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Norman Yap "normanyapceramics" (London, UK)
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Philips Saeco Intelia Focus HD8751/88 Automatic Bean to Cup Espresso Machine
Philips Saeco Intelia Focus HD8751/88 Automatic Bean to Cup Espresso Machine
Price: £349.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coffee, better but more expensive models available, 6 Jun 2013
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We bought this machine and from day one, it made excellent coffee - great crema, easy to use controls, really really good steamed milk. We now look forward to coffee in a ridiculous way and friends who drop by never fail to praise the coffee. We use Vietnamese coffee beans by the way, the rich chocolate flavour is enhanced by this machine and the flavour is very hard to beat.

Having said all that, the newer models feature self decalcification and that is a big plus. I don't like using chemicals to decalcify and after about 6 weeks, we now need to do this in spite of using bottled water to minimise the build up that London water can cause. I've put an order for the special liquid (can't use any old de calc OF COURSE), and am waiting to get it to do it. Bit of a faff reading the instructions but worth is as the machine is so good. So look up Philips Saeco and see the more expensive model if considering getting one.

So good that it's worth the full price if you don't find a special offer. And the more expensive models cost a good £200 more than this. I still think they're worth serious consideration as the machine and the coffee are really outstanding.


Throwing (New Ceramics)
Throwing (New Ceramics)
by Richard Phethean
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.63

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new edition, refreshed and revitalised, 9 Aug 2012
As a self taught potter, I began my studying by reading textbooks intensely, realising that while I lacked the classroom, the peers and the teachers, I could at least get the theory into my head. A professional potter whose studio I shared mentioned Richard Phethean as a personal favourite of hers so I bought Phethean's first book with the same title and read it from cover to cover several times. It covered the basics and provided advanced projects that looked challenging and developing to the practitioner even if I did not really like the finished pieces.

So I smiled when the review copy of Phethean's new book (same title, different publisher) came out of the envelope, it was like greeting an old friend. The cover is now panelled in cool colours, there is a bowl by Karen Bunting to provide a visual anchor and the font (Rotis Semi Sans)is clean and professional, it was all looking rather promising already.

The structure of the book remains largely similar to his earlier edition but with better, fuller instructions and recommendations. Recycling clay, for example, looks at both entirely manual and pugmill variations, including a good tip for ensuring pugged clay is well mixed by building a long pyramid of pugged strips and then wiring off slices for repugging. The centring, opening and throwing of the basic forms (cylinder, bowl, plate and pitcher) are better illustrated, the photos are more crisp but best of all, there are many images of contemporary potters' work - Chris Keenan, Jane Hamlyn and Jack Doherty to name but three to add an element of encouragement whilst cleverly showing how each potter adds a personal twist or embellishment.

The projects section is still there but is almost unrecognisable because the same device of using the works of other potters to illustrate the advanced skills is very effective as they provide an incentive to master these challenges. Phethean then expands the scope of the book by including a final section on mini profiles of other potters including Simon Carroll, Walter Keeler and a personal hero of mine, Colin Pearson.

My only bugbear is that potters who use different clays know that they vary greatly in texture which affects how you throw them. I have personally found earthenware easiest to throw, followed by stoneware and then porcelain. So when books on throwing are written, they tend to be generic in their approach but by reading between the lines, you can glean which clay is the writer's preferred and in my experience, this can lead to the student mistakenly thinking they can get the same results with another clay if they just follow the same instructions. We need a textbook on throwing porcelain with the same attention to detail, now there's a gap in the market!

This is a good book, it has emerged fresh and smart from an update and deserves a place in your library.

Reproduced by kind permission of London Potters News.


Lucie Rie: Modernist Potter (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)
Lucie Rie: Modernist Potter (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)
by Emmanuel Cooper
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy tribute from another great British potter, 30 Jun 2012
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Emmanuel Cooper was, at the time of writing this biography of one of this country's most significant, most original and also most reclusive of potter artists, already aware of his own life approaching its end. So to put the creation of this tome in context, we could say that Cooper, he an academic, writer, potter, artist, humanitarian, photographer, editor and London Potters president, was setting himself the task of writing the definitive biography of Rie, she a pioneer, an artist of the highest rank, a potter who created a school of urban or studio pottery. Thus in the realisation of his objective, we have two greats of the ceramic world coming together in just under 300 pages of text and photos.

Cooper had a secret weapon in accomplishing this monumental challenge, he had known Rie, he had visited her and watched her at work and his circle included many who were willing to help him compile a dizzying array of facts and historical events around his subject who had spent most of her life avoiding blatant publicity and often surprised even friends with her modesty and humility. He had other tricks up his sleeve too, he was a leader in glaze development and formulation, his forms were severely modernist in their aesthetic and he was a witness to the growth of awareness and excitement that Rie's work generated in the society of collectors and exhibitors, all factors that lent a special empathy to the task at hand.

The book is indeed a deep and detailed account of many aspects of Rie's life, in particular her youth in a troubled Vienna and her subsequent early years in London. Cooper has taken great pains to unearth family relations, her education, marriage to Hans Rie and the parting of the two shortly after their arrival in London. Against this, Cooper has also painted the social backdrop of enormous change in the Austrian political scene which was soon to overwhelm much of Europe as the situation worsened into the inevitable war against fascism.

