Studio Birds

I have slowly gained the trust of the wild cockatiels currently living in my studio. But I doubt they’ll ever behave like the adorable little ‘tiels you see on YouTube.
My birds come from a very disturbed background.They are hard work. But I had a cunning plan. I wanted them to breed and then I would worm my way into the affections of their offspring!
In time I too would have an adorable little ‘tiel sitting on my shoulder, nibbling at my ear!
It all seemed to go to plan. Bo-Bo and Star were singing, courting, mating, nesting…Happy days.

Every night they sleep perched on the curtain rails, and as you can imagine the curtains have become rather grubby over the months. In fact, you can see how messy they are in the pictures. I was going to take them down and burn them.
Well, that was my plan until Bo-Bo started to behave in a rather strange way..


He developed a strong affection, a close bond, with the curtains.
Is it the feel of the velvet? The colour?
Do the curtains understand him in ways his wife does not?
He began to express this over whelming affection vigorously. Obsessively.
Star and I both feel rather bemused. And a tad embarrassed.


I just love the way she is looking at him in this picture.
So! No eggs, folks. No fluffy grand children for me to play with and take to the park…
The bird has developed a kink. I am hoping it is a passing phase.



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Studio view, ceramic plaques

I have obsessively recorded the view from my studio over the last few months, wondering how I could possibly convey in clay what filled my heart with such joy. I’m kind of past the worry of not doing a good job, and just flowing with the joy of creating…stuff.
I wanted the randomness of naked fire on to the work; I found what I made too pretty, too fey. Smoke firing glazed work will often add extra life and depth to the glazes.

So I recently loaded a few tests into my trusty dustbin, filled it with sawdust, dry grass and leaves and lit up.


I just love this bit.


It got rid of the prettiness, all right. Again, a few tiles cracked, but I think I made them too thin.

I’m going to roll with this. I’m out of sawdust at the moment but soon, very soon, there will be another bonfire at Dudley Road studios, Hastings!


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A couple of smoke fired Little Owl sculptures winged their way across the Atlantic today…


Happy landing!

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What is Art?


I made a ceramic plaque once, illustrating a dream, or was it a shamanic journey? to the moon. Either way, it was thoroughly deep and meaningless.  I was in the shape of an owl, and I remember feeling very strange.

owl and moon

Never sold, but much admired. I like it that this very personal object is being re-claimed by the parrots.
Nibbled to bits, in fact.


I always found it so difficult to adhere to this notion of ‘Art’ being separate from daily life.  I like the idea of being able to produce work, but I want to do so anonymously, without big ego and without big money being involved. I would like a daily rate as a crafts person. That would be sweet.
I remember reading about when Picasso and Apollinaire stole the Mona Lisa in 1911 and then couldn’t figure out what to do with it. It think it was stuck in a squat for several years before it was finally returned to the Louvre.. This was before ‘Art’ became big business and Art dealers entered the scene for real.

But I think something was lost when ‘Art’ became part of the money scene. Because art is not , to my mind . created solely by the artist. It is a privilege for some people to be able to keep their ears to the ground and hear the beating heart beneath the dust. Someone whispers sweet nothings in our ear and we go forth and we  make it visible. On a good day, that is.
C. S. Lewis once said ‘there’s only one Creator and we mix’. I believe that is the function of the artist; to mix the archetypical elements and produce something new.
There is a tremendous amount of anonymity involved in that. To see and acknowledge that ‘I’ am nothing but an alchemist, an interpreter, makes leaving  the Ego far behind a necessity.
I see patterns, and I play with them.


Nibble away, my friends.




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Smoke fired Fat Bird sculptures


A clutch of Fat Bird sculptures from the smoke bin.


The bird sculptures look a lot different once they have been cleaned up



The Fat Birds are all around 5 ” tall and about equally wide.


There were also a few Little Owls. They are about 2,5′ tall. I used manganese, copper and red iron oxide to achieve the colours.

To see more please visit my website at

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Ceramic Plaques, smoke firing


I made this ceramic plaque last summer. It is a self portrait with a black dog and a dragon fly . The plaque is made using paper clay. I rather like this medium because you can make really detailed work and you can also add wet clay to dry which is great if you work slowly, or want to change bits around, adding or detracting.


