Wednesday, 30 April 2008

A quickie

Made these shallow dishes today, handled the big jugs and made another, threw some mugs. Went to band practice, off to bed now because it's late, goodnight all.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Here's a big 'un

We had a great weekend away by the seaside. One advantage of living in a holiday region is that during the closed season it's possible to take advantage of some very good offers and ten pounds per person for a three night stay in a big caravan with 'entertainment' is a bargain.

I'll spare you the holiday snaps however and share with you a picture of this huge pot, probably made in the late nineteenth century in one of the potteries at Buckley in Wales. It would have had a wooden tap or 'spiggot' fitted to the hole at the base and was probably used as a resevoir for water, replenished from the well when empty.

I've got quite a lot of country pots in my collection, I love them, partly because I'm a romantic nostalgic, but also because I find the coarse, earthy texture of the clay with all its lumps and bumps and the gloss of the old lead glazes, really exciting.

The skill these potters had was extraordinary, this jar is about 470mm tall. Bearing in mind that it would have shrunk about 10% by the time it was fired, that's quite a size. These pots were made quickly so the marks left by the potter's hands are fresh and lively. Andrew McGarva describes country pottery in his excellent book, appropriately named Country Pottery as follows,

These pots are artefacts from a way of life which no longer exists. Each cottager would keep some animals and poultry, as well as producing fruit and vegetables which needed preserving and storing to last the winter. Few people moved far from their village, and accents were local as was the style of cooking. Since transport was expensive, houses, baskets, carts and pots all had their own distinctly regional style. They were locally available, by people who learned their craft from older members of their own family.

So there you go, Monday's history lesson over with. Perhaps if mankind is to continue to exist, it'll have to revert to such a lifestyle at some time in the distant future - well that's another debate probably best not to start here.

Not much other news, stocked my woodshed today with softwood trimmings from the sawmill. It was good to get that done, although I still need another couple of trips to be sure I've got enough. Lots of pots to make tomorrow, I haven't made any since Thursday so I'm a bit stressed out. Flatware tomorrow I think, big platters etc.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Cheers Ron!

A package arrived at the workshop yesterday containing a lovely little mug from my mate Ron in the States. Thank you Ron, I love it, I'm drinking a cup of tea from it as I write this.

It's been a bit of a disrupted week. Monday the boys were off school so I was home with them and Wednesday I helped my mate Frank move house. Later today we're away for a weekend break with Frank and his partner Emily in a caravan in North Devon, so I'm at home preparing for that, doing some odd jobs and avoiding the characteristic terracotta tan that I get daily at the workshop. I'll take my sketchbook and plan the frenzied burst of pot making I'll have to wind up to next week. I've not really found my rhythm since we got back home from London, but making the big jugs in the picture has been good for my head and helped to get my confidence back, which in turn will stop me flapping around like a headless chicken.

My show in Winchcombe finishes this weekend, thank you to everybody who visited. Thanks too to Matt and Sarah who came all the way from Northern Ireland to my London show last week.

Yesterday I decorated all the mugs that I made earlier in the week, then threw the big seventeen and a half pound jugs. The jugs are under wraps now to keep them damp until Monday when they'll have their handles applied. I want to get all the bigger pots made at the beginning of next week.

On the walk home last night I noticed the tiny flowers of the wild strawberry in the hedgerow. I'll look forward to their fragrant fruits on my trapses home later in the summer.

That's about it for now, join me next week for jugs, bowls and platters. Have a lovely weekend everybody, bye!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


It was a beautiful afternoon in Devon. It won't be long before the woodland opposite turns vivid green. Today was the first time this year I've been able to dry pots in the sunshine. I made two dozen mugs and handled most of them before I had to dash off home. I'd promised the boys that we'd go and watch Exeter City play tonight. A resounding victory confirming our position in the play-offs - Wembley here we come - well maybe.

Marky Mark had some flexi-time to use up so took the afternoon off work and came up to the workshop. That was a brilliant surprise.

No pots tomorrow. My mate Frank is moving house so I'm off to Cornwall in the morning to give him a hand. He's bought a cottage overlooking the house and buildings that until recently was Wenford Bridge Pottery, Michael Cardew's workshop, subsequently run by his son Seth.

I'm catching the early train from Exeter. My former work colleagues from the University who now commute to Plymouth every day will be on the train - that could so easily have been my life too, phew!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Hello John got a new Shimpo?

I had a mail the other day from my potter friend John Mathieson(he makes some lovely pots, check him out). Here's a picture of John with some of his pots.