Once the book reaches the stage of Rie's life and work where fame and fortune begin however, Cooper then retreats mysteriously into discretion. I was surprised to read relatively little about her techniques of making and of firing, certainly there were little hints like using bits of wood in the electric kiln to achieve reduction with some glazes but where he had gone into tremendous detail with her life and training, there was suddenly a paucity of facts and steps in the techniques where the production of the work was concerned. Although he mentions that she made her own porcelain clay and developed glaze recipes which she shared with him, Cooper does not supply any of these in his book. So I looked to his portrayal of Rie who comes across as cautious in her interactions with people, who had a tendency to being introverted and was wary of fame, publicity and talk of prices for a clue as to why Cooper might have refrained from leaving no stones unturned. I therefore suspect that Cooper was respecting her privacy with this distance, a little disappointing perhaps but we can but trust to the better judgement of the writer that this was what Rie might have preferred. He does say that she kept meticulous notes which only serves to highlight the absence of step by step detail in this section of the biography.

The writing is lucid, impeccable in tone and at times piercingly intuitive. My favourite is his description of Rie's work which is fundamentally domestic but belongs in the living room rather than the kitchen. Another is the neatness of her throwing, Cooper recalls that she used so little water and was so precise in her handling that there was no mess either on the floor or on her apron to indicate that she'd actually been in a throwing session. He also injects many vignettes of her personality like her fondness of baking, her generosity to those she valued like the Leaches and the Copers, her gentle humour and her acceptance of her fame so we do get to see some of her life and thinking, albeit from a safe distance. This book is a valuable and significant account of an extraordinary artist, carefully and intelligently written by a pillar of ceramic history and both are much missed.

Reproduced with kind permission by London Potters News.


Handmade in Britain: Contemporary Artisans
Handmade in Britain: Contemporary Artisans
by Suri Piyush
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of British and long may it continue., 16 Mar 2012
Handmade in Britain is the brainchild of Piyush Suri, a textile designer with the vision to create a platform for the arts and craft community in the UK. This platform started off as a series of shows with the same title in which a group of makers have to pass a selection panel in order to show and sell their work. This book was launched last year as a commemorative issue to mark the ongoing success of the shows, the work of makers and of Suri's efforts to bring the quality of British craftsmanship to the attention of the world. So the platform Suri created is gaining momentum and width as it develops and matures and as long as British artisanal work continues to stun and amaze, long may this fine effort continue to prosper.

The photography in the book is very lush, thanks to the talented Matthew Booth who is fast gaining the reputation of being the maker's preferred photographer. The range of work is impressive but so is the quality of each piece. The makers are profiled in a short piece which serves more to provide a glimpse of who they are and what they do rather than an in-depth interview.

This book is testimony to the history, richness, innovation and adaptability of British design, from the eclectic to the traditional. It makes a splendid gift but is also a reference book of what makes British design so very exciting and desirable.


Ceramics: Tools and Techniques for the Contemporary Maker
Ceramics: Tools and Techniques for the Contemporary Maker
by Louisa Taylor
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.00

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential addition to the reference collection, 7 Oct 2011
Books on ceramics are numerous and as the scope of the subject matter is so very wide and varied, the writer has many challenges when setting out to tackle the breadth and depth of the material in a manner that is useful, informative, accurate and most importantly, appealing so you want to return to it again and again. Few books have achieved this, Susan Peterson's The Art and Craft of Clay springs to mind, also her biographies of Shoji Hamada, Lucy Lewis and Maria Martinez and closer to home, Jack Doherty's and Peter Lane's books on porcelain also have the same tone of authority balanced by photos of exemplary work. But books that attempt to capture a fuller picture of ceramic tools and techniques are smaller in number and the excellent ones are even rarer.

Louisa Taylor's book is engaging and captivating from the very start. The photography is simply excellent so just a quick browse through leaves you with an initial visual impression of the content and it looks promising already. As I went through the sections on the second run at a slower pace, it was the scope of the material that came to the forefront and again, I was very impressed by the span of topics covered. Louisa treats each section with a methodical and methodological attention to detail which makes for clear instruction and subsequently a response of gratitude for such precise writing and considerable research. As you go from section to section, you can feel and appreciate the vision and effort required to produce this book which must have required huge reserves of the love of making and even more amounts of commitment to see the project through.

The editing and layout of the book is another area of delight. The graphics are excellent as I said but how the text and illustrations are laid out and the choice of colours for the backgrounds and sections, these all work to create an atmosphere of creativity, of beautiful design and most importantly, of encouragement to the maker regardless of their status, background or reason for reading the book. Another clever aspect of this book is how this vast body of information has been divided into types of techniques and products (tableware, vessel, sculpture etc) and so instantly, a sense of context has been employed to provide a basis for deep instruction and insights from the author. Louisa then profiles contemporary makers in each of these contexts to provide yet more tips and insights from the experts themselves. Although a lot of writers use the profile as a tool to augment the content of their overall book, few have managed to merge the profile with the overall character of the book as well as this one.

