Thursday, 11 November 2010

Smiling pigs

My little diatribe against self-centred politicians('Strictly' for the birds, 11.11.10) reminded me of John Sergeant's admirable efforts in the same programme some months ago. He knew he was sending himself up and in fact he called himself 'the Dancing Pig'. He was a good sport, we had a good laugh, he was extremely popular, and he then retired gracefully before it all became silly. The clumping Widdecombe obviously believes she's a winner and says she won't retire, but Widdecombe Fair she isn't, so I'll refrain from mentioning the grey mare, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

But back to the subject of jolly pigs:

Here's one I made earlier.

One of the joys of living in the deep Dorset/Somerset countryside is the amazing breadth of talent that lurks in most of the small villages and hamlets. The area is stuffed with active artists, writers, potters, musicians, as well as a liberal share of retired headteachers, diplomats, doctors, dons, ex-colonial officers and assorted intellectuals.

So what's that to do with the pig, I hear you ask. Well, my next-door neighbour is an excellent potter and enamellist with his own kiln. He runs short pottery courses, so I went along to have a go at making a raku pot, or more accurately, a raku pig.

This is an ancient Japanese technique which involves making a clay pig, slicing it in two down the middle, hollowing it out, and then rejoining the two pieces, but leaving a vent for the air to escape as it expands when its in the kiln, otherwise you get an exploded pig and a damaged kiln. The tricky question was where to hide the vent so it wouldn't spoil the smooth contours of my pig. After some discussion we agreed there was only one reasonable place, underneath the curly tail.

The pig was fired in the kiln, glazed and then fired again in a dustbin filled with burning wood-shavings, before being quickly taken out and plunged into cold water, which crackles the glaze, thus producing the attractive crazed raku effect.

All went well, apart from some coughing from the smoke and a few singed eye-brows, but when piggy was plunged into the cold water, his body contracted and his internal gases escaped from the vent with a prolonged sequence of bubbling, noisy farts.

How's that for animation! No wonder he's smiling.