Creations in clay

The great thing about the ceramics class (I believe) is that once the basic building techniques are understood there is lots of room for creativity and imagination. Case in point, last week I showed my class (and Gill’s as I was covering for her while she is on holidays) how to build very organic vases using rolled slabs. They jumped on this idea and ran with it! I am always delighted and impressed with the broad range of work that can be created given the same set of instructions. They followed up my basic ideas by also rolling various textures, flowers and leaves into the clay.


Another bit of work that goes on in the background is reclaiming the many half full or almost empty bags of clay, putting like with like, and rejuvenating clay that has gone dry.


James Hayes


Ceramics, hard work and presentation.

The ceramics area of Signal Arts Centre is an ongoing project that many of the staff and the classes make the most of. Aside from the adult classes that Gill and I are running on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons the room and facilities are also used by visiting youth groups (facilitated by Michelle Fullam and Greg Murray), the various art classes (kids art, Carmona, Rehab, Sunbeam and Purple House), and can be hired by individuals outside Signal. This means that there is a need for up-to-date stock of the materials (clays and glazes) and ongoing servicing of the equipment.

We like to think that the official face presented by Signal is the reality and that everything is smooth sailing, but to achieve that face takes a lot of hard work and not everything goes according to plan… When someone hires the kiln usually everything turns out fine, but on one recent occasion the glazes used did not agree with the kiln! The artist involved told us the temperature to fire to, but they must have got a detail wrong on the glaze spec sheet because the glazes ran and stuck the pots to the kiln shelves. This meant that the pots had to be chipped off the shelf and then I had to grind back the left over shards of ceramic and glaze.


Before anyone points out the obvious, yes this wouldn’t happen if the shelf had kiln wash on it. That is my next priority, as aside from this unprepared shelf, most of the other shelves need a fresh coating of kiln wash.

On a more positive note, with the recent visit of the Pride of Place judging panel we gave the ceramics room (and all of Signal) a good clean and I set up examples of student work to show the judges. I included examples from each stage of the process, from un-fired clay to bisque fired clay to the finished high fired and glazed pieces.


I took the opportunity to document how the backyard can look when it is all clean and organized.


A lot of people from the various community groups that Signal is involved with showed up for the Pride of Place judging panel, to show their support and to give testimonials.


I thought the Pride of Place day went very well and we have high hopes that we may win an award for Signal. Fingers crossed!

James Hayes

Chair-Up Buttercup!

Greetings from Signal Arts Centre! Staff Artist Emma Fitzgerald is here to take you on a blog post journey through her recent garden decor related exertions.

Consider the chair below. Consider the scratches, discoloration and stains which besmirch it’s once smart and functional appearance. This chair has seen better days but all is not lost; with some gloss paint and elbow grease the chair can attain visual glory once again…

besmirched by time

Yellow ducklings, fresh buttercups, a host of golden dandelions… the application of yellow gloss paint to the chair has succeeded in brightening it’s surface and its effect on my mood! When the main plastic bodies of the chairs are dry I will come back and gently sand-paper the legs and then paint the legs with gloss. There is a choice of blue and rose pink to paint the legs with. Please feel welcome to indicate your preference in the comment section below.

buttercup hello!

The chairs pictured below have had the complete make-over already, the colours are bitter chocolate on the plastic seat and spray can white on the legs. The red chair was painted using a spray can. Between using spray paint and gloss from a tin, I found that using a paintbrush and applying paint from a tin gave the best results in terms of time, cost and finished look.


bitter chocolate and passionate crimson

Watch out for the chairs next time you visit us at Signal Arts Centre!

best wishes and thanks for reading,


Pride of Place prep work

Signal Arts Centre has been nominated for the “Pride of Place” award, an all-island competition that acknowledges the work that communities are doing all over the island of Ireland. A group of judges will be visiting Signal in the next week or so, so we are getting various presentations ready to show them our work in the local community groups of Bray, as well as giving the place a good tidy! Today Margaret and Gill were busy rotating the display of the student artwork which showcases the work we do with local groups, children, people with special needs, and adults.


James Hayes

Sad news

Signal is not just a building, a gallery space or a place for art classes, it is also a collection of creative people and it is those people who make Signal so very special.  As such it is with a deep sadness that I inform you all of the sudden loss of Jim Morrison.  Jim was the foundation stone of Signal Arts Centre since it’s creation and inception in 1990.