He's selling some equipment. Blogger Matt bought one of the Shimpo wheels recently and is really pleased with it. I had a go on it the other day and it's really good, so if you're on the lookout for a professional quality potter's wheel or pugmill at a bargain price, see below:-

Shimpo wheel and Potclays
pugmill for sale.

'I have a Shimpo RK 10 wheel with remote foot control for sale at £500,
and a Potclays 7040 pugmill (230 volts) for sale at £1000 (list £1500 +
This equipment was bought for the school where I taught to refurbish
the workshop after a fire; the school was rebuilt as an Academy at a
cost of £26 million but without a ceramics workshop. The wheel is
boxed, the pugmill is still wrapped - neither has ever been used and
both are in mint condition.'

For more information contact -

John Mathieson
50 Ridgeway
Weston Favell
Northampton NN3 3AN

Tel: 01604 409942

e-mail :

Sunday, 20 April 2008

There's nowt as queer as folk

Here are some pictures from this weekend's folk festival.

Both Paul and I sold lots of stuff. It was all really cheap but it was gear that's been knocking about for years, so it was good to get rid and to let people have some bargains.

The folk festival's becoming quite a big event, I think I may even make some commemorative tankards next year.

There were hundreds of musicians, singers and folk music enthusiasts, amateur dramatists(?) and Morris Dance troupes from all over the country. For anyone from outside of the UK that may be reading this and wondering what it's all about, a Morris Dance is a traditional English folk dance, performed (usually)by men with jingle bells and handkerchiefs. There's a lot more to it than that of course and it's an important aspect of our folk heritage.

I wish I'd got a film of them dancing, I did get this bit of video of them marching past our house this morning. Note also, my new funky blue gas guzzler, the garage sale and Hil on our doorstep eating a burger - she'll not thank me for that, good job she rarely reads this rubbish.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

I've handled my wobblies

Here are a couple of shots of my workshop. Believe it or not, it's pretty tidy and organised at the moment. One day I'll try and sort out a video stream.

I had a visit from my mate Nic Collins and some of his students. One of his students, Kari has been at Phil Rogers' place until recently, here's link to her blog.

It's always good to see Nic, he's been a great support to me since I set out doing this crazy potting thing and his work's been a major influence too.

It's the folk festival in the village this weekend so there are lots of grey beards and hats around. The pubs are full of singers, fiddlers and whistle players. We're going to open the garage up tomorrow and see if any of them might fancy taking a bargain-priced second home with them. My mate Paul's going to bring some of his wooden pieces down too, we'll see what happens.

I've been to the pub tonight to look for Rob, a storywriter who occasionally comments on this blog, hopefully I'll bump into him tomorrow.

I've got a gig tomorrow night with the Love Daddies in Exeter, so won't be able to join in with the festivities here.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Elijah's plate

Earlier in the week I mentioned a small plate that I keep in the workshop made by Elijah Comfort in about 1930, here are some pictures of it. It's about six inches in diameter. I love the chunkiness of this little plate, it's chunky but somehow not heavy - great skills. The back's lovely too, galena is such a beautiful glassy glaze even when it's just brown over the clay body.

Elijah would never decorate his pots so they would be decorated by either Sidney Tustin or Michael Cardew. I've got a similar plate which was both made and decorated by Cardew, but it's much more refined.

This Elijah plate was decorated by Sid. I once showed Sid this plate and the Cardew one, to which he said in his broad Cotswold accent,'Ah, Michael always could lick me with a comb!'

I have to say I like this 'unrefined' one much better. I'll try and find the Cardew one some time and I'll stick a picture on here so you can make the comparison.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


I've been a bit of a headless chicken of late, so today was a very good sorting out kind of day, although I didn't get a lot of potting done. Never mind, I got a good stock of wood in, scavenged from a local scaffolding firm and tomorrow I'll be going to the sawmill to get some skinny wood. That'll be all the wood in and drying ready for the next couple of firings - brilliant.

Marky Mark came up this evening. There was half a pallet of dry brickclay outside so we got it all indoors and soaking down ready to use.

Other than that, I made half a dozen 'wobblies'(mugs) which I'll handle and sprig tomorrow. Really pleased to have got all those other things sorted out.


Put my handles on today. Scrolls at the bottom of the handle were typically applied to old North Devon Harvest Jugs, the likes of which have been a huge influence on my work, so I've been sticking them on mine of late.

There's an event at Barnstaple Museum later in the year, I've more to report about this, but it'll have to wait as it's the middle of the night here. Below is the Museum press release.

Harvest Jugs From: Sat 6th Sep 2008 To: Sat 8th Nov 2008

An opportunity to see Exeter Museum's fine collection of North Devon Harvest Jugs, and a fresh look at the work of the Fishley family of potters over the last 200 years.

