Tuesday 31 March 2009

Monday 30 March 2009

The Derby Boys in Winchcombe

This is the poster for the show that opens on Saturday in the Long Room Gallery Winchcombe, with my good friends Nic Collins and Simon Hancox. Come along if you can make it.


Happy Monday all.

Blogging's fallen by the wayside just recently as I've fulfilled a punishing schedule of glazing, kiln packing and firing during the last few days and nights, so here's a quick update of what's been happening in Hollyford Potteryland.

Friday was a long, long day and evening of glazing. There are a lot of big pots in this firing and the best way to apply the glaze to such pots is with a brush, each requiring three coats. It was quite a task, but I got it done in time to pack...

on Saturday morning, with help from my new Saturday boy, my younger son Joseph who is going to be doing a few hours for me here and there.

Packing this kiln is so much easier with two, particularly when loading the back of the chamber, as it avoids constantly climbing in and out to collect the pots from inside the workshop. I was able to climb in and direct Joe, who would bring the pots to me.

We certainly packed it pretty full. I was much more organised this time than last, as I'd planned particular glazes and forms for certain areas within the kiln. One of my glazes doesn't like it too hot and goes very dark when overfired. Thanks to the kind loan of some tall props from Nic, I was able to put my big jugs at the bottom of the chamber. I hope this will give me my first ever batch of large pots that don't go really dark, but remain a rich amber. I put all the pots onto little clay wads too as the glazes are very fluid when applied thickly(the way I like them) and have a tendency to run and stick the pots to the shelves.

Further up I used my lighter glaze, which takes the temperature much better and placed some pressed dishes at the very top, rim to rim. I hope the naked clay exterior of these will flash nicely when licked by the flame.

The clocks changed on Saturday night, so we decided to start at 9am instead of 8. Jess lit the kiln. Matt was supposed to be joining us, but unfortunately he had motoring problems and so had to call off. It was a great surprise, when during the early afternoon, Matt arrived with his good lady Tig in her car. Marky Mark came at about teatime and continued with Jess and me after Matt and Tig had headed home.

Jess had to leave reluctantly before the end as she had other comittments, but she got to see the first cone going over.

Here are the cones beside one of her little mugs.

MM and I fired on until the end, which was just after 9pm.

I think that the dampness we've had in the firebox during recent firings has been causing all sorts of problems. This time the firing went steadily, but quickly to the required temperature and for the first time in ages, the cones in the front of the kiln went over before those in the back.

This morning I stayed in bed for the first time in weeks - ahhhh, it was bliss. I haven't had a day off in weeks, let alone a lie-in, so even though I woke early, I forced myself to stay in bed for a good recharge and fell out of bed about an hour ago, having dreamed about the new shed I'm going to be building later this week - how sad is that? I need to get a life!

Shortly I'm going to walk to the workshop across the fields in the beautiful Spring sunshine to tidy the place up and make space ready to unpack in a couple of days.

I really hope it's a good firing, I want my best pots ever for the Derby Boys show on Saturday - at least one of our lecturers from twenty odd years ago is coming and I want him to be proud of me - I'm really looking forward to seeing him/them.

So, new pots soon, or gloom and doom, but time will tell, watch this space............

Thursday 26 March 2009

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard work

Blimey life's hard at the moment. All that running around last weekend, then straight in to firing mode on return. There are quite a few pictures of the weekend's activities, including a video stream of some dodgy geezer with a bad moustache, decorating on Hannah's blog.

So a lot to do before Sunday's firing. I've glazed most stuff on the inside now, all the outside glaze to do tomorrow. Then I'll start to pack into a lovely dry kiln, dried out by merit of the new drainage and the fire I lit in it last night. I think the floor of the kiln has been very wet, for a very long time, but now the brick footings feel dry as a bone - hurrah!

The last couple of days and nights I've been scratching away at dry slip, applying sgrafitto decoration to a number of pots, including this little jug, depicting a pigeon-pair, perching in a tree. The sgrafitto style of decoration was typically employed in the traditional country potteries of Devon between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

These pots are going to be included in the Derby Boys show that opens at the Long Room Gallery in Winchcombe, a week on Saturday. If you'd like to come along, drop me an email and I'll make sure you're sent an invitation, or just turn up if you fancy.

This puzzle jug has taken me hours - I just finished it a few moments ago.

Usually I would decorate spontaneously and quickly into wet slip - sgraffito creates much scratchier marks that I was able to plot out first with a soft pencil. It's very labour intensive.

I've had to remember my old handwriting 'skills' from schooldays. The more naive the application, the more effective the outcome - thank goodness!

Tuesday 24 March 2009


Back to work today, collecting wood ready for Sunday's firing. It was a nice surprise to find the workshop all tidy - I forgot I'd given the place a bit of a clean up before leaving last week.

It feels like the events of the last few days were all a dream - a very good dream, but it's as if it didn't really happen and there I was today, back in the shed in the middle of Devon.

