Signal Arts Centre is closed while the status red weather warning is in effect. I hope you are all safe and sound, and warmly bundled up at home.


The wind is picking up, the temperature is dropping, and the footpaths are treacherous!


It is picturesque none the less seeing “blankets” and “pillows” of snow around the place. I personally will be relieved when it is gone.


A little teaser of our St Patrick’s Day float, safely stowed away on the back stage.


Since I had walked down to Signal before we got the news of the closure,  I went ahead with my plan to put on a bisque firing for the adult ceramics class.


I have a bit of time to work on the blog as I have to wait until the kiln gets up to temp before I put in the bung, probably by about 3pm.


A rare sight of Bray seafront with ice and snow. Here’s looking forward to spring proper!

James Hayes – p.s. I added share on social media links and a like feature to the blog earlier in the week. In testing we had difficulty with adding comments, so that is next on the to do list. Give it a go and let us know what you think of the blog 🙂

Glaze fired work

As always I am excited to open the kiln after a glaze firing, it feels like Christmas even if I don’t have any work in the kiln myself! I did have a few “tester” pieces, and here is a before-after view so you can see how much the glaze changes during the firing. The tile is testing how the individual colours react when laid over white glaze as compared to when they are on the bisque fired clay surface – they spread quite a LOT into the white glaze. The terracotta bowl is showing how different the colours look on terracotta as opposed to grey clay of the tile – they take on a deeper tone, some really glow whereas others are so much darker that some of the colour is lost. It also shows how the glazes “run” on a vertical surface – not very much but some more than others. My next test I think will be something similar but mixing different colours on the vertical surface, especially white as the glazes really run on the white tile!


Another before and after shot showing a loaded kiln shelf. All the “marbled” pieces had transparent glaze on them to give that impermeable finish – I will show the marbling technique in another blog post so stay tuned! 🙂


What I was REALLY looking forward to from this firing was the ceramic tiles painted by artist Lorraine Whelan. She had done a tester tile before Christmas to see how the colours would look on these commercial tiles (left over from tiling a bathroom) and when she was happy with the results she proceeded to use the glazes to paint floral images. Here is one emerging from the kiln, looks excellent!


Laid out on the table with the other finished pieces.


A closer look. I am really impressed with how well these turned out, I am sure that Lorraine is delighted as well. Can’t wait to see more paintings!


James Hayes

Happy New Year 2018!

The start of a new year has heralded the start of a new ceramics class at Signal – Tuesday afternoons – and it is already fully subscribed! There are three classes running, if you are interested in the classes do call and ask to be put on the waiting list as places do become available from time to time. Also it was from the waiting list that we were able to create the third weekly class.

Yesterday the students were particularly prolific so I just had to share this photo of their work. They were taking turns working on the wheels (two available) practicing throwing techniques and the quality is improving in leaps and bounds. Not pictured is the many practice pots that were recycled back into the bags of clay – I always tell my students that practice is the most important aspect and that they shouldn’t get precious about any one particular pot. I encourage them to work the clay to destruction just to learn the limits of the medium, something I learned from my teachers at art school.


With all this work being created I have to make space on the shelves, so I have been loading the kiln with glazed pieces ready for their final firing.


I have been making some glaze testers to include in the glaze firing. This is to show how the glazes we have in stock will look on the grey clay and the terracotta, how the colours look when they are on bare clay or overlapping the white glaze. With the terracotta bowl I am hoping we will get an indication as to which glazes have a tendency to run more than others. Interesting and unexpected effects can crop up from the combination of glazes, so I will continue with the experiments.


James Hayes

Christmas Craft Fair 2017!

The Christmas Craft Fair is up and running! This wonderful selection of handcrafted items is on display and for sale right up to and including Christmas Eve. The range of items is incredible, clothing and decorations, tasty tidbits and candle holders, artist books and paintings and prints, cards, hats, tea cozies, stockings and stocking stuffers!


As my particular interests are in sculpture and ceramics, I cannot help but notice the diverse and beautiful items of ceramics on sale at very reasonable prices. Terracotta gingerbread men…


… wonderfully thin and colourful porcelain decorations …


… signs of the Zodiac to hang on your tree …


… glass and ceramic artworks for the wall (by a Signal ceramics student) …


… and even artist prints bound with ceramic covers! (Lorraine Whelan limited edition prints)


Some students and former Signal teacher Gill Mac have small sculptural items for sale – I especially love the sheep and the reindeer!


