Saturday, April 22, 2017

Takatalvi and Curling

Easter was last weekend and while the snow has melted, it was still really chilly to be looking for eggs first thing in the morning. The Easter Bunny hid them a bit early the night before so the boiled eggs were frozen. My egg salad breakfast had to wait while they defrosted and some were inedible due to a change in texture. But the kids had fun and found tons. 

The cold snaps and snow flurries we will continue to get right into May is called takatalvi - a return to winter. Sad that they even need a term for it, but I'm taking advantage of to add a quick mention of another winter-ish activity I recently joined.

Curling. A Scottish sport in Finland. Invented to be played on frozen lochs, it is perfectly suited to Finland. I'm lucky to have a curling hall local to me, but I didn't even realise until the British Women's Association (BWA) organised a taster lesson this week with the Oulunkylän Curlinghalli. Sorry the site is in Finnish, but you can do a 2 hour lesson for up to 10 people for €170. I'm guessing the hall is open all year long, but I can't find anything on the website to confirm. If you look at the Facebook page, it also looks like they have a teen group.

I didn't know what to expect or what to wear, so I'll warn anyone considering trying this, the hall is cold. Wear thick soled comfortable shoes and warm layers. You spend a lot of time standing on the ice not moving much, so you will feel the cold. 

That said, it was fun. I wasn't particularly good. My first attempt at pushing the stone, I fell flat on my stomach, but my technique improved. We had a instructor who taught us the basics and the rules and then showed us how to play a game and then left us to it. 

It's not a strenuous sport, but you feel that postion the next morning. My thighs are still aching 2 days later. I have bad knees but they weren't bothered.

Practicing our sweeping.

In two hours we managed to learn the game and play 4 sets (I'm not sure of the terminology). My team won 3-1 and I even scored one of those points by clinging on to the edge of the blue circle while everyone else got knocked out. 

Our group enjoyed it so much there's talk of doing it again. If you're local to Helsinki, it's worth looking into the BWA. They organise monthly coffee get-togethers and other social and cultural acitivites like curling, museum visits, trips to other towns. It's a great way to meet new people and get to know Finland a bit better. There is no longer any requirement to be British, so all women are welcome. 

Come and join us. Happy Spring!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pottery Daze without the Glaze - NiiloVilla Studio

Occasionally I manage to get a bit of grown-up time to try something new and I like to share my discoveries. This weekend was a treat as I visited NiiloVilla Studio Ceramics in Espoo and learned how to hand-build a pottery bowl. Again it was my knitting group that hooked me up with this activity, certain members are a wealth of information and I thank them. 

The studio is run by Suzanne and while she usually runs workshops for hand-building in clay for children around the city, she has recently branched out to working with adults and to making bowls. This workshop was specifically for yarn bowls, but not all of us went this route as the process is the same other large bowls. It doesn't use a pottery wheel though NilloVilla does run workshops to learn this technique as well. 

The workshop included Suzanne, myself and 3 other women in a nice cozy space where we could spread out our work but were still close enough to chat and get to know each other. Suzanne taught us how to roll clay snakes to make the body of the bowl, smooth them out and then how to create a foot or, in one case, feet to support our bowls. And then we were given free rein to decorate the outside of our bowl. 


I decided to not make a yarn bowl as I tend to crochet out and about rather than at home, so I wanted to just make a regular bowl. I first considered using leaves to imprint the outer surface, but my leaves didn't have prominent enough veins so I ended up using a cookie cutter to make tiny leaves to grace the upper lip of the bowl and then stamped lines from one of my poems about falling leaves onto the sides. 

We then took a break to pick our glazes. It was really quite difficult to narrow it down as there are so many cool colours and effects I'd love to try. An excuse to come again, I guess. The pots need to be fired before the glaze is added so Suzanne will order in our glazes and we will return in about a month to finish our pots. Then they'll be fired again. It's not a quick process, but it's so much fun to see something you've created evolve from a lump of clay. I'll add more photos from the glazing and of the completed bowls.

Here are the other participant's pieces. It's amazing how everyone went their own direction. The first is a yarn bowl, with the cut-out for the yarn.

Elaborate or simple, they're all amazing and show how individual you can be with the same idea.

Now for the important details. The workshop cost 64€ and the glazes cost about 10€, depending on what you decide on. The workshops are run in English and last around 4 hours for the hand-building and then another 2 at a later date for the glazing. Check the website as other workshop costs will vary.

As I was so engrossed in my work I forgot to take photos until my pot was finished, so all photos are the property of Suzanne and NiiloVilla with the exception of the next one. 

Here's my pot, I added a layer of coloured clay, slip, to help bring out the lettering. It's not perfect, but I'm really excited how well it turned out.

I've also signed the older kids up for a summer workshop with Suzanne where they'll be learning to make a pirate's treasure chest and gold coins. See this post for more info about the kids' experience at their pottery workshop and the final reveal of my bowl.

Check out the website for future workshops. Definitely a fun way to challenge yourself creatively. 
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