Monday, 18 February 2013

On it

Today has been another long day, but another really good one. I managed to continue with a positive head and sustained yesterday's momentum in the workshop. I'm in bed again writing this. I just got home from band practice and I'm pooped, so I'll keep this brief.

I decorated lots of bowls today. This one is small, the sort of thing you might eat cereal from
and this one, much larger - fruit bowl size
I had a whole load of pots out of the kiln today. Some worked better than others and some gave me ideas as to how I can do things better next time, but by and large, I was pleased with what came out, which was a good range of scale, form, colour and decorative approach.
The orange slip on this pot is made from clay from the field beside the workshop...
as are the spots on this one. I like the colours of this pot a lot.
I handled the big jugs today
and made these smaller jars in the foreground, half the size of the ones I made yesterday that are in the background. I'm going to make a few bigger ones of these tomorrow maybe.

I feel like I'm 'on it' for the first time in ages, which is really exciting. It makes me feel alive again. That said, I won't be alive for much longer if I don't get some sleep, so I'm signing out. Goodnight all, have a great start to the week.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday 16th

 Hello everyone and a happy Saturday to you. The sun shone here today and the birds sang, it was good.

It's been a long, hard day today, I started work early and finished very late. For the first time in months, the feeling of excitement about making pots seems to have started to come back. I'd forgotten what this feels like, I like it, I like it a lot. I haven't seen the workshop as busy as this for ages.

I had to decorate a lot of bowls today. I would guess that this one is about 9" wide, maybe a little more, here's the inside...
and this is the outside.
I've enjoyed using the comb on these, I like the rhythm of the pattern on this bowl.
There are bowls everywhere in the workshop at the moment, all different types and sizes. Hopefully I'll get some of each through successfully, it'll give me a good range of scale and form.
more bowls
and more.
As well as making pots to send to Japan, I'm also making pots for an exhibition in Berwick at the end of March. These tapered jugs are 7 lb and the big fat ones, 11.5 lbs.
I made more 3 lb jars and lids today. I'm going to make some smaller ones tomorrow for Tokyo and maybe a couple of quite large ones for the Berwick show.

Plates, teapots, mugs, cups and beakers still to go, so more long days ahead.

Well, not much of a blog post, but I'm dead beat and I'm writing this in bed and dozing off because I'm exhausted. I am however, very excited, as the slip is starting to flow again in my veins. I'll sleep well, tired, fulfilled and happy, hurrah.

Goodnight all

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Thank you for your words of support and encouragement, I appreciate your comments very much. I'm beginning to have a bit more belief in myself that I can do this exhibition and maybe even get to Tokyo on my own, without getting lost forever. The production in next couple of weeks will be crucial.

Different Dave came by yesterday and rehung the workshop doors.

They've been off since we put the concrete down, so the front of the building has been open to the elements.

It was good to see progress there, I haven't had time to do anything more towards the building project lately and it'll be a little bit at a time for the foreseeable future, but it will get finished eventually and having the doors back on is great and a big step towards making it weatherproof. Dave will be back on Thursday when we're going to make the roof watertight.

It's been busy in the workshop, I worked a long day yesterday. Finger wiped dribbly slip - maybe a bit too dribbly in this instance.

A finger wiped shallow dish
I've tried to mix up the decoration a bit, keeping it simple. I used to make sets of things, but these are each different.
Freshly thrown bowls - I'm going to make lots of these in a range of sizes, decorate them freely and select the most successful.
Here are some little jugs that came through the kiln this week. I'm really pleased with the little one on the left and I'm going to keep it. I rarely keep my own pots.
This little jug is about 6" tall
More finished pots. I took a load to my photographer's place yesterday to be photographed professionally for the exhibition catalogue. I'll post the images later when I get them, my snapshots never really show the pots off in their best light.

I'm off to Bath today to visit my older son Luke who is at art college. I'll take him out for dinner and feed him up a bit as I'm sure he's not eating properly and then I'm going to model for him for a portrait he wants to paint of 'an old person' - charming. I've not seen him for a few weeks so I'm really looking forward to that.

Right, I'd better get myself moving and on that motorway. Have a good day everybody. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Saturday 9th

Life is strange. Seven weeks today I'll be attending the private view in Tokyo of my exhibition with Tamba potter, Motoyasu Hirayama. Right at the moment, the prospect is absolutely terrifying and I spend most of my time fretting and thinking it's completely impossible. There are moments in the day when I get a brief burst of self belief that enables me to keep going. I need a hundred pots. That may not seem like a lot, but I don't want to send a single bad piece, so I'll have to make and fire many more to provide a good body of work to select from.

I've been making bowls today, which in itself provides a challenge. Bowls and dishes, flat stuff with lots of inside area that needs decorating - eek. If only I could send just jugs, I'd be able to do this so much easier. It's a good thing I suppose, I've been talking about making a whole kiln load of bowls and dishes for ages, but always end up making jugs and more jugs, so this is stretching me and once I have a body of work made, I'll know enough about it, to fulfill what has until now been a shortfall in my range of production.

