Before and after glazing

I always love to unpack a glaze firing! Seeing the culmination of many weeks of work is quite satisfying, the work of course is always BEAUTIFUL, and for comparison I take before and after photos. So here are the latest firing photos:


The difference from flat, pale colours to vibrant and glossy is amazing! The students really have to trust that the colours will turn out as they plan.


I am particularly pleased with the seashell tile above as the student had to work with many different glazes to achieve the combination of colours she wanted.


It is always worth taking a closer look at the finished effects, and I always make sure to quiz the students on what combinations of glazes they used, and encourage them to make note of the successful ones that they will want to replicate in the future.


This shelf has some nice Xmas themed plates


I can see already that this person may want to re-glaze the green on the holly leaves. The great thing about this process is that it isn’t just once off, you can always try glazing and firing again – within limits of course as some glazes do react badly to repeated re-firing.


The circular piece above right has coloured glass melted into different sections, with a hole at one end so that it can hang on the wall. The rectangular piece above left has little squares that were individually painted to create the checkered field of colours – talk about patience and steady hands!

All the plates with the yellow tulips are part of a set. Each one is first drawn onto the plate and then the areas are carefully painted in with the correct glaze.

A close up of some very successful textures.


These 3 bowls used combinations of very runny glazes to great affect. As always the students and I had a debriefing in class to help them understand which glaze combinations worked best and why.


James Hayes


Another St Patrick’s Day win for Signal!

Delighted to announce that Signal Arts Centre has won the award in the 2019 St Patrick’s Day Parade category ‘Best Arts & Entertainment’. It took lots of planning and hard work by the Signal staff and Board members and was worth every minute of effort.

We had loads of fun marching on the day as you can tell from the photos. Our theme this year was chess.


All this couldn’t be possible without the hard work of Kaisa Ypya, Anna O’Rourke, Ruth Feeley and Greg Murray for the costume design.


People from “Trans Greystones” and from the local Bray community marched with us as well, many of them students in various classes run by Signal, to ensure we had all the pieces on the chess board. Loads of happy little black and white pawns!


Also thanks to Greg Mulvaney for the use of his truck to make the float and for driving it too! It gave us a place to display all the artwork made by the various classes specifically for the parade.



It was a long day but at the end of it we were all in high spirits and sure that we had won our category, which it turned out we did! Congratulations to everyone involved!


James Hayes

2019 – New year, new pottery

After the Xmas holidays the participants on the adult ceramics workshops have started the new year with new ideas. One popular item is the humble soap dish.


Of course once one was made everyone had a go! So great to see variations on a theme.


People also had a look at making boxes, and all the things that boxes can be made into. Here a participant is making a butter dish.


A little knick-knack box and an open tray.


A tea-light house and a larger butter dish.


Some more soap dishes, this time made by cutting a rough oval, then cutting and folding the edges up.


Participants are also making time to practice on the wheel.


A heavily textured slab vase


and a “Swiss cheese” slab tea light holder!


It’s been a few weeks of work now, so the kiln is full with dried work ready for bisque firing. I’ll unload it on Thursday and then everyone can get stuck in to glazing. If nothing else everyone on this workshop learns a little patience, as any piece started takes at least a month (and more likely 2 or 3) to complete, what with drying time, firing, glazing, and firing again.


Can’t wait to unload the kiln!

James Hayes

Christmas Fair @ Signal! 11-24 Dec

The Christmas Fair is up and running for the next two weeks at Signal Arts Centre! Follow the happy (and freshly repainted) Santa sign in to find wonderful hand crafted items for sale from local craft merchants and artists.


It was a very busy day on Sunday taking in and cataloging all the craft items for sale in the fair, and now they are all out on display. Big items for that someone special and plenty of small items for all those stocking stuffers and Secret Santas!


A quick walk around the fair revealed plenty of hand made Christmas Tree decorations and hand made chocolates! There is a lovely smell in the gallery from all the candles and hand made soaps.


Of course I am personally delighted to see the wide range of beautiful ceramics for sale this year. Everything from hand painted tiles for kitchen and bathroom, to vases and bowls and platters.


There are lots of hand knitted items, including decorations, tea cozies, hats and scaves.


