Monday, 11 October 2010

Ooooop north

Back after a fantastic couple of days away in Manchester and York.

On Thursday, I took a four hour train journey from Exeter to Manchester. Alex met me at the station in Manchester and we made our way by foot to the Museum, where we met up with Steve and John, the cameraman and editor of Hollyford Harvest. I hadn't seen them since our great adventures in Montpellier, back in the Spring, so it was good to catch up with them again.

After lunch, I had a chance to take a look at some of the pots in the museum. They have a good selection of work, including this little North Devon sgrafitto jug, that has inspired much scratching of slip since last time I saw it.

Alex took me for a wander across the city, pointing out some of the beautiful terracotta and glazed tile embellished buildings that were built at the end of the nineteenth century.

The tiles were stunning, pity about the modern window glass mind you!

Ah, that's better.

We went to the University, where Alex showed me the Pairings exhibition, that he recently curated. The show includes some of the collaborative work that he has made with textile artist, Alice Kettle.

While we were there, I got to handle some of the pots in the University's impressive private ceramics collection, including works by Hans Coper - I was very careful while I was holding that one!
That evening we headed off by car to Alex's house, where he and his wife Carol, made me very welcome and comfortable. Oh and we looked at lots more pots of course.

So Friday morning came and we got up early, heading up the foggy motorway to York City Art Gallery and the Honest Pots exhibition. I was feeling rather nervous as we were scheduled to be interviewed by BBC Radio York at 10.30 that morning. In fact the Scottish guy from Coast was at the Museum, so they interviewed him instead and I was relieved.
We had our picture taken for the newspaper, you can see it right here. What you can't tell from this picture is that by accident I packed Hil's trousers and in my tiredness in the morning, hadn't noticed until we'd arrived in York, so I had to spend the day wearing girl's bootcut jeans - look out Grayson Perry.

The show was still being installed as it wasn't officially opening until the next day, but the lady in the picture was there taking a look. As it transpired, she is the widow of John Anderson, who passed away earlier this year. Anderson made the marvellous Isaac Button film, way back in the sixties. Mrs Anderson had provided some of the archive photographs for the show that had been enlarged and hung on the gallery walls. It was interesting to hear her recollections of Isaac Button.
I took a lot of photographs, those of you who are Facebook users, befriend me and you can see them on my Facebook profile. Here are a selection of the pics.

Alex McErlain and Alice Kettle collaborative works, harvest jug and stitched cloth.

Some of my pots in one of the cabinets, with a 17th century cistern and milk churn on the bottom shelf.

My cabinet from another angle. The baluster jug on the top shelf is the one that was purchased by York Museum and Art Gallery a while ago and I hadn't seen it for a couple of years, it was good to see it again and good too that I still like it.

Alex and Helen Walsh, Assistant Curator, Decorative Art, who made a brilliant job of selecting and displaying the pots.

A 17th century large crock, probably, from memory, about 18'' tall.

A 17th century water cistern. There were a few variations of this form in the show, they were clearly commonly used by the citizens of York. All were made at a pottery, by coincidence, named Wedgewood.
Some Isaac Button pots made at Soil Hill Pottery. It was interesting to get a close look at these, as it confirmed my suspicion that the crock I bought recently at the farm sale was indeed a Soil Hill crock.

Some medieval jugs in one of the cabinets. I have photographs of many of these jugs on my workshop ceiling, so I know the pots well, although this is the first time I got to see them 'in the flesh'.

A pile of pancheons

A couple of my favourite medieval jugs.
A stunning Clive Bowen jar, surrounded by old country pots.

Some old Winchcombe Pottery plates, the one on the left made by Elijah Comfort and decorated by Sidney Tustin, the one on the right made by Michael Cardew. These plates and the Fremington baking dish to their right, normally live in my workshop. I'd forgotten what they look like without a layer of clay dust.

A fabulous Paul Young dove cote, accompanied by a Geoff Fuller chicken whistle, above some fine seventeenth century Staffordshire pots.

During the afternoon we went to York Minster, which is a beautiful building with stained glass windows of breathtaking scale and beauty.

And a visit to the Museum next door to look at more medieval jugs

As if this wasn't enough excitement for one day, Alex, Helen and I headed off to a huge building that houses the Museum and Art Gallery's reserve collections, a vast place full of skulls, carved stone, wood and lots and lots and lots of pots. Alex and Helen selected pots that will be available to handle this weekend at this event. If you want to get your hands on a Coper or a Cardew, get along there.

The show is on for a year, playing Isaac Button and Hollyford Harvest on a loop throughout the day. Issac Button is a silent film, but I pity the poor invigilation staff who will be sick to death of the sound of my voice and the Love Daddies soundtrack of Hollyford Harvest after just a day, let alone a year!

What a brilliant, inspirational trip, thank you for everything Alex, Carol and Helen.

So back to the solitude of the workshop today and warm autumnal sunshine.

I've been completely re-ordering the place in readiness for this weekend's visit from the Wescountry Potters Association and ready too to throw myself into full scale production for a November firing. I couldn't bear to work in it like it was any more, so I'm pleased that I've taken the time to sort it out properly before getting started with making again.

Well, that's it for now, goodnight all


ajsimmons said...

wow Doug...that was some trip. Congratulations, both shows look great. You did make me laugh about the trousers (wasn't entirely obvious)!
Good to see some glass on a clay blog too!
Cheers Amanda x

Michael Kline said...

What a trip!

There's only one thing I like better than making pots, and that's looking at pots. (Well, not better, but you know what I mean.) Thanks for sharing your trip and some of your impressions. I particularly sympathize with you and the museum attendants that have to listen to the video loop! very funny!

Linda Fahey said...

oooh! what an awesome post - what a great trip! Thanks for the pics and info; I've been to York, York City Art Gallery, the minster, the museum. How great it would be to see this exhibit! I am especially into the medieval pots! thank you Doug.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug, we don't have your email address with us so excuse the message as a comment. I'm not sure if we emailed you Sadie's Churchill trip blog before we left the UK. The trail of the export of North Devon pottery is still strong, you can read about it at
There's some pictures of sherds we'd like you to try and identify when we're back in Devon in early November. Take care and hopefully we'll catch up with you next month.
Dave and Sadie

ang said...

that is some collection!! and super to have your own lil cabinet :)) love the medieval jugs such lovely lines...

James H said...

Hmmmm - first panto - now (apparently) packing some ladies garments (by mistake - RIGHT)! I see a turner prize just round the corner Doug!

Thanks for all the photos - amazing.

Paul Jessop said...

WOW ! great post great pots, you must be well chuffed, to have your pots in such a great exhibition, and to have hollyford harvest sharing the lime light with Issac Button. Turner Prize work indeed.

Meg - A Lost Marble said...

Great post, I was shown the Issac Button documentary in class just a couple of years ago, amazing footage, the tutors where worried about losing the ability to watch it as they only had a copy on vhs tape!

Cheers Meg x