Only 2 niggles from me - the bigger one being the odd juxtaposition of clear British English with American spellings. So moulds become molds and the practice of clay becomes the practise which to this reviewer is always a verb and not a noun. I think the publisher should consider releasing a British version as soon as possible. The second query is about Louisa's approach to reduction firing in which she recommends only one firing regime. As a reduction firer myself, I know that different glazes respond to different firing regimes so perhaps this section was a little too focused. But these two observations do not detract from the quality of this publication. It belongs in the hallowed ranks of reference books so get it, do not hesitate at all.

Reproduced with kind permission by London Potters News
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 10, 2012 9:46 AM GMT


Contemporary Porcelain: Materials, Techniques and Expressions
Contemporary Porcelain: Materials, Techniques and Expressions
by Peter Lane
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.70

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative writing, excellent scope, impressive research, 8 April 2011
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For the potter who works in porcelain, there are few books that give an insight into technique, process and inspiration for forms and effects and so when you come across such a tome, you want to treasure it. Peter Lane's book on contemporary porcelain is such a work, it is an insightful, comprehensive and utterly unfailing reference book for the maker and those interested in making.

Lane has gathered the work of many potters and ceramicists who work in porcelain and with subtle images and intelligent writing helps those who also work with this notoriously challenging but intensely satisfying medium to gain a deeper understanding of their own work via a greater mastery over the clay. It is not a technical manual with step by step guides but it does offer genuine insights into the potential forms and how one may achieve this. If you are considering or already work with clay and with porcelain in particular, this book will help you make your decision or will open many doors that might not have been evident to you as to where and how porcelain might fit in with your vision and work.


Alternative Kilns and Firing Techniques (Lark Ceramics Books)
Alternative Kilns and Firing Techniques (Lark Ceramics Books)
by James C. Watkins
Edition: Hardcover

47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good information and tips for the potter moving away from conventional kilns, 19 July 2006
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This book offers a multitude of tips, photos and help with saggar, raku, barrel and pit firings. It also has recipes for glazes, terra sigillata and includes advice on burnishing that is more detailed and sophisticated than other books I have encountered.

I found this book so full of well-written advice and easy to follow steps that it has inspired me to try some of them out. Few books have this effect on people so I would recommend it without reservation.


Maria Callas: The Tigress and the Lamb
Maria Callas: The Tigress and the Lamb
by David Bret
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly brave, 7 Feb 2005
As a hardened Callas fan, I have read many accounts of her life and times and found that the truth is often enhanced for the sake of a good story. This phenomenon was very much present in her life and continued decades after her death in the various writings and accounts of her life and work. In fact, it may even be held that these embellishments on the hard facts may have increased after her death as writers fall back increasingly on surmising issues, rather than researching them. The result is either rather dry accounts of Callas' work and life where the hard facts, dates and quotes are presented or the analytical approach which often strays into fiction.
So it was with great pleasure that I read Bret's book because here is a writer who had the connections, had new information and facts about her life and work and also possesses a writing style that is professional and compelling. The biggest revelation is of course that Callas was a mother and while some of the coverage may be deemed gratuitous by some readers (including photos of the dead baby), it was good to have a writer brave enough to tackle traumatic issues with sensitivity and tact.
Callas was certainly a powerful woman who dominated the lives and minds of many people, such is her charisma that her recordings continue to sell well and books continue to be written about her. If they were as well written as this one, then long may that continue.


The Complete Mushroom Book: The Quiet Hunt
The Complete Mushroom Book: The Quiet Hunt
by Antonio Carluccio
Edition: Hardcover

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Look and learn...., 23 Sep 2004
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In books about picking mushrooms, there are 2 approaches:
- show the good and the bad and have copious notes to explain the two
- show only the good and advise the picker to ignore or discard anything that doesn't appear in the book.

Carluccio picks the former and together with a load of anecdotes and lessons learnt from his decades of probing, sniffing, pinching and brushing, writes a book bursting with intelligent writing, simple but striking recipes and oozing with his personality.

I particularly liked his observations on Mycological Savoir Faire, how not to pick in such a way that it kills off the spores behind it, how to leave even deadly poisonous fungi alone as all fungi have a function in life and so on. If the man wasn't a chef of the highest order, he'd have been a Zen monk.

Get this book, it is great.


Mushroom Picker's Foolproof Field Guide: The Expert Guide to Identifying, Picking and Using Wild Mushrooms
Mushroom Picker's Foolproof Field Guide: The Expert Guide to Identifying, Picking and Using Wild Mushrooms
by Peter Jordan
Edition: Paperback

137 of 145 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knowing what to look for..., 23 Sep 2004
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In books about picking mushrooms, there are 2 approaches:

- show the good and the bad and have copious notes to explain the two
- show only the good and advise the picker to ignore or discard anything that doesn't appear in the book.

Jordan follows the latter and safe as it is, there is always something that makes you want to know about the Dark Side of mycology, just in case you should wander into its temple one day...

Easy recipes, sound advice, safe approach.


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