I feel very fortunate having to travel to a beautiful country like Sri Lanka once a year, and this year I left at the end of April for a week long trip to see how our new products are getting on in the production process, and also take a few new models along as well. I was accompanied by my Mum this year, we had 6 days there in total and spent 4 nights in Colombo and 2 nights having a break on the south coast near Galle.
For those who don't know Sri Lanka is a relatively small island, it is 270 miles high and 140 miles wide, it is stunningly beautiful, with the odd bit of craziness!
The factory who make our ceramics is based in the outskirts of Colombo, so we tend to stay there for a few days to acclimatise (it's over 80% humidity at present, and about 30-32 degrees, so hot and sweaty!) The hotel where I stay is on the coast and has a beautiful view out to sea, fringed by palm trees, with a pool to cool off and crows and squirrels for company! It's a great place to unwind and adjust, and was featured in the film 'Bridge Over the River Kwai', many years ago.
Here is a crow on our balcony, taking no notice of the string intended to stop it from perching there!
We spent the weekend lounging and getting over the 10.5 hour flight, indulging in the buffet and going into town to look around. I always visit a shop called Barefoot as it has a great cafe garden and does live music on Sunday afternoon. We lunch and had a beer to cool us down!
The shop has a good book shop with all sorts of coffee table books on Sri Lankan homes, and particularly books on the architect Geoffrey Bawa, who has created some amazing buildings and hotels there, I love drooling over these!
There's a beautiful owl sculpture on the bar I covet too
After our weekend break I had a factory visit to take care on Monday, leaving Mum to lounge by the pool with her sketchbook!
On arrival I am straight into meetings to discuss our new designs, and I then had a good look around and took lots of pictures and some video of all aspects of our designs in production, from casting and cleaning-up the raw clay items, to under-glaze painting, glazing and application of decals, I photograph our new Fish salt and peppers in crates and Flamingo egg cups being taken out of moulds. It's fascinating watching how they work and it was great to see our products all over the factory, we are now their third biggest customer!
I am given a table to work at on this trip, as I had some modeling to do, this has really sped-up the process, as if I do it in Bristol, I then have to make moulds and cast models in plaster to post out here, and it takes me ages.
They treat me like a princess and put a fan in front of me, as it’s pretty warm, here's Mum at my desk on Tuesday. It’s a lovely big airy space to work in, much better than my small desk at home in my studio! A very kind guy behind me keeps handing me tools as he watches what I am doing, and sees he has a better one for the job! Whilst I am here, I model a Swan egg cup, Toucan salt and peppers, and Tiger salt and peppers. So there’s lots of new products now in production, and they should be here for Christmas!
I also had to make some decisions on other aspects whilst I was here, checking the progress of I a new larger mug, and also a pasta bowl to add to the range of shapes we offer.
Here is Rohan modelling the new large mug handle. He is the main sculptor in the studio who works on my designs for me.
Krishanthi applying the fish spots and eyes on our new salt and pepper shakers. She is their most skilled decal decorator, these are tricky to apply due to the curved shape.
This is what the peacock egg cups look like when they come out of the mould, they are cast in 2 parts, the crest being joined-on afterwards. They will then go on to be fettled (remove the seam marks) and sponged and then will be ready for the bisquit firing.
Here Dileeka is cutting the slot for the coins in our Cat money boxes.
We love eating in the factory canteen, their vegetarian curry is delicious, we have a go at eating with our hands, and apparently we get rated by the other workers in there, highly amused at how bad we are at it! The workers get subsidised meals in the canteen, just one of the many perks they get here.
Dip-glazing the cat egg cups
Hashini is glazing the Flamingo egg cups, they have to have their bottoms wiped before they go in the kiln, or they stick to the shelf!
All in all, I spent two and a half days in the factory. We also had a couple of days on the south of Sri Lanka near a place called Unawatuna, we stayed inland up a steep hill and had the best views out to see and of the lush jungle all around. We have seen all sorts of wildlife over the years, and I never fail to get totally over-excited by the creatures you spot. This time we had black Langur Monkeys to keep us company in the trees above where we were staying, and land monitor lizards crawling around the garden. At the local beach bar you can see giant turtles bobbing-up for air every now and then. The exotic birdsong, and tropical plants made this place feel like paradise. I could have stayed here for weeks! Here’s the link.
The beautiful pool, with mango tree.
The black Langur Monkeys
One of my favourite spots, drinking a beer at Wijaya beach and watching the turtles come up for air!
Heading back to Colombo for our last night, I gradually adjusted to the reality of heading home, I’m always sad to leave this place, my head full of fantasies of having a house here one day, with a garden full of lush tropical plants, and a tuk tuk to pootle about in! Not that I would like to drive on these roads, they have their own style here, and it’s not for the faint-hearted! We made so much progress during this visit, I have decided I need to go more often, so I’m looking at October/November now, and this helps ease the sadness!