It is possible to forget a lot in seven years, especially if, during those years, you have been a carer, lost a fortune, broken both arms, had cancer, surgery, builders, hospital stays and more surgery.
My life is one long round of wild excitement. It has been up and down, and also down and further down but throughout all the changes there has been one constant.
Making miniature porcelain dolls of my own design and devising.
It has been seven years since I fired the kiln. Thanks to the building work everything necessary was moved several times. I found, as you read last time, that I could remember how to pour porcelain. After that all I needed was the stuff for rubbing down and the kiln book to find out how long I cooked things for and how exactly I did that.
I have four kiln books. These are exercise books in which, from the start, I have recorded every firing, to keep track of the degradation of the kiln elements, which only last so many firings before they have to be replaced. I am now on to the third book for the first kiln. In the second book, and on the cover, was the information necessary to remedy the ministrations of the last kiln refurbisher, who put the temperature dial on upside down. In the first kiln book was the recording of the very first firing, prior to the first show I ever did. The first firing was March 28th 1993. Which means that I will have been making dolls for thirty years by Spring Miniatura. I have not been exhibiting at Miniatura for thirty years because I tried a few lesser shows first to see if I was up to spec. The standard for Miniatura is very high, artisans from all over the world exhibit and, no matter who they are, their work has to undergo examination by committee to see if they reach the standard.
When I recall the dolls I was making thirty years ago, I am amazed I passed the test. There is no doubt about it, if you want to be good at something, thirty years practising is helpful. I have learned more than I have forgotten, which amazes me. Once you get into it you can remember what it takes.
It takes a week to rub down four days’ worth of pouring, I rediscovered. Though I had forgotten how cold you get sitting very still for hours on end rubbing gently to make items the size of garden peas, or smaller, perfectly smooth and beautiful. I had forgotten how it feels to wear a mask with proper filters so you don’t give yourself silicosis. I was surprised to find finger stalls in the rubdown box and couldn’t remember why I had tiny twist drills.
The finger stalls are to stop a finger on each hand disintegrating dryly and putting blood all over your work. The twist drills are to rub down the inside of the holes in the hollow limbs so the stringing material doesn’t snag. I had also forgotten the feeling of achievement at seeing this.
and also this
Three shelves very full of numerous doll parts. They have been fired to bisque and are now ready for a glaze firing. In the third picture you can see that the doll heads appear to have pink eyes and you may be able to see pink toe nails and finger nails.
What I had forgotten about glazing is that if you leave your bottle of glaze for seven years, when you come back to it there will be a solid pink rock in the bottle that will take you an hour and a half to grind down to a powder and mix back to a liquid glaze.
So the kiln is on for the second firing, which may be about five hours, and tomorrow I will be ready to find out what I have forgotten about china painting.
The most important feature of those three shelves, is that I am back. I am back to being me. Life has thrown a lot at me but I am still myself. Myself with bits missing and scars added but still me.
There is a lot to be said for finding something that interests you and sticking at it until you can do it well. It never gave me financial reward because I never charged enough (I now realise.) I charged what I thought the dolls were worth (at the beginning when they were really not very good) and left the prices the same up until now, when I am arguably the only person in the world who can make these dolls from my own moulds from my own sculptures and I do think now, they are good.
And I love them because they gave me myself.