Friday 31 October 2008

Thanks Alex

The trip to the museum was wonderful. I got to handle a whole range of different pots, early medieval baluster jugs, beautifully balanced and of graceful form, huge, seventeenth century slipware chargers with magnificent, ornate trailing, great baking dishes, with free-flowing white slip on a black slip ground, earthy nineteenth century country pots from Fremington in North Devon - it was pretty mind blowing really for a potter like me, with the influences that I draw upon.

Unfortunately I can't publish any of the photos I took, but here's one of Alex, and just to tease you, I can tell you he was holding a huge, Staffordshire baking dish, with remarkable, rhythmical feathering, skillfully executed some three hundred years ago. It must have been at least two feet long by fourteen inches wide, absolutely stunning - I'm afraid you'll just have to imagine!

Thursday 30 October 2008

Something for the ladies

For Ang

For Hannah

Here's Josh

Home again this evening, blimey it's cold up north.

Here's my beautiful little great nephew Joshua Dodd. What a sweetheart. I'll tell you about my trip to the Museum tomorrow, I'm off to bed now. Goodnight all

Sunday 26 October 2008

Off for a few days

Well I've got an early start in the morning. There's a new car awaiting collection in Plymouth, so I've to grab a lift with a friend who works for the university, at 7am. Had I not have taken the redundancy package from the uni, I'd have been making that journey daily too - that must be nearly fifty miles of mad dual carriageway road each way - I'm glad to be a skint potter - I'd rather be wealthy potter, but hey, you can't have everything.

When I get home from Plymouth, John Edgeler should be here to collect the pots for the Winchcombe show. I have a great book about the Fishleys of Fremington that John wrote recently. I'll do a post specifically about it later - a really interesting book.

After John's left, we're heading off to the frozen North for the week to visit Hilary's family, including our great nephew who we'll be meeting for the first time. Great nephew - that makes me feel old. Lots of driving, not something I enjoy much. It'll be good to have a change of scenery - not least because it's always lovely to come home to Devon.

On Tuesday I'm going to Manchester where I'll be meeting up with Alex McErlain at the Manchester Museum and Art Gallery.

Alex has regularly worked with the Museum and has arranged for us to have access to the reserve collection - now that's exciting. Looking at their website, it's clear they have some fantastic slipware and I'm going to be able to get my hands on it, how cool is that?

Have a good week all, we'll back on Thursday. Bye for now


All slipped and decorated

All Hollyford clay - hoorah!

Puzzle jug

The puzzle jug I put on here earlier came through the firing successfully

I may still darken the honey glaze that I used on the petals with some more iron oxide.

John Edgeler is coming in the morning to collect this pot and others for a show at the Long Room Gallery in Winchcombe. I'll publish dates and details of the show later.

Saturday 25 October 2008

The anagama sorcerer

Nic's blog's been updated with pots he's making for his on-line exhibition on December 5th.

There's also a good piture of Blogger Andrew on there, check it out

Friday 24 October 2008

It's been a bit of a week

This delightful gas-guzzler's been giving us trouble again. I spent yesterday morning on an industrial estate in Exeter while the man at the gearbox place investigated my slippy clutch.

The car's been nothing but trouble since we got it, but not for any longer, it's days are done. A little frustrating as we just spent £400 on it this month, £800 a couple of months ago, but it's going to cost £1000 this time, so that's the end of it, time to get a replacement, no more good money after bad. I've killed three cars in the last twelve months - that has to be unlucky.

However unlucky that is, we're very lucky to have a really good friend who is helping to sort something out for us - a real top man, thank you.

The potter's life is always a hand to mouth existence - well mine is anyway. I try and make the pots I would like to buy, then hope somebody else might like them, it's not easy. I'm also notoriously bad at getting them out there - I have loads of pots sitting on the shelf in my workshop that ought to be out for sale somewhere. I do need to become a better businessman.

It isn't just about money - of course money's essential to survive, but it's about a different quality of life - and a healthy brain. I used to work for a university and spent a year off work, rocking in a darkened room. These days I try and adopt a positive mental attitude. Once negativity creeps in, it darkens everything - it still does sometimes.

