Wind in the Willows project at Altham St James’ school

One Monday early in July Mel and I set off and found our way to Altham St James C of E Primary School.

Prior to this exciting day I had sketched out a Wind in the Willows design onto 60 tiles to make a picture which is going to be mounted in the School entrance. Each tile was numbered so they could be put back together in the right order.    

 We started off with 37 Juniors divided into work groups to add detail to the more intricate areas surrounding the main Characters, Toad and his hall, Mole and his underground house, Ratty in his boat and river bank house and Badger looking from his burrow. The big Willow tree formed another group and the cheeky/naughty Weasels another. The children instantly drew added details onto the designs, talked about colours to use and how the tiles in their group would fir back together to make a continuous picture.

Here are the Juniors concentrating on the design session

After morning break we got down to the painting after a demo on how to use the special pottery paints. Great care was taken by these children painting the background and adding detail.

Badgers house in progress.    

After lunch we had the Infants in 3 groups; Reception, Year1 and Year 2. By this time I had put the picture back together so they could see what it looked like so far so the little ones understood what it was we were making.

 They were given the tiles with grass or river on so this lead to the discussion of who lived in the river which they could paint and what or who would you find on the grass. So traditionally pottery inspired creatures appeared; finger print pigs and sheep and caterpillars, sponged butterflies and ducks. A lion made a grand appearance quickly followed by a crocodile in the river…. Whilst we had the Wind in the Willows theme after the main characters and their surrounding areas were done we wanted the children to use their imagination and be creative. Who’s to say you can’t have a lion or a crocodile – we were about 100 years ago when the story was written!

The children were brilliant all day and really enjoyed themselves and the staff at the school were so supportive and were itching to have ago themselves.

On returning to the studio we let the tiles dry out and then added details such as river edge and outlines on items painted by the younger painters, just so they weren’t lost or missed in the backgrounds, that’s when we found the penguin apparently on holiday visiting the story! That’s part of my job to open up children’s and adults creative side and nurture it, looking at the finished result which was hard to part with on Tuesday when I delivered it back to school I think we succeeded.

Mr Peter Williams, the Head teacher, was delighted on the painting day and on Tuesday seeing the tiles separately and a few photos of the whole thing was thrilled at the result and cant wait to have the tiles put up on display.


Giggling mini potters and dancing giraffes!

Hi today was the last Mini  Potters session until 2nd September. The children had fun after playing together putting our jigsaw of the world together. This shows us where all the animals in the world live and today we wanted to know where Giraffes live. Our Mini Potters saw that Giraffes live with lions, hippopotamus and Elephants in the big country called Africa.

We had a story called Tall all about a baby monkey trying to be taller by standing on top of other animals until he was so high on the giraffe he fell off – thankfully his mummy was near by and caught him so he did not hurt himself! Phew

Then we made Dancing Giraffes. I was inspired by Maggie who has a craft blog see here at RedTedArt for Maggies version. We missed out the paints as we dont have that much drying time in the session and swopped paint for coloured paper and lots of glue. We had pre made the legs and neck and cut all the bits out for the Mums to be able to help the little ones assemble the giraffes. Once the giraffes were drying with clothes pegs to hold them together whilst they dried , the mini potters set to and painted a pottery giraffe which will be glazed and fired and be ready for collection next week.

The Children arrive from Belarus safely

So the Children from Belarus arrived last Monday and I have only now found time to tell you all about it.  We (My husband and I) were so excited on Monday we had to find ourselves jobs to fill in the time to keep us occupied.

At 1.45pm I dropped him off at the meeting point for those going to collect the children from the airport and I went off to do the food shopping. Shopped via the list and managed to drive off from the supermarket without getting cream for the strawberries! Went to the corner shop and had to be shouted back as I left it on the counter.

Hastily unpacked it all checking the mobile for a text – finally it arrived “arrived safely all well on the way to the welcome tavern” I jumped on the kitchen floor and shocked our cats. An hour until they arrive…. finally I went to the welcome Tavern and was on the way in when I heard a noise and there was the bus, dashed back to the car for the camera and went to meet the children. I tried very hard not to cry but they were running up and hugging me and shouting my name, they had remembered from last year so touching. Then to meet the new children of which there are 4 on their first visit.

