Friday 31 December 2010

New year, old pictures

Hello everybody.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, I certainly have had a lovely time and have gained half a stone, so I need to get back to work soon to work it off.

I'm pleased to say, all our snow has gone, so I'll be able to get to the workshop with ease when I start back next week. I managed to get a lift up there on Boxing Day with a friend who has a Land Rover, which meant that I was able to retrieve my camera, so I have some out of date pictures to share with you.
This is a huge blunger which has been given to me by Peter Swanson, a fabulous potter who lives near Penzance, over the border in Cornwall. In the picture is my chum Frank.

A couple of weeks ago, we travelled down to Peter's place in Frank's van, to collect the blunger. What a nightmare, it had rusted up, so we couldn't get it apart. It was too tall to fit through Peter's door in one piece and mighty heavy too, so after much cursing, hammering, further cursing and harder hammering and harder cursing still, we had to abandon it. We'll go back and try again soon, with more muscle, bigger hammers and louder cursing.

I'm really looking forward to getting this fantastic machine back to Hollyford as I'll be putting my native clay processing system in place in the next few weeks. This blunger will mix half a tonne of clay into slip, enabling me to sieve out any debris, before drying it back out, into plastic clay. It is something really exciting, to be fully self sufficient in clay, from the field beside the workshop.
The next two pictures were taken at the group exhibition I was in, on the outskirts of Cambridge just before Christmas. On the left, painter Simon Jowitt and on the right, my big brother. These two have been friends nearly all their lives. I hardly took any photographs at the show.
Here's one of the big harvest jugs from the last firing that now has a new home.

Here are some shots of the fieldfare puzzle jug that I wrote about in a recent post, glazed and finished.
It is most certainly a winter pot, with just one leaf and one apple on the trees.

Well, that's almost it for now, new pots to come next week. I want to end by thanking a lot of special people.

A big thank you to everybody who has supported me in the past twelve months, through buying my pots. I hope the pots continue to give you pleasure.

Many thanks to those who have helped me develop the workshop, Different Dave, Croydon Tim, Marky Mark and Frank.

Big, big thanks to Matt and Alex, who own my workshop and allow me to do this at the end of their lane. Without them, none of this would be possible. And thank you to them too for the huge pile of clay dug from their field.

A special thank you and congratulations to Alex McErlain, who has done so much for me in the last year, taking me to Montpellier back in the spring and exhibiting my work in the ongoing Honest Pots exhibition in York City Art Gallery.

Alex has just retired from Manchester Metropolitan University. His kind of knowledge and experience will never be seen again in Higher Education and I know that he has had a profound influence on the lives of many people.

I'm really looking forward to Alex spending more time at Hollyford in months to come.

You may have seen this little film of Alex before, working on some collaborative pots he made with Alice Kettle, but I'll post it again. Congratulations Alex

And of course, last but not least, a big thank you to my family who have put up with the long hours I have to work and erratic income, associated with a career in pottery.

Happy New Year everybody, all the very best for 2011, hope it's a good one.

Right, it's party time!

Friday 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

Well it's been ages since I blogged. Since last I posted, I've had two exhibitions, finished the fieldfare puzzle jug and delivered it to its new owner and been snowed-in and unable to get to work. I left my camera at the workshop, so no pictures of any of that to share with you. Normal service will be resumed in the New Year, when I need to get stuck in to making big style.

As we've been snowed-in, there's been nothing for it, other than taking a relaxing break at home with the family, which has been a delight.

One minute until Christmas day. The boys are in bed, soon it will be time to fill their stockings with goodies. They're big now - too old for Santa, but not too old to hang their stockings up.

I hope you all have a very, very Merry Christmas

Monday 6 December 2010

Frosty Monday and the Fieldfares in the orchards

Well I made it to the workshop on Friday and it was indeed, as my friend's picture had shown it - bloomin' snowy and bloomin' slippy. In spite of the man flu, I bravely soldiered on and managed to get the pots wrapped and packed and into Exeter in time for the opening - just.

