Tuesday 29 December 2009

Farewell 2009

Hello all

Here are a few pictures of the things that happened and the folk I met in 2009.

Building took priority this year. In January, the workshop looked like this.....

And now, a year on it looks like this. Note how the end of the rainbow has grown just a little nearer in a year.

There's still a lot to do, but it's a much improved space. I set out to use as many recycled and scavenged materials as possible - windows from the local tip etc.. John the Drums and Matt who owns the place are both builders and brought me several van loads of scrap timber from the building jobs they'd been working on, cheers chaps for making this possible.

I had some fantastic, outstanding help with the construction from Different Dave who mixed and poured concrete in the hottest of weather(we did get a bit this year)

and Marky Mark who was his ever supportive self, big time thanks to them.

A big, massive juicy thank you to my good friends Matt and Alex who own the workshop and let me do all this along their lane. Without their support I can't imagine that I'd have a business at all. Here's Matt with their little girl Tilly and of course, Digger the dog with whom I've shared many an inspirational lunchtime walk.

My 'trainee' Jess went from strength to strength with her pot making in the early months of the year which was extremely satisfying for me to see. She's about to set up her own small workshop at home and I hope that the things that she's learned at Hollyford will continue to develop.

2009 was a good year for meeting in person, many of the virtual friends I share my time with through this blog. What a marvel the internet is and what a tremendous support all my blogging chums out there have been over the year, thank you all. I spend my days alone and my evenings in your company(does that make me sound a bit of a saddo?!)

Here are a few pictures of some of the bloggers I was lucky to hang out with during the summer.

This is the amazing woodturner Blogger Robin Wood, who I met at Rufford this year. Robin is also the founder of the Heritage Crafts Association(please sign up if you haven't already!).

It was a delight too meet Blogger Ron Philbeck(left) and his wife Sarah who came over from North Carolina to visit. They came to Art in Clay at Hatfield House, where we also linked up with Blogger Paul Jessop, here on the right.
Ron and Sarah came and stayed with us for a few days, during which time we visited the Mecca of the British Studio Pottery movement, The Leach Pottery, St. Ives.

It was a propper blogger's day out. To explain the next few pictures, here's a shot of dear old Bernard himself back in the 1920's

In the picture, in front of Mr Leach's fireplace in philosophical debate are left to right, Ron, me, Blogger Andrew Douglas and Blogger Hannah McAndrew.

I went again a week later with a certain lady from Adelaide and met Blogger Richard James, who is the technician at the Leach Pottery and also makes some very lovely wooden furniture.

And here's the girl herself, Blogger Angela Walford , who came over from Australia and stayed with us. We had a great time making pots together at the workshop.

The final blogger shot is of Blogger Dan Finnegan from Virginia, USA. A great man, with a great beard. Also in the shot, Andrew, Hannah and my good chum Blogger Matt Grimmitt.

I spent quite a few magic moments with Matt this year - remember the Smoker Stoker?

And with Blogger Paul - here we are at a show at his place during the summer.

This picture was taken at the Derby Boys show at the Long Room Gallery in Winchcombe, with my college contemporaries from back in the golden '80's, Nic Collins and Simon Hancox and our tutor from those days, Tim Willey to whom I am greatly endebted.

Alex McErlain's film Hollyford Harvest was finally finished, submitted and selected for the 7th International Film Festival in Ceramics and Glass in Montpellier, France. The film has since taken my little shed in Devon, all around the world via Facebook and is to be released for sale early in the new year. It's been a real highlight of the year spending time with Alex - we share the same passion for the English tradition of earthenware pottery.

It's been a year of many demos at the various shows, this one at The Contemporary Craft Fair.

I think I did six this year, thankfully growing in confidence with each. The first one I did early in the year caused me so much stress I had a terrible migraine all the day before - it's pretty scary making pots and talking in front of a room full of people and certainly a contrast to the solitude I'm accustomed to in my workshop. Now I really enjoy it - I think.

My pots have developed a lot too. Sgrafitto jugs have been a particular favourite that I've added to my repertoire....

of combing, drawing, sprigging etc. It's funny looking back through all these pictures, because all these pots have gone to new homes. A big, big thank you to all the folk who now own them.

Well that's about all for this year I think. The Half Moon Inn beckons, although I'm feeling pretty tired and might just have a quiet night in with a seemingly endless stream of Michael Jackson videos on the telly.

Ah, change of plan, friends have just arrived to drag me, albeit reluctantly, to the pub, so this rambling blogpost is unfinished. Thank you to all of you who I haven't mentioned.

My very best wishes to everybody out there, here's wishing you a happy and prosperous 2010, catch you next year.


Monday 28 December 2009

Bideford pots

Hello everybody, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We had a lovely time here, in spite of a nasty dose of man flu, which is thankfully on its way out now.