Meanwhile Alina the interpreter and our dear friend was still on the bus with the Chairman going through info she needed to pass onto the children. So I was helping the children with cases with the other members until I heard a squeal – my name being shouted out at the top of her voice, we ran to each other and crashed together on the steps hugging for our life, looking at each others faces and hugging more. Oblivious of those around us looking at us and laughing. My husband said we were like 2 kids in the school yard screeching and very comical apparently, but I don’t care. We have Alina and 14 wonderful children here for a month to help there health, have fun and increase their education.

We eventually got Alina to our home at 7pm after she had handed the children over to the host families and translated any necessary info to the children. Of course we chatted all night catching up from where we left off on our last email and seeing photos of our families. A late night but so worth it.

 Tuesday I was out with the children all day helping with the visit to Windmill animal farm, Check up at the dentist (some work needed) and fun afternoon in Avenham Park with bats and balls on the play park near the Boulevard. Such joy to see them playing in the sun enjoying our clean air and settling in together for a month of good fun.

 I’m looking forward to my other days out with the children and great times with Alina on a weekend.

Today I am excited, Tomorrow I will burst!

So I woke up this morning, stirred a bit and shouted ” They are coming tomorrow and so is Alina!” , good job my husband was awake. His reply was ” Are you sure because for months you have said oh they are coming soon and they havent appeared!” “Yes I am sure, tomorrow is the tomorrow they are arriving” I said. I felt so EXCITED, I scrunched my self up and wiggled about with a grin the width of my face.

So its tomorrow, Monday 21st June 2010 at 3.15pm ish to be precise, our 14 children will arrive from Belarus where they live in the chernobyl radiation affected areas, ( read my previous post for more info). Most will leave home tonight and board a train just after midnight with a parent to make the journey to Minsk airport to fly to us tomorrow afternoon, a journey of 8 hours of more for some just to get to the plane! ‘Our’ Alina will meet them at the airport.

Alina is a wonderful person, who this time last year was just a name; lady aged 24, called Alina who would be staying with us and being the parent guardian to the children while they stay with our groups families for a month. We were excited that the children were coming and a bit nervous about having an adult staying with us who we had never met, not even a picture.

This year its different, we are still totally excited, pleased, releaved even( see last post on here) that they are coming. Will they have grown? How is their health? Will they be happy to see us? Will the 3 new children to the group be ok and settle in with their host families quickly? These are questions running through our heads. This last year has been a hard year to raise the £12,000 we need to fund this trip for the children but we have managed.

Then there is Alina, she became a life long friend last year and we have been in email contact and some phone calls over the last year. She volunteers with the charity Medicine and Chernobyl as an interpreter to travel with the children, to look after them, to interpret for them during their stay ( they speak russian- such a difficult language to learn). When she went home last year our house felt empty with out her and it’s like not seeing your best friend for far too long. We made her bed and cleaned her room this morning then I came to work. So glad to be at work today – takes my mind off the EXCITMENT.

Tomorrow we will be cats on hot bricks and fit to BURST with EXCITMENT, my husband is going with the coach and some volunteers to collect the children and Alina and I will busy myself getting ready for their arrival. I would only flood the airport if I went to collect them – its still recovering from my tears burst last year!

So I’m off to busy myself now 26 hours until they land in Manchester, I want them here but I don’t want their visit to speed by.

So to our little Belarusian angels; safe journey, good health and we will welcome you with open arms, hugs and love with radiation free air, water and food tomorrow. To Alina, good luck getting 14 young children through the check in, the security checks and on to the plane tomorrow all by your self. X X

Tears of great sadness and joy

This Blog is not about my pottery studio or what we do but about me and what I do in my spare time. I volunteer with a local Charity group called Medicine & Chernobyl UK South Ribble group, I am also the fund raising coordinator. We collectively aim to raise £12-14,000 per year to bring a group of children from Belarus who live in the radiation affected areas from the nuclear power plant explosion at Chernobyl 24 years ago.