Well here's proof that it did happen.

Here we are outside Hannah's workshop. It's beautiful there, I thought my place was remote and secluded, but her place really is in the middle of nowhere - you can see her place on the next picture, it's part of that collection of farm buildings, away in the distance. There's so much space and scale to the countryside in Hannahland.

It's great to have visited and to have seen the place where all her wonderful pots are made. She's laid the concrete plinth in readiness to start building a wood kiln in the forthcoming weeks - watch this space, it's going to be an exciting development.

Here's part of the complex at Kindrogan Field Centre, where the event took place. I wish I'd had more time to explore, the surroundings were stunning.

And here's Hannah, decorating a puzzle jug that I made during the demo. We transported it with the other pots, back to her workshop. They didn't travel terribly well, nevertheless, Hannah will fire the ones that survived the journey and the best will be raffled at next year's event. We're going to do some more limited edition collaborative pieces at some stage in the future.

Matt came along to help me and spent the weekend kneading clay and supplying me with plenty of cups of tea. He did a bit of throwing too.

This is Fergus Stewart, one of the other demonstrators. He's a Scottish saltglaze potter from way up north, you can see his work here. We had a good few drinks with him over the weekend.

We also got to meet Nicola, who was a student with Alan Gaff who was tragically killed last year. It was good to meet her and it struck home how important it is to pass knowledge on, as his work continues to be made, through her hands.

On the Saturday evening there was a ceilidh. I'm not much of a dancer, but Hannah swung me around a bit and we caused some mayhem on the dancefloor with my lack of experience at such things. The Scottish Potters Association has been running for thirty five years and so to celebrate this history, the fancy dress had a seventies theme. We really were that blurred.

I overslept the next day and didn't get time to shave the ridiculous moustache off. In fact I still have it, much to Hil's delight - not, tee hee!

It was a fantastic weekend, spent with some lovely people, I had the best of times.

Now back to reality, with a mammoth day of glazing to look forward to tomorrow. Jess will be there so I'll get her to give me a hand. I'm going to the wood place again in the morning to collect some more, then we'll brick the door up on the kiln and get a fire in it to make sure it's good and dry for the weekend's firing.

Monday 23 March 2009

Back in the country

Home again tonight after a brilliant weekend, having travelled over 1200 miles in the past few days.

Thank you Hannah and Matt and many thanks to the members of the Scottish Potters Association.

More about the weekend tomorrow, right now, I'm off to bed because I'm absolutely exhausted, goodnight.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

A mug for Mr Perry

Sunshine came to Devon in the past few days, which has meant that I've been able to dry stuff outside - that's made life a lot easier as I've been frantically firing bisc kilns every day. It's been such hard work, fifteen hour days and working all weekend, but it's done. All made, the majority biscuited and ready for firing a week on Sunday/Monday.

Tomorrow I head off for the long trek up North to Scotland to demo for the Scottish Potters Association. I'll stay overnight in Gloucestershire with Blogger Matt tomorrow, then w'll head off to Hannah's in Castle Douglas on Thursday. Friday, with Hannah on board, we'll drive a further three and a half hours to Kindrogan and the venue.

Because everything's been so frantic, I've not had time to even think about the weekend, which is good, because I haven't got worried about it either, although tonight it did all become real as I was trying to assemble my slide show.

I've made many pots in the past few days. Our computer, which holds most of the pictures of what I've been making, has pretty much ground to a halt again, so I'm using Hil's work laptop to write this. My apologies to folk to whom I owe emails, I'll get on th case as quickly as I can.

I've made bowls, jugs, a sgrafitto puzzle jug, all sorts of stuff, but the photos are on the othr computer. One of this week's projects has been to make eighteen mugs, all different - I enjoyed doing them.

This one's for my blogging chum, Clay Perry. I'm swapping it for one of his very fine carved canes. I thought I should make him a special mug, so this is a portrait of the man himself. I'll get it sent off hot from the kiln, very soon Clay.

This is fab. Here's one of Jess's mugs that she made last week. She came up on Monday evening and I taught her how to pull handles, which is a very tricky technique to master. The handle on this little mug was only the second one that she's ever made - I think that's pretty impressive.

Well there's so much more stuff to write, but I'm going to sign out now and go to bed because I'm shattered. I'll leave you with this video which shows the pixies at work unpacking Nic's kiln. The best pots from this firing will be available when his on-line Spring exhibiton opens on Friday at 6 pm. It runs until Sunday 22nd March. I dashed up to Nic's on Monday to borrow some big kiln props and had a look at the pots while I was there. He's got some very tasty looking pots, so do take a peep.

To check out what's been happening and to view the finished pots when the show is launched, click here.

Well that's me done for now. I'll report back from Scotland next week - wish me luck!

Take care everbody, bye for now.

Thursday 12 March 2009


Been sticking things to pots all day. The deco is all from stuff that I see around me daily, leaves, fir cones, trees in the orchards etcI .