Everyone here at Signal is a bit shell shocked by the news, and the phone has been ringing (I am sitting on gallery duty today and am answering those calls) from Jim’s friends calling, and people walking in to the gallery who end up sharing stories.

James Nolan, our digital media go-to man was looking for images of Jim in our archives and managed to capture this lovely photo from a video of the culture night 2016, which really captures Jim, his humour, energy, and his love of Signal and the arts.


I have known Jim for about 20 years now through Signal Arts, and Bray Arts Club, and the nights I would bump into him at BIFE (we both taught night classes there) and as parents waiting outside Gaelscoil Uí Chéadaigh. I have only been working at Signal again since March (time flies!) and I felt that I was getting to know Jim again, reintroduced so to speak.

Jim was regularly here in Signal, mostly because of his duties as a board member but just as often just for the chat. He was picking my brains just a few weeks ago with regard to mould making, because he had carved a chess set that he was very proud of and he was thinking about reproducing it. We had a good long discussion over tea about the various options available and I was looking forward to seeing the chess set. I am now experiencing a strong sense of disbelief, as I fully expect Jim to walk through the gallery door at any moment.

He will be greatly missed by all friends of Signal Arts and all of the Signal Staff, both past and present. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the Morrison family.

Further information will be posted on the Signal Arts Facebook page as it becomes available, and you can find some information on the RIP deaths notices pages.

James Hayes

Developing Community Arts Practice – Training

For the past 5 weeks a group of us here at Signal have been doing training on Fridays. It is a course run by the Kildare Wicklow Enterprise Training Board (KWETB) entitled “Developing Community Arts Practice”. The course tutor is Aoife Patterson, a former Signal Arts Centre employee, and she really knows her stuff!

It has been a long time since I last undertook formal education. I am constantly up-skilling myself through reading, online courses, YouTube videos, and undertaking self-driven projects to learn new skills. This is a different kettle of fish altogether but I am enjoying it and learning lots of new concepts that are very relevant to my own practice.


Sitting through a lecture can get tiring, so Aoife breaks up the process with “ice breakers” and “energisers”. Ice breakers are usually at the start of the session, a simple exercise to get us thinking creatively and to begin interacting with one another.


A lot of the lectures also end with brain storming sessions where we are broken up into groups to discuss ideas and issues that were raised during the class, focusing on one specific topic such as creativity, or types of groups, etc.


As the lectures can be quite long, they are broken up with “energisers” which are small tasks that get us thinking creatively again, to get our energy levels up with a bit of insight or most often with a bit of a laugh!


That last one involved blowing ink around on a page using a straw, and then writing a Haiku poem (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) inspired by the ink or the action. Fun and got us thinking verbally as well as visually!

James Hayes

Ceramics, 6th and final week this session

Last week I showed you this photo of the tiles with the glazes on, waiting to be fired.


This week when we arrived for the class (I am assisting Gill this week) we got to see our finished products, and I must say that I am delighted!! Especially with the tile on the lower right. They all show details to a greater or lesser extent, but with that tile I was very careful to wipe off any excess glaze with a sponge to reveal some of the pattern below.


We laid out all the student work so they could identify their pieces.


The green which we thought was a glaze turned out to be an oxide, which is a different creature altogether! As a result, those who had used it needed to apply an extra layer of transparent glaze to retain the colour, as the oxide is not very stable on its own and tends to brush off. From what I know about oxides, ideally you put them on to highlight texture and as such wipe off any excess before adding an over glaze.


The students could now begin assembling their “fish” project that they had been working on with Gill. They had created a fish head and a tail and a series of pinch pots with central holes. These are strung onto a sturdy string along with beads to act as spacers.


The result is an interesting hanging ceramic sculpture, which looks lovely in the sunshine and makes small tinkling sounds as it moves in breezes.


Another ceramic tile, showing a fantastic variety of colours and textures.


One of the student boxes. She had been worried that the scratch line details would be lost under the glaze and was delighted to see them revealed again after the firing. She wiped a metallic glaze into the scratch marks and then over-glazed with a colour called Norwegian Blue, the same one that I used on 2 of my tiles. The random results of this blue glaze are fantastic and really bring the pottery to life!