Tuesday, 31 January 2017

And the winner is............

OK, so.... here are the results.

I started off with 43 entries on 1 January.

Of those 43,  30 participated in the Spot the Difference competition.

Of those 30, 8 found all the differences*

15 people found the words written in the crossword puzzle.

Of those 15, 6 found all the differences too.

So I had SIX correct entries!

Thank you so much to everyone who took the trouble to read my posts over the past 30 days, and spent time on the two competitions.  I will be emailing everyone who found all the differences, and those who completed the puzzle... that's a total of 15 people.... to give them a very special Special Offer 😊

However, Small Dog was initially reluctant to provide her name drawing services.

Me: *brightly* SD... could you come through here please?  There's something I need you to do.....

SD:  Whot?  Hav yue eni ideer whot tym it iss?

Me:  I'm sorry......?

SD: *glancing meaningfully at the clock* Luke at the tym.  Its gonn fyv oh klok.  Ai am offishillie off dewtie.

Me: *cajolingly* Oh come on.... this'll only take a minute.  I really need you.

SD: *warming to her theme* Plus ai havent had mai dinnur yet.  Wurken ovurtym on a emptie stumack... ai doant thinc so.

Me: Hmmm.
*walks into kitchen and retrieves a bag of treats from the cupboard
suddenly, miraculously, Small Dog appears at my feet... all tail-wagging, furry enthusiasm*

Me:  Ah.  You're here.  What were you saying?

SD: Ai mite hav bean a bit hastey.  Ar thoas mai treets purchans?

Me: Lets start this conversation again then shall we?  Could you come through here please?  There's something I need you to do....

SD: Absewlewtlie.  Kno problemo.  Att yure servis.... whot is it?

Me: I need you to pick a name out of this hat.

SD: *nonplussed* Huh.  Is that orl?

Me: Yes, just that.

SD: *enthusiastically*  O. Kai.  Letts do this thing.


Me: *encouragingly* Go on then... pick one out.




Me:  Got one?  Good.  Let me have it then?

SD: *hopefully* Treet???

Me: Oh, OK.  Good girl.  *administers treat* Take your paw off it then......



Me: Right, let's have a look at it.  Ewww... it's a bit wet.

SD *chewing* Nuthen rong with a bitt of dog saleyeva.

Me*sigh* No, I suppose not.

And the winner is......

*drum roll*



Congratulations Clare... get in touch with me with your contact details and I'll send your kits off to you.

* The answers to the Spot the Difference photo..... there were 12, although as one of them was at the very edge of the photo and could have looked as if it wasn't part of the scene, we accepted 11 and 12 as correct answers.


The words hidden in the coloured squares were TOWER HOUSE DOLLS!
Thanks again to everyone who entered.  If you answered either 11 or 12 to the photo competition, and/or correctly identified Tower House Dolls as the hidden words, I will be in touch with you over the next few days.


Monday, 30 January 2017

Day 30 - Tah Dah!!!!

Huzzah! 

The final day of my 30 day blogging challenge.  One post every day for 30 days.  I wasn't quite sure when I started on 1st January if I would be able to stay the course, but here I am.

I feel a bit like one of those marathon runners who collapse across the finishing line, panting from the exertion, legs buckling beneath me.

So pleased to have completed it and thankful to everyone who's cheered me along the way, offering encouragement in the way of comments on posts.

Not to mention those of you who have entered wholeheartedly into my January Giveaway Competition.

There is still time to enter, but you must correctly complete all the tasks to qualify for the final draw, which will be held tomorrow.

To recap, you have to

1. Sign up for email notifications on this blog.
2. Leave a comment on the initial Day 1 blog post HERE
3. Enter the Spot the Difference task on Day 16 HERE
4. Complete the crossword HERE and find the words words hidden in the coloured squares.

Tomorrow afternoon (GMT), Small Dog will help me verify the qualifying entrants, and will personally select the winning name.



Sunday, 29 January 2017

Day 29 - January Giveaway Competition!

So, to recap.

In order to qualify to go into the draw, you must have done the following.

1. Signed up for email notifications on this blog.
2. Commented on the initial Day 1 blog post HERE
3. Entered the Spot the Difference task on Day 16 HERE

And finally..... there's this crossword.  
If you click on the puzzle, it should enlarge, but if you find it difficult to read just let me know and I'll email you the PDF file.