In brief the children live with radiation in the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat this all has an affect on their health from causing very weak immune systems to childhood cancer to cancer in early late 20’s.  I will at some point may be write about their lives or the new found problems with the long term radiation in their lives and what we do to try and help.

We bring over a group of 14 children to stay with the families in our group for a month – it has been proved that living in clean air – yes here in Preston! with clean food and water it cleanses their bodies and boosts their immune system greatly. After living here for one month, instead of getting pneumonia in the winter they will just get a cold like we tend to do. Also it gives them a better chance to fight against cancer when it strikes. There are hundreds of similar groups throughout the UK and Europe that do this work bringing thousands of children into a safe environment for a month each year.

 So over the last year our group have been madly fund raising which has been harder than normal with the credit crunch still about, but we have managed it and the children are due to arrive on Monday 21st of June.

This time last week disaster struck, we were told 4 of our children would not be coming because the UK Border control had changed the immigration rules and had not told any one (they don’t have to because they have such power it seems) that as of 22nd May this year all Host family members (who the children stay with) have to have a CRB less than 3 years old. Some of our families were just over this and the charity’s rule was to renew every 5 yrs as CRB’s have no expiry date! On hearing this news we cried uncontrollably; you get attached to these children when they live with you or you see them during the week on outings etc knowing that their being here is helping their health and will make a difference to their lives; knowing that their life at home is often without parents (future Blog post I think), or in an orphanage or without running water, heating, or flushing loo, the thought that 4 of our group were not coming through no real fault of ours was too much to comprehend.  The 4 affected have been coming along time and I have been involved for 5 years so I know them all well. I shouted “ its not fair, they need to come to stay to be healthy, who do the Border control think they are?” in my rage. I wanted to run to London and bang on the door of No. 10 and shout sort it out, you have no idea what you are doing to these children! In reality the UK Border control have a duty to the safety of the children but at the time their reasons weren’t foremost in our mind. The years the children have been coming for gives continuous support to their immune system – what would a years break do to all that hard work on their well being and health? I kept crying with anger whilst driving to work, at work, just everywhere really,the devastation was so great I had never experienced this other than family death that’s the only way I can describe it really. Your heart being wrenched out and feeling rage at the lack of control you have of the situation.

For 4 days other Chernobyl organisations and ours lobbied MP’s and parliament, they got to meet with some Ministers in London and finally they listened and a Minister with power (I don’t know who, but I and our group will be grateful as long as I live to them) over turned the UK Border control agencies rule for this summer. Oh the joy, oh the tears, the floods of tears and boxes of tissues I and others went thro. I was at work when I heard and stood crying at my counter in my studio with customers already in and some arriving. It took a while for me to calm down and explain, when I did they needed tissues too! I wasn’t ashamed of my tears I love these children dearly and I am proud of the work our charity does to try and give them a better chance in life by giving them better health.

So on Monday, FIVE DAYS TIME we will be welcoming our children back, 12 from last year and before that and 2 new ones going to 2 new families in our group. My husband and I host the interpreter/parent guardian to the children during their travel and visit, we have been told this will be Alina who came last year, (We daren’t take anything for granted until we see her at the airport but are still making plans of where we will go with her on her days off) an amazing young lady and one who became our life long friend without a doubt during her stay last year. She lives in a lower radiation area to the children – however it’s not a level which we would ever want to live in so she gets the benefit of better health too which is fabulous. So as we count down how many days, sleeps, nights, meals until they all hopefully arrive complete and safe and sound– anything to make it be Monday now, I know there will be more tears on Monday – buckets of the them just pure delight to see the children and our Alina. I apologise if it gets a bit soggy under feet in the Walton le Dale area, but I hope you will understand why.

 I’ll let you know how it all goes and if you wish to find out more about what this charity does please visit

Live on Radio painting pottery!