So, I recently glazed this plaque after months of agonizing.

So, that was a bit unnecessary, then.
I decided the best thing to do would be to throw it in with my Fat Birds in the smoke firing bin.


and this morning…

It is a brutal process.

But despite a bit falling off, I think I still prefer my Black Dog smoke fired.
The Fat Birds came out great. I will upload them soon.



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Studio view


Sneezing, coughing  and sipping lemsip, I never the less emptied the kiln this morning. Clutching my head and moaning a lot. Man, I just hate having a cold.


I had fired up overnight, and this is the results of a few weeks work trying to capture the view from my studio window. Plus a few Little Owls and Fat Birds from a commission.
The work is only half finished; some details are glazed, but much remain to be done.  The tiles are tests, mainly, to see what is what.


The tiles to the right are coloured with engobe, which is essentially a clay sludge mixed with mineral oxides. Mainly cobalt and some black stains. I am happy with the colours of some of the clouds.

The tiles to the left are a mixture of glazes and engobes.


The big question is; do I like the red frame? Everything will be thrown into one of my metal dustbins, covered in sawdust and set alight.

smf blog 3

That should shake things up a bit. Smoke firing tend to alter the colours of the ceramics . I have written about that a few times in this blog; here is an example.
The colours often become more glowing and they tend to merge a bit. When the whole thing doesn’t crack and break, of course.

This is a detail of a smoke fired bowl, straight out of the dustbin. I love the sooty deposits.


And here it is cleaned up. It was incredibly orange before the smoke firing – it still is, but less so.
I am talking to myself about the red frame around the view, really. Will it still be too lairy after the barrelling, or will it calm down? Decisions, decisions.


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Airborne Art Critics

I suddenly acquired some Cocatiels a while back – I saw them sitting in a small cage in a dark stuffy room and, well, you know.
Besides, I had seen these compelling ‘tiel  videos on YouTube, the ones where the plucky little creatures play the piano and sing the national anthem while wrestling with the cat.  It had to be done.

When I got them home, they hid in their little nest box for days and refused to budge. Then, when hunger finally drove them out and they felt confident enough to start exploring their new home, they dropped on to the floor of my studio where they ran around like feathered little mice for several days.



They didn’t even know how to fly. Somebody had cut their wings and they lurched and flopped like mutilated bumblebees. But.


Pretty soon they figured out how to make use of all the props in my studio to launch themselves into the air. Here they are sitting on my ceramic torsos. The problem I have with that plot is that they tend to nibble a bit on anything available.


They love clay, it seems. I don’t really mind a lot of the time. But I guess I will have to construct some safe space for my sculpture work to dry out, eventually. At the moment I am busy experimenting, so most of my work gets trashed anyway.


A lot of it by this little fellow, Bo-Bo.


They are settling in, I would say.
And so they need to think to the future. They began to set up home in the curtains, but then re-discovered their nesting box.


Bo-Bo will dive into the box and there will be an awful lot of crashing and banging going on inside it. I do not know what he is up to, but I guess he may be busy putting up shelves or laying down a new floor. What do I know.
Meanwhile, the female will be sitting outside on a perch, screeching at the top of her voice. This bit I can do without – it is ear piercing.
Then, finally, out he pops and she will shoot inside to inspect the new home improvements…. And meanwhile, he is sat on the perch outside the entrance, wolf whistling. I am not making this up. He really knows how to wolf whistle.
But, he never got the box right. Or so it would seem.


So then they discovered a new nest. A biig nest! The biggest nest, ever!
And he is busy biting strips of my shelves to create a lovely warm space inside the bowl. I think his efforts are meeting with her approval.

No eggs as of yet, but who knows what is going on inside the minds of these curious birds?

To see some of my un-nibbled ceramic work, please go to

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Ceramic workshops, two on one


I no longer run big ceramic workshops but I love the smaller one on two or one on one workshops where people come to my studio in Hastings to produce a certain piece of work or just to play a bit with clay.

This weekend Francoise and her mother turned up and we had a really nice time. Here is Francoise making a sculpture of Ganesh.

To book, please contact me at studio at annakeiller dot com. Or here

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Studio view; the worship continues.


So. How do you capture that in clay, then.

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