Well, as promised here are some photos from the Bideford firing courtesy of Blogger Matt.

The pancheon is one of mine, the casserole and jar are Philip's. He had some very fine pots out of the kiln.
Some more - Matt's jugs in the foreground.

This is Kathy Niblett, author of many pottery books, who used to be the curator at the Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent and is now editor ot the CPA newsletter. She's always been a tremendous support of our firing events. In her hand is one of my jugs which is now in her collection.

On our way back from Bideford, we dropped off some kiln shelves that had been loaned by Clive Bowen. This is Clive's kiln. I've spent many an hour stoking this beautiful, huge two chambered structure over the last twenty years.
And here is Clive's showroom - he's an amazing potter who, as you can probably see, has had a massive influence on my work.

Well that's it for now. Tomorrow we're off to visit my parents for a few days, before returning to Devon on New Year's Eve.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday all, take care, have fun, keep warm or if you're Ang, keep cool.


Thursday 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.

Tuesday 22 December 2009


Well I discovered today that my 2 mexa pixel brick of a camera does still work in spite having landed heavily on the floor a couple of days ago - some of the functions are knackered, but the auto and close up settings still do what they're supposed to do and as they're the only ones I use, all is good, hurrah!

I like this little camera because it's so basic, just point and press, so I was sad to think I'd need to replace it. Cameras don't last long in my workshop as they get full of dust - I've already killed two more sophisticated ones, but they are an essential tool of the blogger and pictures so often can say more than words, which is good because so often there isn't the time in the day to write too many words. Anyway, before I do write too many words and send you into a deep sleep with my sentimental camera ramblings, let's get on with the picture show.

Here are Matt and Philip opening the kiln on Sunday morning.

And inside, the treasure is revealed. The back of the hatted head on the right belongs to my friend Roop who pots in a nearby village. The hat on the left is of course Philip Leach who once again organised the firing perfectly

The middle stack had moved during the firing and my harvest jug got himself a new big brother - a huge shark-faced jar made by Nick Chapman.

It was a brilliant week, great spending some time chewing the fat with Blogger Matt, who now has some beautiful pots from the firing that you can see here

Today I've been in a very chilly workshop doing some glazing. This would have been a much quicker and easier task had I not have left the glaze bucket in the car after bringing it back from Bideford. I took the lid off to find it had frozen, so then had to defrost it in the kiln. Winter's here for sure, although we don't have snow here like much of the country.

Well lucky me, I have to go to town again and become a crazed Christmas shopper - oh joy.

Back soon, in the meantime, here's a picture of a toadstool and some frost, on a log.

Monday 21 December 2009


It was a freezing cold day on Friday when we fired the kiln. The ground was rock hard with frost and the wind was cutting. As the day went on, the frost thawed and the grass surrounding the kiln turned to mud. The firing went smoothly. Here's my good friend and hero, Clive Bowen stoking firebox 2.

We fired on into the early evening. Here's Matt in the park, in the dark.

Sunday morning we drove back to Bideford for the opening and unpacking. It was a great firing and all the kids' tiles came out beautifully. I think they will all be on display in Appledore for their arts week next year. Unfortunately my camera has finally given up, so I'm waiting for Matt's pictures of the opening which I'll post as soon as I get them.

It's been a very busy and tiring week, with much going on in the workshop too. More about all that at a later date. Time to start thinking about Christmas now, although I have a few things still to do in the workshop so I'll be in and out. I have to brave the crowded streets of Exeter tomorrow. As I type, the cats are destroying the Christmas tree, goodness knows what a mess we'll come down to in the morning. Goodnight all.

Friday 18 December 2009

Greetings from Bideford

The trouble with blogging is that when there's loads going on and lots to write about, there's not enough time to do it. So just to let you know I'm still alive and kicking, here are a few pics of what's going on.

This week I've been in Bideford with Blogger Matt, packing the bottle kiln in the park. The kiln contains a lot of tiles made by local school children. You can read all about the project.......here

This is a big wood fuelled updraught kiln which is built next to the Burton Art Gallery.

The Burton Art Gallery is home to a wonderful collection of old North Devon slipware, such as this huge harvest jug - all the stuff that excites us earthenware types.

Matt could barely hide his excitement.

Philip Leach packing

And I did a bit too.

Matt had a go on Mr Cardew's kickwheel

And I did a bit too.

Tomorrow we fire the kiln. Philip is starting it off in the early morning, Matt and I will go up and take over from Clive Bowen who is on second shift. We should finish in the early evening after a visit from the Mayor of Bideford. He's recently been in North Carolina, visiting an archeological site in search of links between Bideford and the United States. You can read all about it....... here

We open the kiln at 12 noon on Sunday.

I'll be back with more later, bye for now

Thursday 3 December 2009

I'm going to France!