There are also hand made stuffed toys and felted characters, and even decorations woven from willow!


I have produced for the fair a number of small plates in a wide range of colours with plants leaves imprinted in the middle. These plates can be used for holding a tea spoon and tea bag, for putting down your wooden spoon after stirring the pot on the stove, for presenting olives and capers, or a dipping sauce, or simply as a pretty bit of bling on the hall table.


There is a great selection of hand made soaps, body scrubs and lip balms for that someone on your Christmas list who appreciates what we always called “smellies”.


There are even hand detailed sets of drawers.


With the huge selection of items on sale there is bound to be something just right for your Christmas list. With the fair running right up to and including the 24th, you can start now and getting your shopping done early, or pop in to pick up that last minute gem on Christmas Eve if that is how you roll!

James Hayes

Preparing for Christmas

In the run up to Christmas the ceramics workshop participants are becoming even more prolific than usual! In the past few weeks the kiln has been busy, and it will continue for the next few weeks as the participants glaze work and people from  outside Signal hire the kiln to fire work for Xmas Craft fairs. Here is a load of work ready for bisque firing…

… including some seasonal reindeer figures!

Autumnal Raku Firing

Before the summer break I encouraged the ceramics workshop participants to create new pieces for a raku firing in the Autumn. The workshops recommenced in September, with the raku firing planned for October.


This gave me the time needed to rebuild the kiln. First step, collect an empty oil drum for the outer shell of the kiln.


I cut off the top of the oil drum to create a removable lid. I dismantled the old kiln, which was coming apart anyway and was as a result very inefficient, and reused the ceramic fibre in the new kiln.


Ceramic buttons and nichrome wire to hold the insulating fibre in place.


Once everything was in place, including handles to make it easier to move, I then cut the holes through the ceramic fibre in the lid and at the base where the gas blower goes in.


As people had a tendency to pile any old garbage on top of the old kiln, I made sure to make a cover for the kiln. I hope this works.


On the appointed day at the appointed hour I had the back yard set up for our firing, complete with a gazebo in case the weather turned bad on us. As the day progressed and the weather stayed glorious we eventually took down the gazebo and worked under a clear blue sky.


Since it would take a few hours for the firing we also planned a pot luck lunch, which was varied and delicious and makes the event a very social one.


Ready to start, with an assistant in place to lift the lid on the “smoker”, which is a metal can filled with shredded paper and sawdust.

The ceramic pieces are loaded into the kiln and quickly (45 – 60 minutes) heated to a glowing red heat. At this point they are lifted out of the kiln while hot and subjected to various burning processes in order to create the unique raku effects.

This involves burning objects such as feather and hair on the hot glaze to create black patterns…

… you can also throw sugar at the hot glaze to create random burnt spots!

The still hot pots are lifted into the smoker, where the action of the burning paper and sawdust further highlights in black any interesting surface textures and gets into any cracks in the glaze.

Waiting for the smoker to cool, approx 10 – 15 minutes.

The still hot pots are dipped in water to cool. This stage itself can change the glaze surface dramatically, sometimes creating a shining metallic effect. It is all totally unpredictable and I emphasize to the participants again and again that they must embrace this lack of control and give over to the process-driven results. It is very exciting and freeing.

Some of the beautiful lines created by burning hair!

I am very pleased with all the beautiful pieces created on the day, each one very different from the next both in initial design and in the final outcomes.


It was a fantastic day and I know the participants are already looking forward to the next opportunity to try this unique and ancient process again, hopefully in the spring.

James Hayes

Preparing for Culture Night

Lots of community groups are involved in the upcoming Culture Night for Signal Arts, including Seomra Youth Centre, Little Bray Family Resource & Development Centre (After School Club), Carmona Services, Festina Lente, Bray Lakers, Girls Friday Art, Sunbeam House Services, Sunbeam Bray (Doom Thunder), Sunbeam Eolas, and Dun Laoghaire Rehab Care.  We have chosen a theme and started creating. Can you guess what the theme is?


Culture Night takes place Friday 21th September, 3pm – 9pm. We will be hosting activities  and performances all day from 3pm to 9pm at the Centre.

James Hayes