All the answers can be found in the last month's blog posts.
When you have completed the puzzle, take all the letters from the pink-coloured squares and re-arrange them to form something very close to my heart. 

*Hint - it's more than one word

Simple eh?

The deadline for entries is Tuesday 31 January.  

The names of everyone who has qualified will be put in a hat and Small Dog, in her official capacity as Hedd of Markitten and Komewnikashun will draw the winning name, who will receive this bumper set of kits! 


Good Luck!!!!!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Day 28 - String 'em up...!

Phew..... finally on the final lap of the dollmaking process, and although it's also fiddly and time-consuming I can at least take comfort in the fact I'm on downhill slope towards the fun, creative stuff.

The final stage in the dollmaking process is attaching arms and legs to the various bodies in a process called stringing.

When I first started dollmaking, back in the mists of time, I used fine wire for stringing, but it was never ideal.  It was difficult to manipulate and no matter how tightly I attached the limbs, they would droop and hang limply.  Also the cut end of the wires would regularly catch on clothing.

I really wanted my little dolls to be able to hold a pose, so the hunt was on for a better way to string.  After a period of trial and error, I devised a method which is just perfect.  It's relatively unobtrusive and the limbs will stay in position when posed.

I can't divulge exactly how I do it (I am allowed some secrets!) but it involves a special elastic and some homemade tools.

Seven years ago I posted about the special elastic, and the fact that it was being discontinued. Fortunately I have found an alternative which, although not quite as perfect as the original, is still very good.

The stringing process is both time-consuming and relatively mindless.   Over time the mechanical, repetitive motions become calming and soothing.  

Thread, pull, tie, cut, pull, tie, seal.
Thread, pull, tie, cut, pull, tie, seal
Thread, pull, tie, cut, pull, tie, seal




However, when enough dolls have been strung, that's usually the cue for shenanigans to begin.....




Invariably, Smallest Small Dog and her best friends Archimedes the rat and Peter Rabbit arrive to join the hilarity.


Peter struggles to understand the rules of Hide & Seek

Archimedes loves amateur operatics and entertains the company with a selection of arias.
I'll be stringing off and on over the coming week till every little doll and toy has been reunited with their limbs.

So there you have it.... an entire month of dollmaking.

I'm nearing the end of my blogging challenge, and the end of the January Giveaway Competition is also in sight.

Just one more task to complete before the draw on Tuesday......  😁

Friday, 27 January 2017

Day 27 - Blog post revisited......


So.

Only three days left of my blogging challenge, and just as with the doll casting marathon of the past three weeks, I'm definitely starting to flag.

But.  Serendipity.

A 'memory' popped into my FB feed this morning which was simply too good not to share.

I first did the 30 day blog challenge back in January 2015, and it's relevance to today is stunning.

However, for it to make sense, I'll have to go back two years and 2 days, when I posted this 

Day 25 - Errrmmmm.....


It had to happen eventually.

I've hit the 'blog wall'


Having just spent 20 minutes starting at my laptop screen, getting nowhere, I have to admit defeat.

So here's a haiku.....

It seems a lost hope
Thoughts and words escape me now.
Buggrit, oh buggrit.


However, next morning, my blogging muse had returned......

Day 26 - With a little help from my friend......


Scene - Sandra's desk in the office.  Her laptop is unattended while she's in the workroom.
Enter Small Dog, at a trot.  Breaking stride she leaps up onto the empty chair, and sits, looking at the computer screen, the germ of an idea forming in her furry little head.



A few minutes later, a tapping noise can be heard, which Sandra eventually decides to investigate.....

SD: (typing) * Helo.  This is Small Dog. Aparentlie mai mumm mukked up hur blogg challinj  yestirdai and sumwun sujestid that ai help hur owt so heer ai... 

Me: (from the doorway) Excuse me!  

SD:(turning slowly) O..... Hai


Me: What ARE you doing?

SD:  Helpen.

Me:  ?

SD:  Yue kno.... with yure bloggurs blok.  Shimmrin pros and stuff.  Ai am rytin it.


Me:  Down.

SD:  O but muurrrmmmm....... this is kawld showen inishyativ.....

Me:  DOWN! Now.

SD: (jumping down sulkily) *muttr, grumbul* wel thats the larst tym aym helpen yue, so DOANT wurri *skowl* emploiyea of the munth * mone, winj* kno gratitewd......


I sit down and stare at the screen......

