April 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Before applying to the British Craft Trade Fair, I was told that it would be a very valuable experience, whether I received any orders or not: the experience of exhibiting at such an event, talking to buyers about my pots and the networking opportunities with other makers. Well, the advice proved to be well founded. Not only was it an extremely enjoyable three days and I took some orders (with a couple more arriving via my inbox), but it was great to be part of the community of makers. Everyone, without exception as far as I could see, was incredibly supportive with each other, chatting, buying things from other people and offering advice on any arising technical issues. It was a pleasure to be part of such a friendly, well-organised event.

I enjoyed talking to the other potters about matters ceramic and some of the things we spoke about have occupied my thoughts since. These thoughts coincide with my re-reading David Pye’s ‘The Nature and Art of Workmanship’. It may seem strange for someone endeavouring to make handmade things but when it comes to making my own pots I struggle with the handmade look. I don’t mean in terms of sloppy or unskilled workmanship, I mean the mark of the hand, the trace of the hand. I have an unblemished, ‘perfect’ template that comes from living with and using objects made by a machine. This is my benchmark and it is hard to shift. So, this was part of the conversations we had at the BCTF and I found it quite liberating talking with other makers and seeing and handling their work.

This is an image of a page taken from David Pye’s book. I find it to be an inspirational image, in the context of this conversation, because none of the carved lines that make up the ‘Owl’ are identical, each shows the marks of the chisel. And beautiful marks they are too. You can literally witness the movement of David Pye’s hand as he carves the wood, the surface of which is endlessly moving, stimulating the eye (and if you could touch it, the hand). I love this piece for the overall effect of movement and dynamism, on a macro and micro level.

Exactly the same thing can be said about this tiny guinomi by Phil Rogers (it’s about the size of an egg cup): there is something going on wherever you look or feel. The clay is grogged so as you hold it your fingertips are constantly stimulated; the marks that you see are not of a chisel but of a turning tool; the overall form is symmetrical but within that the nature of the turning has created asymmetry. I am very lucky, as I was given this guinomi today as a birthday present.

The chapter in David Pye’s book that interests me most at the moment is the one titled ‘Diversity’, and these two examples are very good illustrations of Pye’s concept. This relates to form and surface qualities, on both a macro and micro level. Neither of these pieces could have been made by a machine, the hand is visible all over them, and therein lies their beauty.



April 24, 2012 § 5 Comments

Today was my first full(-ish) day in the new workshop and what a joy it was to be working in there. Space, it is a wonderful thing. It is only being in the new workshop that I realise quite how cramped it was in the cellar.

I have put fabric up in the windows to create a little bit of privacy and in the two times that I have worked in there previously I left it up. Today I felt that it would be nice to have some natural light, so I lifted the fabric off one of the windows. My workshop is in the centre of Shipley, so the window looks right onto the street, which meant that passers-by could see me and watch me work.

At first, I was a bit reticent about being ‘exposed’ like that but immediately it was a fantastic experience. The first couple to walk by stopped and asked if they could come in. They were an elderly couple, who volunteered in the charity shop next door. We had a lovely chat. Then three women came in and asked if they could have a go. They also asked if I could make some bowls for them and said that they thought they might be better than the ones in Asda. So many people stopped at the window and every one was smiling. With a bit of lip-reading,  ‘Wow, look at that’ seemed to be a common refrain.

Things being made by hand is not part of most people’s lives, let alone seeing things actually being made. It is unusual to see the production of objects while you are going about doing your daily shopping. To me, this is tremendously exciting. It’s not object making as part of the tourist trail, as exotica, as a curiosity that you bring back from a holiday as a souvenir. This is object making experienced within one’s own community, within an urban community, and it is this visibility that appeals to me. It is the witnessing of the making process that takes away its mystique, that makes it ‘normal’, accessible, a part of people’s everyday lives.

There is the kernel of a plan there – urban workshops, visible workshops, workshops in the heart of the community.


April 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

This is another beautiful video from the Goldmark Gallery. I have posted it on the right in the ‘Video’ section. I love the whole feel of this film, the whiteness of it, the way she talks about pottery, her aesthetic. And I love her kitchen… She spent some time working at Phil Rogers’ pottery in Wales, a potter I admire very much.


April 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Most of the day today was spent putting together the final touches for my stand at the British Craft Trade Fair and going over to Harrogate to set it up. I have borrowed the table and chairs that I am using from a fantastic second hand furniture shop just round the corner in Frizinghall, called Baildon Furniture.

This is my stand. Simple, but clear and clean, I hope.

It was busy with everyone putting their stands together and I had friendly people either side of my stand, so that was really calming.

It starts in earnest tomorrow. I’m looking forward to meeting trade customers and having good conversations. Some orders would be very nice, too…





April 10, 2012 § 4 Comments

It’s been a busy family time these past 10 days or so over Easter, therefore there hasn’t been much done in the workshop. Now, though, with the British Craft Trade Fair fast approaching and my new kiln arriving on Thursday, I need to crack on. So, today has been spent tidying up some details relating to the BCTF, such as organising signage, getting a rubber stamp made of my logo to go on promotional material, making sure that the furniture that I am going to display my pots on actually goes in the car (it does, which is a relief…). And beginning to move my workshop over into the new one.

I opened the door to the new workshop this morning, having not been into it for a week or two (it’s been lying empty while I wait for the kiln), and I couldn’t believe the amount of space. Having been working in a space that is 8′ x 8′ for the past year, to have a workshop space and a separate glazing room is certainly going to be a novelty.

This is what I’ve been in – in my cellar, mixing glazes on the shelf above the wheel and firing pots in the kiln that warms my left buttock. I’m now going to be in here.

I think I’ll take down the screen blocking the window to allow more natural light in. My wheel will go where the clay is in the second picture. And to the left of it will sit a kick wheel, which I have very kindly been offered. More about that when it arrives in a couple of weeks. My ware-shelves will go along the end wall and I need to think about where to put a kneading table. Down the stairs, on the left in the first picture, is going to be the glazing room – kiln to be situated in front of those cupboards.

A water source just there, struts ready to take shelves, surfaces to put pots on, space to stand back without tripping over a wheel or a kiln – I couldn’t be more delighted. And it is all thanks to East Street Arts to whom I am very grateful. They are a company based in Leeds that provide studio space and exhibition opportunities to artists. This space is a disused shop in Shipley and, as a charity, East Street Arts can take it on and instal an artist or maker in it at a much reduced rent. There are a number of disused shops in Shipley and it would be fantastic to have a creative person in each one – that would be an imaginative and dynamic use of the town centre.

So, more moving tomorrow, kiln arriving on Thursday and wheel in on Friday. It’s then head down and making for the Saltaire Arts Trail, which will only be a matter of days away.

If you are in the area and I’m in the workshop, please come and knock on the door; I’d be very happy to offer you a cup of tea. The address is 2 Westgate, Shipley, BD18 3QT.

And, by way of an addendum, thankfully, I seem to have resolved my air bubble issues. A little gentler, softer with the hands and more precision seems to have done the trick. Another reason to be grateful…

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