The drive back was precarious, it doesn't look much, but the lanes out in the sticks aren't gritted and as soon as you get to a hill, it becomes a game of stop, start, stop, reverse, run-up, go........ hope for the best.

Anyway, I made the opening in a somewhat unprepared fashion and chatted, through a fever of man flu, to the good folk who came on such a cold night. I didn't take any pictures, I'll get some later in the week.

This morning I walked to work. This is the frosty orchard.

The trees were full of Fieldfares, they always are at this time of year, they migrate in from Northern countries for the winter months.

It was chilly, but beautiful.

I have been waiting to get on to sgrafittoing this puzzle jug and the walk through the orchards inspired it's development today. Usually I pinch a traditional rhyme from old puzzle jugs, but this one has one of my own, written in a similar, folksy kind of way. It says:

Fill me full with cider sweet

From orchards where the fieldfares meet

And puzzle as I challenge you

To drink, not spill, my appley brew.

So far it has a number of birdies that look (very, very)vaguely like fieldfares- well they have speckles and two wings at least. They're hanging out on the bare, winter trees. I could make them look more realistic(yea right) if I were to copy them from a book, but I like the idea of drawing what I think they look like, as they would have done in the days before photography. I hope that they capture the naive essence of the old North Devon slipware jugs that I admire so much. Many hours of scratching still to go this pot.

Well that's all for now other than to invite once again, anybody who would like to come to:
The Exeter show
The Cambridge show

Goodnight all

Thursday 2 December 2010


First of all, thank you to everybody who left comments about my latest firing - I think it's one of the best I've ever had.

This is what the workshop looked like today, not that I got there. This picture as taken by a friend who lives at Hollyford. I was snowed in and crashed out on the sofa at home with a nasty dose of man flu. The boys have been off school today too as the school buses weren't running.

My pots, which need to be in an exhibition in Exeter tomorrow, are still snowed in in the workshop. I'm hoping I'll be able to get there tomorrow to get them, or I won't be able to have any pots in the show for the opening tomorrow evening.

I might even be too man-flued up to go - oh it's tough being a man with a cold.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Workshop movie

Firing day movie

A good firing, woohoo!!!

Evening all

Well it was a great firing, hurrah! Pretty much everything came out well, with a few exceptions, but they were pots that I'd glazed badly, so I can't blame that on the kiln. What a relief. I have two exhibitions, one that opens on Friday in Exeter called Beautiful Pots, with six other potters and one the following Friday, in Cambridge, with a group of artists, including works by painter, Simon Jowitt, who I have known since infancy. More about these shows later. Here are some pictures of the pots.

A large harvest jug

A close up, showing the interesting tones in the glaze.

This little jug is the first pot that I made with the new blend of Hollyford clay and Almondsbury brick clay.

Small jar

The top of a moneybox
I made this 8lb jug when I had the visit from the Westcountry Potters Association a few weeks ago. It was dug straight from the banks of the stream, kneaded up, then thrown.

The decoration in close up.

Another 8lb jug

This is an interesting pot, inspired by some of the jugs that I saw in York Museum a few weeks ago.

I put the glaze on rather patchily, but I don't mind that at all - it makes it all the more reminiscent of its ancient ancestors.

This is quite a large jug made from 16lbs of clay.

This is one of my favourite pots from the firing, a large bottle of about 18" in height.

And here's a close up of its surface.

There are lots more, I'll post some more pictures later, but right now, it's time for bed. If you would like to see all the pictures that I've taken of workshop stuff in the last month, including more of the pots from the firing, follow this link

Goodnight all

Saturday 27 November 2010

Packed and fired

Well since last I posted, Marky Mark and I have packed and fired the kiln.

Here are some pictures of the action.

Some glazed pots prior to packing.

Look at that, packing with a spirit level - what ever is my world coming to?!