Stuk with bloggurs blok
Kno problemo sais Small Dog
Ai am heer to hellp....

Noises off :  *muttr, sie* this is orl the thancs ai gett...... bluddie hai kews....doant kno what orl the fus is abowt.  Sum peepul have kno imajinashun *grumbl, snuffel*

Haiku dog is sad
All her help to no avail
She lies there and sulks....

*with sincere apologies to Blogger spellcheck, which is having a lie down in a darkened room*

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Day 26 - Is it only Thursday....?

Phew...... it's been a l-o-n-g week.

Actually, come to think of it, it's been a l-o-n-g few weeks.  Practically the whole of January has been consumed with the technical side of making dolls.

The casting, the firing, the soft cleaning, the firing, the china painting, the firing... repeat.

But as I'm reaching the final stages I can look forward to the best, most enjoyably creative part.... costuming and wigging.

So, this evening I'm allowing myself some downtime to plan.......

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Day 25 - All the King's horses.....

The photo I posted yesterday of the china painted dolls and toys in the kiln, ready for firing, prompted the following comment from Esther..

"I was wondering what that somewhat bulbous thing with the two protrusions was. At first I thought it mght be a snail but now I see. It's Humpty-Dumpty!"

I have a rather strained relationship with Humpty.  As one of the porcelain toys in my Alice in Wonderland range he is immensely popular, and when he's complete he does look lovely.

But.... He's a right royal pain in the hoohah, is Humpty Dumpty.  

He has spindly little legs and teeny, weeny ineffectual T Rex arms and no matter how carefully I try to fettle his seam lines,  holding my breath and barely even touching the fragile soft-fired greenware, inevitably one of his legs will ping off, usually just as I'm on the last nano-millimetre.

If there were a market for one legged Humpties I'd be a shoe-in.



*sigh*

I find myself muttering...... "Please, PLEASE don't break.  Don't break.  ohpleasedon'tbreak. Just. One. More. Tiny...... *ping*  OH BUGGRIT!!!"

Not only do his legs fall off at the drop of a hat, but during the initial casting stage, his egg-shaped body tends to retain liquid slip, which blocks the stringing holes.  In addition, he has spindly little arms , which are also a nightmare to soft-clean, as either the top of the arm, just above the stringing hole will snap off, or his hand will break at the wrist.

It doesn't help that he has a a smug, supercilious smile on his fat, egghead face.  He seems to mock me.

"Well, well, well (he has a high, cracked, nasal voice)..... so you couldn't even manage to clean me up for firing without knocking one of my legs off?!  That's just great.  Fine and dandy. Call yourself a 'dollmaker'?  Pshaw and tush."

He has a fine line in sarcasm and can continue in this vein for some time......

The urge to pummel him into his constituent porcelain atoms is almost irresistible, and I can't say that I haven't occasionally succumbed to an uncharacteristically violent (although extremely satisfying) act of retribution.

What can I say?  I plead mitigating circumstances. I was driven to it.

I managed to successfully cast four of the whiny little buggers and before I embarked on soft cleaning them they were all lying together in the tray.  Plotting and sniggering.  Sniggering and plotting.

I can't say I'm surprised at his nursery rhyme fate.  I don't think he fell off that wall.... I'm convinced he was pushed.  There was probably a queue of potential pushers.  With all the King's horses and all the King's men jostling for position.

And as for putting him back together again.  Forget it!

I can completely empathise with the frustration which must have been felt by all the king's horses and all the king's men.  Although quite how the horses were expected to help with the re-assembly escapes me. Quite honestly, I'd have pushed him off the wall myself, just for the satisfaction of seeing him shatter into a zillion pieces, knowing full well that putting him back together again was an impossible task.  This is borne out by the fact that after my most recent casting sessions, I now have a small box full of assorted broken Humpty bits.... feet legs and arms, plus one body which cracked while soaking in the water.  Out of the four castings, only two made it through to china painting.

He regularly drives me to barely suppressed Humpty Dumpty rage.  He makes me sooooooo MAD!  Sometimes I could quite easily punch him in his smug, superior, supercilious, smirking face.......






Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Day 24 - China painting.....

No prizes for guessing what I've been doing all day today and yesterday.

*deep, heartfelt sigh*

China painting is the stage in the dollmaking process when things start to get interesting.
The transformation of blank bisque faces is always a bit of an adventure.  No two dolls will ever look quite the same, even allowing for different eye colours.