I don't often turn foot rings on pots, as the pots that I admire most, the ones made in the old English country potteries, didn't have foot rings. I've done a few on these dishes., but I don't want to get in to too much of that, so I'm going to try and design my range in a much more 'English' manner.

Another bowl and more, smaller, shallow dishes.
This sight will send a good few people crazy. This is the way I like my wheel. I want to be in there, in the mud, none of that clean plastic, yuck, gimme the mud every time, all the time, yeah yeah yeah.
I've been playing around a bit today with working in to the clay when wet. These notches will make a bit more sense when the slip is over them. After all that time spent recently, sticking little bits of clay on to my pots, this body of work is going to be decorated by contrast, in a much sloppier, slippier and spontaneous manner. No doubt  I'll end up with some dodgy pots, as it's impossible to get the slip or the marks in the right place every time, so there's a lot of getting it wrong before getting it right, but hopefully there will be enough good ones to select from by the time I've done them all - and there will probably be a good seconds sale too at some stage in the future.

I'm still making pots for the UK market as well as the pieces for Japan. I have to try to keep money coming in. There's a huge amount of outlay required for the Japan show, goodness knows what it'll cost to send. This is a 7lb jug which will be getting the dribbly slip treatment tomorrow. It's too big to send, so will go to a gallery back home if it comes out well. I also want to make some more work for saleroom on my website .
I keep getting myself in a right old stress with all this, but in the few moments of the day when I can see sense, I can recognize that I have pots at every stage of production and that means that I must have a busy and creative workshop. However, in the main, I see empty shelves and a huge task ahead. I need to keep the pressure on and keep my head engaged even though it wants to stray off into la la land all the time.

Tomorrow I'll be starting work at 7.30 am. Marky Mark's coming to join me and we'll put in a good day's graft and I'll try and get some of these pots finished and decorated.

Happy weekend all.

Friday, 8 February 2013


Good morning
I feel so much better about life today, it's as though a heavy cloud has floated away and allowed a ray of sunshine back in. Again, thank you all for your comments and messages and emails. I don't get much time on the internet at the moment so forgive me if it takes me a little while to respond, I am very glad to hear from you.

 The last couple of days the sunshine hasn't been purely metaphorical. I saw the real thing for the first time in a while, blue sky too.

It's still very much winter still though and there's been an icy wind that'll kick you in the kidneys if you don't wrap up.
These little beauties under the oak tree in the workshop garden, were bobbing their little white heads in the wind, bringing with them their tale of optimism and the promise that Spring will come. They seem to be a particularly early variety as they're always a couple of weeks before the others around here. It's always a joy to see them, but especially this year.
The first daffodil in the garden is flowering too, although the wind has snapped it's fragile stem poor thing.
This is Digger the dog, enjoying the sunshine on the doorstep of the house where I'm staying. He's a funny boy and spends quite a lot of time in and out of my workshop these days, barking at the sheepdogs and stealing the duck food. He's become my cuddly comfort, although he's a bit bony. I'm sure he would say the same about me.
A new distraction in the workshop, as if I needed one.
This arrived earlier in the week, a new little movie camera. My old one wore out and fell apart and to be honest I haven't much felt like making those little films any more, but I might document the arrival of the spring and the making of a few pots. I'm just not quite at the stage where the energy and focus has kicked in and my confidence is still lagging a bit, but it'll happen soon because it has to if I'm to fulfill my objectives and meet my deadlines and getting busy is the positive way forward for head and heart.
Here's the crazy jug from earlier in the week, slipped in green and drying ready to fire.
I have quite a few jugs that are awaiting glazing, so I'll do that today and get them through the kiln, then they'll be finished and I'll perhaps feel like I'm achieving something.
These dishes will need turning today. I need to make lots more and get in to the groove today. I'm always a bit nervous about making flat things because I'm a reluctant decorator and there's a whole lot of surface to worry about here. I wish I could just do it, like that girl up North.

Oh well, I'd better get to work and try and make some pots. Seven weeks until my show opens in Tokyo and the pots are still clay in bags. Have a good day everybody.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Thank you everybody for your messages and comments, it's been lovely to read them all and to know that there are people out there that understand and care.Life's a rough road at the moment and the wheels keep falling off one at a time. It's difficult to steer through, but as long as some of the wheels are still turning, I can keep moving forward. The folks who are helping me along this bumpy track have been fixing the wheels back on again and haven't allowed me to run too far off the road and in to the ditch.

In among all the chaos, at long last I seem to be getting my thoughts sorted - it's taken a while. It's so difficult to think straight and behave rationally, with a heart and mind overwhelmed with so much emotional stuff. I didn't expect to wind up in this situation and I'm not greatly experienced or equipped with the skills to deal with it right and I get it wrong time and again. The knowledge of how much my actions are hurting people, with little justification other than selfishly seeking a happy place for my own future, is a hard to deal with. I messed everything up and I carry the responsibility for a lot of  heartbreak. The guilt of it all clouds my thoughts and affects my judgement all the time.