An exhibition in collaboration with the Long Room Gallery, Winchcombe.

Harvesting was thirsty work, and many men would take cider or other drink to the field in a bottle or jug. At harvest home, it was customary for most farmers to give their labourers a harvest supper with plenty of drink, so jugs were needed for the table.

In Devon potters could be sure of selling drinking vessels and they made special orders for farmers. Treasured in their families, many have survived. The making of such 'personalized' jugs may have begun in the 17th century, and by the early years of the 18th the old motifs had been discarded in favour of prancing unicorns, hunting scenes, leaves and flowers and rhymes about 'good ale' or beare'.

They were mainly yellow glazed using lead-ore, with sgraffito desins and mottoes that often celebrated drink or featured doggerel rhymes - irregular verse.



These sheep got really excited when I walked past them on my way home tonight. You probably had to be there, but it was really funny at the time.


Devon's made of mud.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Back to work

Got making again today. Hil and the boys are off still this week so it's very hard to drag myself away from the family to my shed in the countryside. I haven't made any pots for a few weeks and I felt pretty rusty, so started off by making some 8lb fat jugs. This is a size and form of jug that's excited me in the last couple of firings. It took me a while to get my hands and eyes back into the zone, to rediscover where the curves should be and to determine the right thickness of the rim, width of the foot, neck etc.

The first pots onto the empty racks are always a bit of a struggle for me psychologically. I'll get handles on them tomorrow and decorate them on Thursday and then I'll be back into the system once more and a happy bunny.

My plan was to get another firing through before Clay Art Wales, but I think that might be a bit of a tall order. I've enough stock to do Clay Art so it's probably sensible to focus on getting fresh pots together for the subsequent couple of shows, Bovey Tracey and Rufford, rather than rushing to fill a kiln with too much big stuff and not enough smaller pots.

That said, I did have a chat with Matt today and we discussed the possibility of getting a firing through with some of his pots too. I'll have a good look at the calendar in the morning and plan a daily schedule and see what's a realistic target. I've no wood in the shed to fuel the kiln and all my glaze buckets are empty so perhaps it'd be sensible to plan a firing later, rather than sooner and to do it properly rather than bodge it.

It's been a lovely day today, a bit overcast at times and the odd drop of rain, but lovely, so I decided to walk home through the lanes for the first time this Spring. Everything is poised to explode in the hedgerows, the ferns are unwinding and the flowers and trees are bursting their buds. It was a beautiful stroll and one I'll be doing regularly now the evenings are lighter. I love living and working in the countryside. More pots tomorrow.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Home again

We got home at about midnight last night after a lovely few days with my parents. The show went really well in London. It was a bit of a nightmare getting there as the marathon was in full swing and the tube stations were packed. By the time we got to the gallery there were spaces on the shelves where pots had been bought, wrapped and taken away, and lots of red spots too, many thanks pot-buyers. The show continues until 4th May.

Here are a few shots from both shows. The first one, taken at The Long Room is a bit of history, Blogger Matt(left) and Steve Tustin swapping phone numbers. The old picture beneath it shows Elijah Comfort(right), Matt's great, great, grandfather and my old friend, the late, great Sidney Tustin, Steve's grandfather, in the drying room on the upper floor of Winchcombe pottery in 1929.

I've got quite a few pots by both of these great craftsmen. Elijah had been a flowerpot thrower prior to working for Michael Cardew. I keep a sweet little plate made by him in my workshop as a reminder that a well crafted pot need not necessarily be overly refined - that's a quality I strive to demonstrate in my work.

It was important for me that my first solo show was held in Winchcombe, as it was a trip to Winchcombe Pottery at the age of eighteen, that prompted the realisation that I wanted to become a potter, so I greatly appreciate the opportunity John Edgeler has given me to have this show. Here's John standing infront of some of my pots. The show closes on 26th April.

The next shot looks like a dodgy bunch of geezers at an identity parade. It is in fact the Blogging Boys, left to right, me, Andrew, Paul and Matt. .

The next set of pictures were taken at the Harlequin Gallery yesterday. That's Blogger Margaret and her husband, it was good to see Margaret again.

Finally, here's a picture of my boys taken during a trip into the City earlier in the week, proving that Big Ben really isn't that big.

Back to work tomorrow, loads of pots to make for Clay Art Wales.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

London tomorrow

I've been a bit absent from this blog in the past few days while I've been at my parents.

Off to London tomorrow to the Harlequin Gallery for my opening. It's also the London Marathon tomorrow so I'm hoping we don't have too much trouble with healthy people dressed in crazy outfits. John Rastall the gallery owner says the majority of people will have passed by by two-thirty when my show opens so it should be fine.

