Edinburgh Fringe is typically visited for a gluttonous helping of comedy and theatre shows. However, there is much more to the festival than meets the eye. This is no more apparent than Craft Scotland's events that take place each year at the White Stuff on George Street. The schedule put together by the charitable organisation includes Illustrate Your Own Ceramic Object with ceramicist Natalie J Wood. Having graduated a few years back, Natalie's work is slip cast parian from plaster moulds she makes herself in a tiny Edinburgh studio.
Taking a few hours out of the day to create something both decorative and functional in a craft is a wonderful way of keeping the discipline alive.
Before the workshop, I would have had no idea what slip cast parian was, but now I can tell you parian is a kind of clay that gives a marble-like finish. Natalie hands us each one of her stunning pots to illustrate before guiding us through the painting and drawing materials, which include lead-free underglaze paints and underglaze pink-leaded pencils. Although the structure is a science, to which Natalie says, "ceramics is like baking, you need the exact ratios of powder and time in the kiln," the illustrating doesn't need to be anywhere near as exact.
Freehand drawings, everything from hearts to flowers to jungle scenescapes and eyes, are being drawn freehand before paint is carefully applied. To keep a steady hand is a lot harder than it looks. However, the group of six seem to manage it with little to no disasters, and this was down to Natalie's articulate instructions and skill in removing any unwanted paint with a sponge and water. The painted pots are then kiln-fired in her studio and delivered back in a week.
At the end I caught up with the host who left with some sage parting words, reflecting a distinctive expertise and wisdom: "Today it is handy if something has five different uses, especially when you're living in a tiny flat like I am," Natalie added, and I most definitely agree. Taking a few hours out of the day to create something both decorative and functional in a craft, one of the oldest in human history, is a wonderful way of keeping the discipline alive.