I've worked a long, long day again. Tomorrow will be the last major making day, so I need to think carefully what I'm lacking. More jugs needed perhaps?

One thing's for sure, it's going to be another busy one, still lots to make and lots to decorate. I'm just getting into the swing again, and as ever, I need another week to do all the things I want to do. Oh well, off to Scotland next week so that's not going to happen. I haven't had time to think about the trip to Scotland yet, which is a good thing as I haven't had time to worry about it yet either.

Right now, I've got to sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Kiln build the Collins way

Here's Nic's latest video complete with punk rock soundtrack - the sensitive amongst you beware.

Nic's currently taking bookings for his Kiln Building Course. This course has changed the lives of quite a few people over the years. You not only get the full-on Nic Collins Dartmoor experience, which is enlightening and inspiring, but you also get the Love Daddies at the closing party - what else could you wish for?

I just found the following passage on Blogger Andy's blog, so stole it! Ha ha.

'I did this last August, and I can tell you, it's great fun. You build a kiln almost from scratch - an anagama type kiln - then fire it with your own pots in it for two or three days - then visit some other potters - then party like there's no tomorrow - before opening and seeing the results.

For anyone who makes pots, it's a real opportunity to try something new, or if you want to build your own kiln, it's an opportunity to get expert tuition and advice from one of Britain's top wood firers. Wood firing is like nothing else - the intensity and connection with the process of firing is extreme - and the results are rich and rewarding and utterly unique every time.

Normally I wouldn't advertise anything on this blog (and he hasn't even paid me to do it either!), but this is really worth doing and if you have the time, I highly recommend it. The course runs Friday 28th August 2009 to Sunday 5th September 2009. At it would be cheap at twice the price.

I'd also recommend taking the camping option, for maximum effect (although having champagne for breakfast each morning in the hotel was quite nice...)'

So there you go, what are you waiting for? Book today to avoid disappointment, right here!


This happened this afternoon outside the workshop when I took Digger for a walk.


Another exhausting twelve hour day today. That's how it's going to be for the rest of the week. I'm loving it though and the workshop's filling up fast.

Today I've been decorating.

And throwing 8lb jugs. These too will have applied decoration tomorrow.

I also pressed some more dishes

Then decorated one of yesterday's in a traditional manner.

I based it on this old North Devon baking dish that was made in Fremington in the nineteenth century. The slip-smeared melamine board is my 'sketchbook'. I use it to work out my design, before hitting the wet pot. It helps me to loosen up too.

The rest of the day I decorated pots made earlier in the week - just simple combing. These will look much more interesting when they're fired - a lot more definition in the slip.

Jess is coming tomorrow. I think she might be rather surprised just how much the workshop's filled up since last week. I think she won't be at all surprised to see the chaos. I'm running out of room.

Well that's it, I'm off to bed, knackered. Goodnight all.

Monday 9 March 2009

Re-made those crazy lids - these are a bit more sensible I think. When I made the taller ones, I was thinking about Taketoshi's pots.

Taketoshi is a Japanese potter who came over and worked at Clive's place a few years ago. He made some lovely slipware jars while he was there and they had similar domed lids. They were quite unusual and very Japanese, they looked odd in slipware, but not in a bad way, just unusual in these materials. I'm happier with these ones I think, although I'll fire both.

I made some smaller jars today too...................

and seven pressed dishes. I want to fire twelve of these rim-to-rim in the top of the kiln.

Very tired so that's all for now. Sweet dreams all xx

Sunday 8 March 2009


We went to the Boot Sale this morning. Luke has to do an eight hour painting paper for his GCSE and one of the titles is Car Boot Sale, so he went to seek inspiration. I went to seek bits of pottery and found a sweet little Svend Bayer jug for 50p - bargain. Hil found a lovely bit of celeriac and Joe a computer game, so a successful trip out all round.

I went to the workshop this evening to try and get some pots made. It was in need of a bit of a sort out, so I gave it a quick tidy up before making three ten pound jars. With a bit of force drying from the gas burner, I was able to turn the lids and throw the knobs on. The lids are very tall, I weighed out too much clay, but thought I'd go with it and see what might happen. They look a bit like the Keystone Cops, but I think they'll make more sense once they've had their finger-wipe decoration - time will tell. Maybe a bit oriental for my brown English mud?

There's so much going on at the moment. I have to get the last of my pots made this week ready for the next firing. There are lots of pots that need decorating tomorrow, then force drying for bisc firing. I've got to go to Scotland towards the end of next week to demo for the Scottish Potters Association and I'll be away for nearly a week. The firing of the wood wood kiln will be at the end of the week that I return from Scotland.

The pots will be taken virtually hot from the kiln, to Winchcombe for the Derby Boys show.

I still have to finish the drainage trench off too and I have to collect the fuel for the firing. Lots of pots to make this week, force dry and bisc fire aaaaaaaghhhhhhhhhhhh too much to think about!

Bowls and platters tomorrow.

Happy Monday all