I had a phonecall yesterday from Alex to tell me that the film that he and Steve made at my place, Hollyford Harvest, has been selected for the 7th International Film Festival on Ceramics and Glass.

It's a major achievement to have been selected, many congratulations to them and also to John, the editor, who I have yet to meet, he must be sick to death of the sight and sound of me.

The really exciting news for me, is that they're taking me out to Montpellier with them. I bet the south of France is lovely in March - and a whole weekend of films about ceramics - well what a treat!

Apparently the film is going to be shown on a huge screen in a 2000 seater cinema. Alex tells me that there are very few empty seats at these screenings. So it'll be odd to see my workshop so big, Marky Mark and Blogger Matt huge, and the Love Daddies larger than life. It's going to be very, very strange.

Here's what the letter of acceptance said:

7th international film festival ON CLAY AND GLASS

Dear Alex, John and Stephen,

We are pleased to inform you that your film « Hollyford Harvest » has been selected for the official competition of the 7th International Film Festival on Clay and Glass and we would like to congratulate you for it.

Your film has also been selected for the Youth Festival, which is held every year, in several French cities. We will shortly get back to you on this subject.

After receiving more than 160 films from 33 countries, the viewing committee, responsible for the selection, and consisting of representatives from the crafts, press and cinema fields, has shown high regards for your film.

« Hollyford Harvest » will be presented on the 20th or the 21st of March 2010 at the Corum in Montpellier among 22 competing films.

The jury will give away 5 awards, and the festival-goers will decide the winner of the Public Award by vote.

We would be pleased to receive you in Montpellier and take care of your accommodation. We will contact you to discuss further the terms of your stay....

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us, we shall remain at your entire disposal at all times.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Fran├žoise Aitgougan

Culture Manager

Cheers Alex, Steve and John, well done chaps.

Ron-line exhibition

My good chum in the States, Ron Philbeck launches an on-line exhibition today. To check out his fabulous slipware, click.......

here at 1pm EST, I think that is 6pm BST

Hope it's a fantastic sale for you Ron.

Back later, have a nice day y'all.

Monday 30 November 2009


It's Wednesday since I last blogged - everything has been so hectic for the past few days.

The show in Exeter is going well. I made some good sales on Friday night at the opening and chatted to interesting folk all evening, but didn't get any decent photographs. Here are a couple that I snapped in the workshop last week when I was working out which pots to take. I'll get some better pictures when I go in to the show to invigilate later in the week.

I took my wheel in to the venue and did a talk and demo on Saturday, in which I threw a large jug in two parts and with a good old blast from my gas burner, was able to handle it, slip it and decorate it, to a state of completion within an hour.

The show's on until Saturday night.

This week I'm going to try and get on with sorting out the workshop which is utter chaos both inside and out at present as none of the building work has been completed. There are piles of stuff everywhere. Maybe I'll build some kind of display unit to hold finished work so that there's somewhere to put it when I bring it back from the show. Also I want to get some pots made this week to fire in the Bideford kiln later in the month. More about that soon.

Oh well, I'd better get to it before Facebook Scrabble distracts me. Hmm, a day off playing Scrabble in the warm, what a nice idea.

Have a good start to the week everybody.

Wednesday 25 November 2009


Just popped home to do some admin work, so a quick blog while I'm at it. I've come home as I have to get all my show applications completed and in the post. Every year I leave them to within days of the deadline, even though every year I swear that I'll get organised and have them in early. Oh well, maybe next year - but probably not.

Here's the buzzard harvest jug and an 8lb jug infront.

Once again today, the end of the rainbow was beyond my workshop, so the crock of gold still eludes me.

Poor thing. This wonderful creature was in the lane when I walked Digger at lunchtime. They don't have any road sense, so a lot of them get hit by cars. The carrion crows will eat well today, nature doesn't waste much.

Working this evening with Marky Mark so off back to the workshop in a moment. Back later.

Cheers all.

Sunday 22 November 2009


I finally finished these two sgrafitto pots at 4am, so suffice to say, I'm a wee bit tired today.

This is a close up of Mr Buzzard, who has his beady eye on a pigeon who is flying nearby. My drawings are far from anatomically correct, but that's not something I'm too worried about, as long as it's clear what they're supposed to be. The black lines are where I roughly draft out the shapes before I cut into the surface and will burn away in the firing.

The old harvest rhyme on this one says, 'The potter fashioned me complete as plainly doth appear, for to supply the harvest boys with good strong English beer'

A while ago I was walking to work and came across the magnificent spectacle of two cock pheasants having a fight. They may be some of the stupidest birds around, but they certainly know how to scrap. For some reason I decided to try and draw them onto the side of this puzzle jug. Whether they really look like pheasants is questionable - I might just have to pretend it's a pair of phoenix(phoenixes, phoeni) having a squabble.