Today found me waking up knowing I was going on BBC Radio Lancashire in the afternoon on the live show with Sean McGinty to talk about my Fired 4 U Blog and pottery painting of course. I felt excited and nervous all at the same time. Once at work I was straight into a Birthday party and then planning what we needed for the Hen party tonight so that took my mind off my radio appearance a bit.

Sean found us listed in the creative bloggers section of  and invited me onto his Saturday afternoon summer show. “Would I please take something for him to paint so he could have a go” he asked.

So off I went this afternoon armed with a large pint size mug, paints and brushes and spare plates and brushes, as of course there’s no sink in the studio to use for washing your painting tools as you go along. I left Mel looking after the studio so I could go out.

Once settled into the recording part of the studio Sean introduced me and Fired 4 U talking about Blog Preston which led us to talk about the Fired 4 U Blog. I am aiming to put articles up on here of varied subjects; telling you what we are up to and showing you how to do different painting techniques.

Painting pottery in an enclosed space with Sean was amusing, a challenge and great fun. His desk in front of the mixing decks (not sure if this is the right word for it) is about 9 inches wide – not much space to balance pot, paint and water right in front of electrical kit! However somehow we managed. Whilst Sean had a music track playing I mixed paint and showed him the first step, this allowed him a head start as time was limited.  Once on air I explained what he had to do and he made a ‘start’ whilst pulling a funny face when the paint ran a bit.

During the next track he quickly painted the handle and was finding it really relaxing and of course then he found it very hard to talk. His right side of the brain had kicked in and that makes it very difficult to talk and do something at the same time. See my Blog post on 11 March 2010 it explains all. If you listen to the replay of the program you’ll hear him almost stop talking – that was so funny to watch.  He had to explain to the listeners he was feeling very mellow and not to worry if all chat stopped!

 Of course we were doing this between Sean making sports announcements, having the jingle on and playing traffic news and of course interviewing me. During the next track he had to choose paint colours and what to use to decorate the mug. Now I had asked him in an email his preferences on colour and what his interests were and got back “oh choose any thing, what ever you think is best” – the worst thing I can be told! It is hard trying to second guess what someone would choose when you have no idea and don’t know them! So Sean chose tangerine as he is from Blackpool (the football strip is tangerine and if you don’t follow football they have just qualified to go up into the premier division). So to match Sean’s ambition as a rising star and Blackpool’s rising success he chose to use the star stamp. I demonstrated how to use this by putting a stamped star on to his mug during another music track, then once live on air again (whilst music is playing on the station we can talk to each other in the studio without the world hearing us) he stamped the stars in and did really well as he was still asking me questions at the same time. The last start just moved a bit so it became the unique bit and a shooting star!

It was good fun this afternoon and great promotion for my Studio, I hope we had lots of listeners. Sean is posting his photo of his mug on Facebook see!/BBCLancashire?ref=search

You can listen to the show for the next week here We were on air at 3.10pm so if you dont want to listen to all the show forward to 3.10pm and listen in

The Biggest hand prints ever

A few weeks ago I took a Call from BBC radio Lancashire – would I go on air and do clay hand prints with Brett Davison on the tea time show? He was covering the news of Anton Du Beke having a fitting a Louis Tussauds at Blackpool and want to create an impression of himself live on air too! So of course I said yes.

I prepared before going by rolling out the clay in advance to make life a bit easier – It took me 2 go’s to roll out a piece of clay big enough as I am so used to doing babies from 7 days upwards – never done an adults and certainly not a lovely man from Yorkshire with big hands! So big infact the clay just fitted on my drying boards with not much to spare.

Brett was a delight to meet and we did great impressions of his hands in the clay. They dried out nicely then I fired them. Brett then came down to the studio so watch me paint them up whilst he interviewed me asking how I got into doing Fired 4 U.  Brett of course got hooked on Fired 4 U and returned to collect his finished hand prints and had his photo taken in the studio holding up his now treasured piece of art.

Here he is!

Listen to BBC Radio Lancashire on Saturday 5th June 3pm and you will hear me talking about this blog and teaching the DJ Sean how to paint pottery live on radio!

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