Time heals, as they say and things are starting to have a bit more order, which is what is needed for everybody. I've been having some sweet times with Joey, my younger boy. I gave him a bass guitar and amplifier for Christmas and he's worked hard at learning how to play it. Yesterday evening I picked him up and we had a jam session in the workshop until late. It was really good fun. I'm a dreadful guitar player, bass is my thing too, but it was fun to make a racket. I think we might have driven the rats out at least. I'm pleased he's stuck at it, the ability to make music will bring him many good times and friends in the future and to play together is a special thing for dad and son, particularly at a time like this.

Things are going slowly in the workshop. This is an 8lb jug I've been working on. It's taken ages and I've been panicking that I'm not getting where I want to be quickly enough. Some things just do take a long time and to rush them, would be to mess them up. Sometimes it's a matter of just calming down and allowing the process to dictate the pace if the end result is to be worthwhile. I need to remind myself of that all the time in the big workshop of life.

Yesterday I had a visit from Koichiro Isaka, the owner of Gallery St Ives in Tokyo, the gallery where I have my exhibition this Easter. I suggested that perhaps we might postpone the show until later in the year. We talked about it for a while and he wasn't keen. The outcome is that two months today I'll be on a plane to Japan, all alone. That's quite a terrifying prospect for a man with a messed up head, that only went on a tube train alone for the first time last summer. What a challenge though. I need to get busy, regain some confidence and get myself fit and well again. Oh, I suppose I'd better get out of bed and make some pots then. Happy Wednesday everybody and thank you.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Onward and upwards

Hello big wide world. It's been a long time since I braved this territory, but here I am, making a difficult first step back into the public domain.

Since my last post, I have endured some of the toughest of times of my life. I won't go in to too much detail here for the sake of others involved, but my life has changed dramatically in the past couple of months and I am now a single man for the first time in over twenty years. It's a sorry situation. I'm staying with some incredible friends, who have taken me in, looked after me and made me part of their beautiful little family. I have been blessed with some extraordinary friends, who have rallied round to help me to make the start of the year a much more positive situation that it otherwise might have been.

Here is Alistair, who turned up on New Years Eve, dragged me out of my miserable, inactive stupor and set about motivating an immense transition to the workshop, with the conversion of the earth-floored woodshed, into a proper working space.

With Different Dave managing the project, Marky Mark, Alistair and his friend Pete on the team, we dug and barrowed and dug and barrowed, tonne after tonne of earth and hardcore and concrete over a two week period, mostly in torrential rain. It was great to get busy and to not have to think about making pots, with my inspiration at an all time low. Winter is always a struggle for me, this one particularly.
Here's the outside apron at the front of the workshop, which is usually sticky with mud.
Now replaced with concrete(actually this the back, I've got the picture below where this one should be)
And at last proper drainage, to help prevent the flooding of my kiln shed which has been happening with such regularity after one of the wettest winters on record - oops, that's the picture above.
So here's the new west wing. It still has to have the end wall constructed, with a door and window. The whole building will be insulated and lined out with a stud wall before it's finished, but the earthworks are done and that's the major part of the job. The rest can be completed as and when I have the time and the money. It was an extraordinarily positive beginning to the year, in a dreadfully negative situation. 

As the old cliche goes, it's at times like this, that you find out who your real friends are - and there have been some wonderful people who have been there for me, virtually, physically and metaphorically, to hug me tight when I've cried. As for the others, the ones who have been judgmental, or just don't have the time for me and are notable by their absence - I'm best rid. My true friends love me in spite of everything and to have such folk in my life, makes me a very lucky man 

Trying to make pots has been extremely difficult. I have come very close to giving it all up on a number of occasions. But what else can I do? I hate it with the same energy as I love it. It's the only thing that I'm reasonably good at. It has been a constant struggle to find confidence, motivation and focus and the stress is compounded daily with the number of pressing deadlines. The first is an exhibition in Tokyo in April, which will require a hundred or so pieces. I have about forty of them made, mostly small stuff - lots of jugs of course.
 Some little tapered jugs, these are about 6" tall...
1.5lb baluster jugs
This little jug and will be green when fired. It's about 6" tall. I don't usually make many small pots, I'm much more comfortable with bigger pieces, my hands trace out the forms so much more readily on the wheel.
 These are 3lb jugs
and this a 5lb jug.

3lb jugs, slipped and decorated in a variety of colours.
I've made some jars too - bowls, dishes, teapots, mugs, still to go.

Today I must get busy again. I need to get a positive head on my shoulders and try and lose myself in my work. This could go one way or the the other very easily. Sometimes, a lot of the time in fact, it feels as though there's no reason for making this stuff any more and particularly just right now as I have to find my inspiration from within. I almost threw the towel in yesterday and would have slumped into a deep depression had it not have been for some wise words from a couple of good friends, who gave me a shake and put me back on my feet. So I tidied the workshop up instead, ready to try and make the best pots of my life.

Here comes a new era - onward and upwards.