The slightest change in the angle of brush when painting lips can create a smile, smirk, pout, moue, sneer, grimace or scowl.
Similarly, the merest alteration in eyebrow lines can indicate surprise, concentration, worry, delight.

Also, getting both sides of the lips symmetrical is a challenge, even working under a magnifying lamp.

Every time I start china painting I have to allow time to 'get my eye in'... to get a feel for the brushes.  Invariably, starting out, I'm too heavy handed, so I have to practice for a while to find just the right lightness of touch.  Fortunately I can practice paint as many dolls as necessary in order to get in to the zone, as I can simply wash the paint off and start again.

Once in the zone, it makes sense to stay there.  If I get up and go to make myself a cup of tea, when I get back to my desk it will take several minutes for my eyes to readjust again, and to regain my painting rhythm.



Yesterday and today I've been carrying out the longest, most time-consuming first painting.... cheeks, lips, pupils, and eyebrows.

They're now all done, loaded into the kiln and set to fire for china paint, up to 675 degrees Celcius.


Tomorrow I will add further detail, refine the lips and eyebrows and add the black gloss pupils and they will be fired again.

A third china paint firing will take place on Thursday if further details/refinements are required.

While the firings are taking place I'll be making a start on the small selection of trial Frankendolls, which I made using toy animal heads and doll bodies.  I want to be able to create shading and gradations of colour on the animal heads, so I will use acrylic paint instead of china paint, which is the preferred painting method for porcelain dolls.

Looking forward to dressing these tiny animal dolls!

It seems an age since that first day of casting, several weeks ago.  I am soooooo looking forward to finishing this whole batch of dolls, although when the paint firings are finally completed there is yet another stage to go before they can be dressed.

Is it any wonder I only embark on a batch of casting three or four times a year....?

*sheesh*


Monday, 23 January 2017

Day 23 - China painting prep....

With just 7 days left in my 30 Day Blog Challenge, time is running out to complete my dollmaking journey.  With luck and a modicum of hard work, I might get it finished.... fingers crossed.

So, today I unloaded the kiln, which had bisque fired on Friday.


Kiln shelf filled with tiny limbs

Bottom kiln shelf with heads and torsos
After I've sorted all the pieces, it's time for the next stage, grit scrubbing.

If you thought casting and soft-cleaning were bad there's still one more horrible dollmaking task.  But grit scrubbing is only marginally better, in that it's quicker and less messy than either of those.



When the bisque fired pieces come out of the kiln, they feel rough and grainy to the touch. In order for the china paint to adhere properly to the bisque, it's necessary to polish the porcelain, so that it has a silky smooth finish.  

So, I use a special porcelain grit scrubber to polish each and every piece of porcelain, then brush off the dust with a soft, flat brush.

It's time consuming, but unlike casting and soft cleaning, it doesn't require particularly gentle handling, as the fired bisque porcelain is hard and can't be damaged.  Unless I drop it on the floor, in which case there's a good chance it will shatter into a billion tiny shards.

Quickly followed by swearing.  Lots of swearing.



This is my china painting box which has lots of different compartments in the lid for my vials of china paint.  I use special dollmaking china paints, which are supplied in powder form.  As I use such tiny amounts, some of these vials are the very first I bought, 30 years ago!  They require care in handling, as they contain lead, which is a potent neurotoxin, so I have to be careful not to ingest them, either by inhalation or accidental transfer to food or drink.



Inside the box..more china paints, and two pots of media, which are added to the powders to make them liquid.

Back in the day, I used to use oil based media for mixing my paints, but they gave off fumes during firing, and I had to use special spirit based liquid to clean my brushes.
Nowadays I use water based media, which are less toxic, much easier to use and I can wash my brushes in water.

One is an area medium, which allows the paint to flow and cover areas such as the cheeks and body.  The other is a fine line medium, which will hold a very line and the paint won't spread.  This is used for eyebrows, lid lines, lip lines etc.
When the media are added to a small amount of china paint powder, they have to be carefully ground and mixed to make a very smooth, creamy paste, just the right consistency for painting.



