few google searches (specifically on viking whorls, at Rebecca's direction) gave me the picture and I set to making some. They were a pleasure to make and it was a delight to be part of what seemed like a project from another era. 

Rebecca is a generous and eloquent blogger and she wrote a couple of blog post about that batch of whorls, and took some lovely images - check them out here and here. I especially loved the second post in which she details how she took the whorls bush camping and fashioned a shaft out of bracken and proceeded to spin her yarn and then dye it with leaves, all while camping! Now that's true low-tech ingenuity. 

This week I've been making a new batch of whorls because there were a few things I think I didn't get right the first time ... so I thought I'd share the process.


First I form the basic shape, flattening small balls of clay by pinching

Making the hole. This is the part I felt I didn't get right last time... I waited until the discs were leather hard and opened up a hole with a drill-bit - the result was holes that were not as smooth as I would like and probably not big enough for the shaft to fit in some cases. This time I made the hole with a pencil in soft clay and worked on creating a smooth and tapering shape that will hopefully be more practical fitting a shaft to.

At leather hard stage I smoothed the surface a little, ready for carving the designs.

The freshly carved designs, inspired by Victorian flora

This shot shows the profile of one of the whorls - I imagine the decorated, slightly concave side of the whorl facing upward when in use, and the extra thickness underneath should help with the spin (I think? or maybe just help with the stable attachment to the shaft).

Rebecca put me on to this book (found in the local library) which gave me some insights into how whorl shapes affect the spinning... because I don't spin myself I'm still not confident my whorls are great for spinning with, but it's been a fun thing to learn about!

This batch isn't finished yet... they will be bisque fired then oxides will be brushed on and rubbed back before firing again. You can see the ones from last year in Rebecca's afore-mentioned blog posts though... and while you're there do check out some of her other posts - they are always a delight! (here: Needle & Spindle)

3 comments:

  1. Oh my oh my, these are stunning! It is so interesting seeing the stages of making of these little gems. You are a dark horse quietly experimenting away! Nina, you are amazing. So glad you got excited by the whorls.

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  2. Oh my oh my, these are stunning! It is so interesting seeing the stages of making of these little gems. You are a dark horse quietly experimenting away! Nina, you are amazing. So glad you got excited by the whorls.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Rebecca :-) They are going into the bisque kiln this week... they'll be heading your way once they've had their second firing! Thanks for introducing me to whorls, and for being such an appreciative patron of my work - it's lovely.

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