On returning from Exeter with my sickly car yesterday afternoon, I went over to the woods with my friend Different Dave, where we dug out a load of clay. It was beautiful, just the sounds of the birds, the colours of the trees with their leaves on the turn, and the musty, mossy smell of the clay - best of all, it cost nothing to be there.

This week I decided to make pots only from Hollyford clay. I haven't got many made, but it's been magical using what Michael Kline calls 'native dirt'. It has very different properties from the clay I normally use. I'd only made smaller things with it, mugs, 'tankettes' and little jugs, but today I made an eight pounder and it threw really nicely.

It'll take a while to get used to it and to discover the most effective way of using it, but I love it. I still plan to use it for the majority of my production by Christmas. I don't have the proper equipment yet to process large amounts, but the kit I do have will suffice for now as long as I keep mixing daily.

The surface of the pots looks softer for it, this is a detail of a mug I fired earlier this week in the electric kiln. I'm sure my work will change a little as I start to find more out about its properties. It contains a fine, naturally occurring sand - perfect for the job.

Off to Crediton in the morning for the closing day of Paint:Mud:Wood

Have an enjoyable weekend all.

Potter's Privilege

This is a puzzle jug all glazed up. It's really pretty at this point in the process - and although I'd never want to make a pastel pink one, to see it at this stage is the potter's privilege I was talking about earlier in the week.

The pink will become light yellow, the petals dark yellow and the grey stalks will become green - I hope!

Thanks for your comments about the last post my lovelies

More news later.......................

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Tugs or mankards?

Boots, lovely, dry-stockinged, comfortable, foot-supporting, go anywhere boots.........ahhhhhhhhh, beauty, I love them already.

Here are some pots I made on Monday from the woodland clay that I dug a few weeks ago when the film was being made. I sieved all of the bits of twig and grit and root out of this batch, so it just contained the smaller grains of naturally occurring sand - a whole lot smoother than the stuff I usually use.

It was delightful to throw with, really responsive and plastic. Because of the lack of hardcore, it made for pots at least a third bigger than I would be able to make from the same weight of my usual clay. Hence these are neither mugs nor tankards, they're somewhere in-between. I decided to take some time experimenting with applied decoration, including the use of some roulette wheels that I made ages ago - they're what makes the bobbly bits on the horizontal strips of the foreground mug.

Paint:Mud:Wood is still on for another two days. I hope to be there tomorrow, but just for a change, the car's gone wrong again, so I've to take it to town in the morning to find out the bad news about it, with the hope that I might get back to the gallery in time to catch up with my friend Johnny who is going to be there documenting the show.

Today I had some more pots from the kiln that I was unable to get out in time for the Crediton show, including this little cook pot that I was really pleased with.

The end of the road

As the socks and sandals season draws to a close, I wish to announce the retirement of my favourite footwear of several years passing.

My sandals always put practicality ahead of vanity, comfort ahead of fashion.

We walked in each other's footsteps for five seasons, the many hundreds of miles that we shared during that sojourn of pounding lanes and rambling fields, finally taking its toll as uppers split and buckles ceased to function on Monday's journey home.

They will remain in occasional service around the house, fulfilling the role of an easy, comfy slip-on, a characteristic of every middle-aged man's dream footwear, but will in the main, be put out to grass.

It will take some big boots to fill the void. To this end, I have already employed some sturdy and quite unstylish Dr Marten Boots, which will continue in service until the start of the next socks and sandals season early in the Spring.

Although a little saddened by their passing, my relacement footwear will open up a new world of adventure, boots rush in where sandals fear to tread.

Henceforth, as I walk through the valley of mud, I shall fear no puddles.

Here, documented for posterity, is a short film of one of the last journeys my sandals made.

May their soles rest in peace - in my shoe rack.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Decorating jugs

Been decorating today. I enjoyed attacking these pots with my rubber comb. I'm happiest when I'm making big jugs and decorating in a more bold and abstract fashion, runny slip and lines that don't join up - I've had fun with these. When working through very wet slip, you get one chance and it either works, or it doesn't, there's no middle ground.

Blogger Matt called this morning and we chatted about what I like to call the 'potter's privilege' - that is, the opportunity to be able to see and enjoy the pot at the many stages of its production. Thre's so much more to making pots than just looking at the finished item.