We finished the pack just after midnight - it was hard work, out in the cold of the kilnshed - MM had been at work all day and I'd been flat out with glazing, so this was like doing another day's work on top. Deservedly, when we finished, we sat down on the newly installed 'sofa' beside the woodburner in the workshop and enjoyed a celebratory tin of lager - nice.

We'd decided to sleep up at the workshop, the thinking being that we wanted to make an early start and it would be easier to fall out of bed on-site rather than getting out of a comfortable bed at home to encounter Arctic conditions. It saved all of that scraping ice from the windscreen and suffering the prevailing, icy blast of the blower in the car on the drive to the workshop. So we stoked up the burner and made our beds up on the racks, then slept soundly until ten to six in the morning....

...when the alcohol was replaced with caffeine

It was really icy and all day long visitors would comment on how cold it was, but we were so well wrapped up in winter thermals and we were feeding a big box of fire, so didn't feel it at all. In fact it was a beautiful, sun bathed day to be firing, in spite of the fact that the temperature didn't rise above freezing and there were the occasional, short flurries of minute snow flakes on the North wind, which thankfully, came to anything.
The new chimney worked well again, helped by the light wind.
as did Marky Mark ;-)
Now the long wait in readiness for the excitement/despondency of the unpack and a collection of new work/landfill. Fingers crossed. Watch this space.
Happy weekend all

Friday 26 November 2010

2 days to firing time

Not long in from work and really tired so this is very brief
Biscware awaiting glazing. The jug that WPA decorated is there in the middle with leaves and birdies on.
Marky Mark glazing his pots
And me doing mine
Some glazed pots. There are a few more to do in the morning, then MM and I will pack the kiln tomorrow evening, preheat overnight wth a gas burner and start firing with wood early on Saturday morning. There was talk on the local radio of the possibiliy of snow this weekend - I really hope it doesn't - does that make me a miseryguts?
Back soon
PS Anon, I measured the 8lb jugs, they're 12" high

Monday 22 November 2010

Happy Birthday Alex

Today is my good friend Alex McErlain's birthday - it's a special one too.

Happy Birthday Alex!

Saturday 20 November 2010


This is the cover of a stunningly photographed calendar, featuring some of the beautiful mums who live in and around my home village, Cheriton Fitzpaine. They courageously bared all in all weathers, including snow, to raise money for local charities.

If you click on the photo, not only will you have the delightful pleasure of seeing these fair maidens in more detail, but you'll notice a number of my jugs that were strategically positioned during the photo shoot.

The calendar was shot by my very talented friend, photographer Dawn Hannemann , who cleverly, artistically and tastefully composed the images in various locatons in the neighbouring countryside. She used carefully positioned props to protect the ladies' modesty. It's a fundraiser aimed at providing money for the various charities in the village that benefit local children. There are further images from the calendar and a report from the newspaper right here. If you'd like to support the cause and purchase one, you can buy it right here.

My word, such excitement boys and girls, now back to the brown mud.

I went to work this morning with Marky Mark. These are the dishes I made last week - they're about 14" in diameter. I threw the footrings on to them yesterday. Today I handled and decorated mugs and worked on moneyboxes. I'm making all the last minute small stuff for the firing. This time next week, we'll be in full flame.
This sprigged mug will be green
this one, black and yellow
and this one black and amber. I've made two dozen mugs so far, each different. It's a great way to try out different decorative approaches, without risking making a mess of a large pot.
Here's a haystack and cockerel moneybox. I've made some other designs that I'll show you on a later post when they're finished. These are inspired by similar boxes made in the country potteries of England until the end of the nineteenth century. As they're supposed to be for saving money, in common with the old ones,they have no bung, so you have to fiddle around their slots with a knife, or smash them to get the money out.
Here's Marky Mark painting one of his pots. The orange slip is made from the stream clay - it's going to be interesting to see how his pots come out, because he uses the same materials as I do, but in a very different way.

That's all for now, off to my mate Clarkey's for home made pizzas - nice

Thursday 18 November 2010

Wet slip

Yesterday's pictures