Here's the link yet again if you haven't seen it on here already, with some pictures of a few of the pots that are in the show.

We'll be heading back home to Devon afterwards so I'll be able to stick a few photos on of tomorrow's opening and some more from the Winchcombe show too.

Bye for now

Monday, 7 April 2008

Thanks all

Thank you to all who came on Friday night, some folk came a very long way, I appreciate your support.

We're at my parent's now, where I've been laid up with a horrible migraine since Saturday evening. I can just about see straight enough now to do this but I'll keep it brief and add more later.

Thank to all who bought pots, I hope you enjoy them, I think these and the London pots are the best I've made to date.

It was great to have some of my blogging buddies all together under one roof and to meet Andrew(and his mum) for the first time, although I felt like I knew him pretty well already. We stayed the night with Matt and Tig. I had the chance to spin a quick pot in his shed, thank you to them for their hospitality.

I've got some more photos on my camera which I've yet to transfer. These images were taken by my Mother. We're staying with my parents until Sunday when we'll go to the London show, then head back to Devon from there. My brain hurts so I'll sign out in a moment but not before saying a big thank you to John Edgeler for putting on the show.

John Edgeler looking like he's making a big roll-up

Blogger Paul on the left and Blogger Andrew on the right and my Dad behind.

John Mathieson and Hil with Ron and Sue in the background

Paul Young and Sue

Friday, 4 April 2008

And the winner is.........Ang

Got the car so it's all systems go!

Just had a phone call from Ron who called to wish me well tonight, what a star.

Also, just arrived in my mailbox, is today's winning entry for the colouring contest, beautifully executed by my blogging chum Antipodean Ang of Adelaide. Send me your address Ang and I'll get a little prize in the post for you in the next few days. I never knew we could look so good in lippy.

Today's the day

Firstly a big thank you to everyone who came up with kind offers of help yesterday when the car died. If all goes to plan I'll be collecting our new money guzzler this morning.

Cookie's coming round in a minute to help syphon the fuel out of the old car - Hil had put loads of petrol in ready for today's journey.

These two exhibitions have been a long time coming and we've been living hand to mouth. I haven't wanted to sell many pots since Christmas, I've been building up a stock for months for these shows, so I've barely brought any money into the household for ages. I'm hoping people will like what they see and that they'll feel the need to take the pots home with them.

This is my first ever solo show and I'm terrified. It's a scary prospect being centre of the attention. In the band I'm the bass player so I tend to be on the periphery, this is a lot more frighetening than the biggest gig I've ever played.

The last private view I had at the Long Room was a joint exhibition with a number of slipware potters including Clive Bowen and Paul Young. I got so nervous about it that I was struck down with a migraine and didn't make it. Despite my trepidation I'm feeling pretty good this morning so it's all systems go.

Here's a picture of the Love Daddies taken at last night's practice. What a good looking bunch of boys. You can print this out and colour it in with your pencil crayons if you're looking for something exciting to do indoors on a rainy day.

Thursday, 3 April 2008


Well the Automatic were brilliant last night, it was their first gig in eight months so they were right up for it.

As it turns out, we were lucky to have got there and back safely. The car wasn't running right and there was a slight judder on the clutch. Hil dropped it off at our mechanic's house on her way to work this morning. It wasn't long before he brought it back and told me that under no circumstances should we drive it, that irrespective of the clutch, the front subframe has cracked so badly that the whole of the front end was likely to collapse if we were to brake hard. Basically the car's a right-off.

That's both our vehicles that have been condemned to scrap in the last few months, I hate cars!!!

To take the positives, at least we're safe and it didn't collapse on our journey to Winchcombe. On the down side, we've got to scrape together the money to buy a new car and unless we get one before tomorrow night, I'll have to travel on my own by train to the opening. I'll sort it somehow, but what a bore!!!!!

Enough moaning, I'm looking forward to getting to the show tomorrow night and meeting up with everybody, my parents, my blogging buddies and my potter mates Paul Young and John Mathieson who are coming along too.

I just spoke to John Edgeler at the gallery and he says it's looking great all set out - It'll be good to see it all in a gallery environment instead of the workshop or my attic. The pictures here have been on my blog before so I'm afraid you've got them again, they're pots that are in the show. The photos are quite big, if you click on the images and enlarge them, you'll get to see the qualities of the clay and glazes in much more detail.

You can also see some pictures of the pots in the London show if you click here

Oh well, back to trying to sort out how I'm going to get to Winchcombe tomorrow..............