I love the look of a freshly slipped pot, fluid and glistening in the light. As the slip dries, it flattens, briefly shows the runs and dribbles that will give the surface its variation and character, before finally drying flat, not revealing its surprises again until the glaze has brought the pot's surface back to life.

These will change a great deal after firing, but at the moment I'm pleased with them, I think they fulfil my intention of making something decorative, but not too pretty.

Sunday 19 October 2008

Nic Collins spinning a pot

Here's my mate Nic making one of the big pots destined for his on-line exhibition which starts on 5th of December at 6pm.

He's updating his site every Friday so that you can see the pots in progress. There are some fantastic new images on there of coil throwing techniques, take a peep.

Blogger Andrew's been with him this week helping to fire the kiln containing Nic's work for the CPA Oxford Fair next weekend. I would imagine Andrew will be posting some shots of the action during the next few days - just spoke to Nic on the phone and he sounds really positive about the way the firing went. I think he's unpacking on Wednesday, so fingers crossed for him.

Pics from the show

Thursday 16 October 2008

Baluster jugs

I put this picture on because I'm really pleased with the latest batch of baluster jugs, so want share this one with you.

It's quite tricky making these so that they're narrow at the waist without being too heavy, particularly with this gritty clay that doesn't like to be thrown thinnly. These ones feel to be a good weight for their size, they're about 18" tall. I'm happy with the shape too, which has evolved from one of the more graceful forms of the Medieval period. I use the same technique as for the huge jugs, throw the body, then add the part thrown neck, before finishing it on the pot.

I found these videos that you may enjoy.

Sorting out the space in the gallery tomorrow - I hope I feel a bit more healthy. Goodnight all.

My mate Matt

My mate Matt built this new wall today at Hollyford. Here he is with his daughter Tilly and Digger the dog who is a daily visitor to my workshop.


It's been ages since I had tableware stacked up in my workshop.

It's all come out fine. I decided to keep the decoration fairly simple as it's for eating off. There are three styles of rim decoration.

Ron asked for a picture of the backs. The green doesn't look quite so splodgy in real life I'm pleased to say.

There are more pots bisc firing tonight. They'll be glazed tomorrow and then whipped out, baking hot on Saturday and rushed to the gallery before the show opens at 3pm - that's cutting it fine - it'll certainly be new work.


Man-flu - I was told by a man once that it can be worse than childbirth. I've got a bad dose of it - all the worse because I just went and put milk in my Lemsip by mistake - doh.

But the show must go on in spite of the suffering, so today my friend and photographer Johnny came up to take some more decorating images.

I did another leaf jug

And drew and combed on these two.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

I feel rough

I feel poooooorly - man-flu on the way, or tiredness, not sure, but hot bath and bed for me shortly.

Visited Cookie this morning to see the furniture he's made for the exhibition this weekend - stunning.

Here he is in the doorway of his workshop.

Made a batch of big baluster jugs today.

Got to go now and feel sorry for myself, bye for now.

The orchard

A few pictures from the bottom orchard this evening.

The wonderful smell of apples is all around.


The glazes worked fine on both my usual clay body and the stuff from the woods.


Here's some more tableware, glazed and ready to go. I'm putting all this through the electric kiln because I need it all to match - that's a pretty unlikely outcome in my wood kiln.

Here are a couple of pots influenced by the stuff in that book. This tall jug will have slip pours and combing when finished.

This tankard's maybe a little over the top - it'll hold about three pints, so it's designed with the hardened drinker in mind.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Medieval English Pottery

This is one of my favourite books. I pulled it off the shelf last week, the first time in a while and got all excited again about medieval pots. Recently I've been looking a lot more at North Devon slipware, particularly the harvest jugs. Seeing these pictures again has certainly influenced the pots that I've made this week.

Apologies for the bad snapshots.

There's a pot in this book that is one of the most important of my pot-making life. It's a jug in the Victoria and Albert Museum, I saw twenty four years ago when I was a student. It completely blew me away and dictated the direction of my student work from then on. I haven't put a picture on of the pot, I may save it until I get brave enough to show one of my dodgy student pieces from all those years ago.