My paint palette, which looks a bit messy but contains gradations of lots of different colours. As the paints will never dry out, I store my mixed colours in a palette with a lid, which keeps dust and debris out.
In the left hand section are the cheek blush and lip colours, portions of which are mixed with either area or fine line media.
The middle section has a spectrum of eye colours.... blue, blue-green, blue-grey, green, grey, lavender, jade.
The right hand section has brown and hazel for eye colours, as well as brown, blonde, copper and black, for eyebrows, lid lines and lashes.
The small rectangular section at the back right has black gloss, for eye pupils.

After grit scrubbing I sort out the dolls into blocks of 10 so that I can easily ensure the correct number of different eye colours in this batch.



Another vital piece of equipment, my magnifying lamp.  The circular daylight bulb is essential for gauging colour.



Finally, my brush pot, which has soft mop brushes for buffing cheeks and bodies, and very, very fine brushes for facial details.

Tomorrow.... first china painting *phew*

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Day 22 - China Painting....

Having managed to complete all the soft cleaning last week, and carry out a bisque firing on Friday, I now find myself in the enviable position of being slightly ahead of the posse for once.

So, this coming week, I will be mostly china painting... adding facial features to all the little dolls and toys.

I will write a more detailed post as I'm actually doing it, but basically there will be another 2-3 firings this week, each one after a specific stage of the china painting.  Unlike normal paints, china paints don't dry until they have been fired.  This makes them very durable, as the paint is literally fired onto the surface of the porcelain, similar to glazes.

However, as they don't air dry, it's impossible to add colour on top of existing colour unless it has been fired.

My own painting schedule depend on the style of dolls, but for most of my tiny dolls it goes like this.

First paint firing - cheeks, body blush, lips, iris,  eye dots, eyebrows

Second firing - cheeks, lip details, pupils,  lid lines and lashes, eyebrow details

I sometimes proceed to a third firing if additional details are required, eye highlights, eye dots etc.

I'll take photos and give more detail as I go along.... the complete schedule of paint firing will take around 4-5 days in total.

It's beginning to feel as if it might never end.....


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Day 21 - The enigma code...

Warning.... contains political views which may not accord with yours! 😉

Reactions to my enigmatic post yesterday were varied... ranging from concern to empathy.  

In a way, all of the comments were correct.  I did do a bisque firing yesterday, which is always a tad worrying.  I had set the kiln to switch on in the early hours of yesterday morning, so that it would complete around lunchtime, which it did.

I wasn't able to open it till this morning... opening the lid after a bisque firing is always trepidatious, but thankfully, it had executed a perfect firing.

So, huge sigh of relief.

But that was only part of the story.  This week has seen a series of momentous events in the wider world, outside my cosy little miniature bubble.

Firstly, Brexit.  Or to be more accurate Hard Brexit.  Since last June, we've all been wandering around in the dark, waiting to hear details of the Grand Plan.  Turns out there was no Grand Plan.  Not even an ordinary plan.  No plan at all.  

We keep being told that the vote was the will of the British people, as though everyone had voted to leave, when in fact it was just over half.  It's no wonder then that just under half of the people who bothered to vote have been worried and scared about what the future holds.

Looking forward, exiting the EU will mean that businesses who trade with EU countries will have a new layer of bureaucracy to navigate.  At the moment I don't have to complete customs declarations every time I send a package to an EU country, and the recipient doesn't have to pay any import tax.  It's clean and simple.  But that will all change in two year's time.

Brexit has also had an impact on the value of the £pound.  The supplies that I currently regularly buy from the US are already much more expensive due to the low value of the £pound against the $dollar.  Conversely, this disparity makes UK goods much better value for US customers as they get more 'bang for their buck'.

So that's the first thing.  

Then there's all the bad stuff going on in the world.... Syria, Ukraine, The Gambia, fundamentalist fanaticism and the rise of nationalism.  Not to mention the threats of Russian internet hacking and expansionism.

Which neatly brings me to the US, and their new President.

Love him or loathe him, he is undeniably a divisive maverick.  He is replacing one elite with another.  I struggle to understand what dispossessed blue-collar workers living in run-down rust belt areas think they have in common with a billionaire businessman who lives in a gilded tower, but they have blind faith that he will make their lives better.  

However, I fear for those who will fall by the wayside and slip between the widening cracks. Those who don't conform to the all-American ideal.  Immigrants, Muslims, LGBT, Mexicans, even Women....  it's a long, growing list!

But Britain and America, have chosen their path, and now we all just have to buckle up and get on with it.

Doesn't mean we have to like or agree with it though.....







Thursday, 19 January 2017

Day 19.... Working from home


There are pros and cons to working from home.