Long time Signal artist and Board member Michelle Fullam has wonderful sculptural tea lights in both figurative and cup forms. There are also a selection of colouful ceramic buttons by Lorraine Whelan.


… and that is just the ceramic work! All in all there is a huge range of items to choose from, all reasonably priced both for the budget conscious and for those willing to splash out on that extra special present. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year 2018!

James Hayes

Ceramics Classes

I am always so pleased when I open the kiln and see the bright colours of the glazed pieces! The ceramics students are so creative, they take the basic techniques they are introduced to and run with them. They take the simple colours available and make the most of the combinations.


One of our new glazes, speckled turquoise, is proving very popular! It is both bright and earthy at the same time, with a nice random element in the flecks of brown.


One student used the simple slab pot technique to create a pot planter,and then decorated it with white, a mixture of red and orange for the large Japanese style sun, and hand painted the flock of birds.


This box planter was also made using the slab technique, and then scratched to create an organic grassy texture.


Another student has taken the pinch pot technique to new heights, creating delightful animal characters.


Another planter, this time intended for succulents that will spill out between the points of the “crown”.


A woven pot which takes full advantage of the “sumatra” glaze, which is mainly brown but turns green where the glaze is thickest.


One of our students is creating tiles with a stained glass window effect. She rolls out a slab, uses coils to create separate areas, and then fills those areas with crushed coloured glass. Since the grey-buff clay fires very white, it shows up the coloured glasses very well. Since glass and ceramics shrink at different rates as they cool, the glass “crackles” (or crazes) but is still strongly bonded to the ceramic backing.


Another student, artist Lorraine Whelan, has been making ceramic tiles to use as covers for a series of hand made artist books. I can’t wait to see the finished books!


What always amazes me is the difference between the look of the unfired glazes and the final product. It takes real imagination to picture in your mind how something will turn out when it is finished, and sometimes it is just a leap of faith! Here they are going in to the kiln …


… and here is the same batch when I opened the kiln after the glaze firing.


Next I am going to be introducing the classes to “sgraffito”.

James Hayes

Culture Night!!

Culture Night was a whirlwind of activity! On the day we had to wait for the rain to clear before we could begin setting up all the artwork outside. In the meantime we prepared for all the various workshops planned for the day. Then we got lucky and the weather improved by about 12:30 and we began hanging artwork in preparation for the public arriving at 3pm.


The whole building and surroundings were decorated with art made by local community groups and the staff artists, and the staff themselves were also decocrated!


Once we opened to the public, we were over run for the rest of the day! Greg and Kaisa were kept busy doing face painting in the main gallery.


Out the front Sean had setup some beautiful mural drawings that children could then colour in, which they did enthusiastically!


Margaret and Ciaran had an installation down the side alley of a forest glade at night that the children could enter and dress up to pretend to be animals. There were stars and fairy lights and sounds to listen to.


I (James Hayes) was kept busy out the front doing a print workshop for children where we took prints off the metal plates set into the foot path.


Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos from the workshops down the back as once we opened to the public we were to busy to leave our station.

In the evening we had two events, starting with a singing workshop by Antonella Di Palo. This turned out to be so much more than I expected! She gave a historical background to the singing, and then led everyone in the dance steps that accompany the traditional song styles. Lots of fun!


Afterwards we had the Zoryanna Tribal Style Belly Dancers! They did a set of 5 dances, including an amazing sword routine. All the dances were of course very impressive with really creative choreography and enthusiasm.


Overall it was a very successful day that drew huge crowds starting at 3 and not dispersing until well after 9pm. Well done everyone!

James Hayes

Final furlong to Culture Night

It has been a very busy past few weeks as the staff at Signal prepare for Culture Night. One of the biggest challenges is finding places to store all the artwork that is being created! Quite a lot of it finds its way into the darkroom…


Today we took delivery of another beautiful piece by one of the local community groups involved (Rehab I am pretty sure), it will look great standing up outside the gallery!


Even the coat rack in the kitchen gets used for storage hahaha!


There is some space out on the “stage” in the backyard, but mostly that is a working space so finished work storage and artworks in progress are overlapping.


Hard to believe it is only a few days away! We will spend Friday morning setting everything up and then the event officially kicks off at 3pm. Drop in and see what we do here at Signal!

James Hayes

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,