For example, my morning commute takes all of 20 seconds and my travel expenses are zero.
But keeping 'work' and 'life' separate, and in balance, is next to impossible.  

I can't remember the last time I didn't do any work at all at a weekend.  But if I want to take a day off during the week, I can, in the knowledge that I can catch up by working later for the next few days, or putting in an extra day over the weekend.

I can roll out of bed and be at work in less than 5 minutes flat, and that includes making a cup of tea. 
I can wear the same thing three days running without shame.



I can decide what I want to do and when.
But I will inevitably still be 'working' at 9pm.... dealing with enquiries and paperwork, packaging orders or doing research.

I don't have to make small talk with anyone and there's no office politics... unless you count Small Dog's endless quest for the 'Employee of the Month' award.
However, there's nobody to check that I'm doing what I should be doing, so procrastination is a constant threat.


And it's easy to lost track of time and focus on one thing for too long, to the detriment of everything else.



So, like I said, swings and roundabouts. But all in all, I wouldn't change it for the world!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Day 18 - Bisque firing

I'm currently still mired in soft-cleaning hell, but in a week's time, when it's all done and dusted, it will be time for the next stage - bisque firing.

This is the most critical part of the dollmaking process, during which the soft-fired, relatively fragile castings are vitrified into porcelain.

The vitrification process literally melts the molecules in the greenware so that they fuse together, forming a strong, impermeable material with the properties of porcelain.  

During this high-temperature firing, each piece shrinks by up to 10%, so careful loading of the kiln is very important.  I  first place a thin layer of firing sand on each shelf.  This serves two purposes.  Firstly the pieces can be slightly embedded in the sand which stops them rolling around, and secondly, as the pieces shrink during firing, they may 'grab' onto the shelf. The sand acts like millions of tiny ball bearings, moving under the pieces to prevent them sticking.

This can take some time!  Several hours is needed to place each tiny piece in place on the shelves as every single piece must be placed carefully on the sand, not touching its neighbours.

When the kiln is fully loaded, I set the programmer for a high-temperature porcelain firing. The programme varies according to how full the kiln is, the type of porcelain being fired (different flesh tones require slightly different firing schedules), and the age of the kiln elements.  Over time the elements deteriorate and the firing time gradually lengthens.  Eventually they will struggle to reach the top temperature, taking longer and longer to achieve a full bisque firing.  At that point it's time to replace them.


I replaced the elements on my kiln six months ago, and this firing will be only the second full bisque firing since then so I have had to adjust the schedule to take into account the speedier firing time.

As it reaches the top temperature (1200-1215 degrees Celsius) the firing chamber glows white hot.  It's possible to see this through the gap between lid and kiln chamber.


I keep a close eye on things as the kiln nears the end of the firing, checking every 15 minutes to see the final few degrees temperature rise then the soak time, where the top temperature is maintained for a set period to fully mature the porcelain.


My last few bisque firings took 6 hours.  Before I changed the elements a bisque firing was lasting 10-12 hours.  Once the firing is complete the programmer displays 'END' and switches off.  The temperature falls slowly over many hours.  I usually leave the kiln for at least 12 hours, by which time the internal temperature should be low enough to open the lid and check the firing.  If the lid is opened too soon, cold air rushes in to come in contact with the hot porcelain causing thermal shock.  This has never happened to me (thank goodness) but I understand that it is quite spectacular, as the porcelain pieces shatter, scattering like shrapnel, and possibly causing serious injuries.  One of the main advantages of my kiln is that even when the kiln is off, the internal temperature shows on the controller, so I always know exactly how hot it is.


However that is not always the case.

An underfire happens when the top temperature required to vitrify and mature the porcelain hasn't been reached.  As a result the porcelain has a chalky look and feels rough to the touch.
This is disappointing but not disastrous, as it can be re-fired to maturity.

An overfire however, is irrevocably catastrophic.  The porcelain will look shiny, often with tiny bubbles all over the surface.  Any flesh tones will have fired out to leave a ghostly look.
In the worst cases, the castings will completely collapse.

In order to avoid both of the above scenarios I keep a careful record of each firing, adjusting and fine-tuning subsequent firings as necessary.

As I said, I'm hoping that by next week I will be through the tunnel of soft-cleaning and able to bisque fire my latest batch of castings.

After that, it will be time for the next stage...... china painting.