I thought the Pete’s Pots blog had vanished into a muddy hole, but it seems that a blog is for life, not just for Xmas. As I started a new one – ‘My Canoe and Me’ – the old blog writhed wraithe-like from the shadows, seemingly immortal.
Oh well. For the curious, I’m pushing out the boat at
With thanks to Bath Potters: I’d run out of blue glaze and the clock was ticking on the order – my glaze powder arrived the next day. Excellent service as always, and probably the best stoneware glazes on the planet.
In use, the LH jar contains a little cool water, the RH jar is filled with butter. RH jar upside down in LH jar for cool storage, RH jar as shown for serving. Cool eh?
I hadn’t heard of butter bell crocks ( I lead a quiet life) until Jean asked me to make one for her. The throwing is slightly technical (they will fit, it’s just the lens that makes them look too big).
Sharp readers will have noticed the change of blog name. The paddling posts will be moved to their own site in due course.
Some old drainpipe and a wallpaper-stripper made a surprisingly effective steam-bender, even if the pipe is now banana shaped. Once dry, the three ash laminates will be glued together then shaped to form the inner stem, to which the ends of the strip planks will be fixed. This has been a lovely job on a very rainy day.
I fortuitously pulled up alongside this sign while checking the map for the way to the river. With apologies to Stevie Smith, it gave a good cue for a title.To see the video on YouTube, click (or double click) the link below:
Gnu Gnu, as she is now known, has form if not substance, and she is beautiful in her transcendence, but her metamorphosis from sleek long planks of red cedar is in abeyance. Over the phone the timber yard had said they could cut the planks into 1/4″ strips and profile the edges into bead and coving, but face-to-face they demurred, so it will be my hands that give shape to Gnu Gnu‘s intimate hidden detail. Which will be a lot of work. And a lot of sawdust and a lot of wood-shavings. Isn’t there something about that in A Midsummer Night’s Dream ?
When Oscar Goldman murmurred these words prior to reconstructing Steve Austin he certainly wasn’t about to go for a paddle. But I was, and in searching for a title afterwards I first considered ‘As I Went Out One Morning’ (Bob Dylan), ‘Quite Early One Morning’ (Dylan Thomas), or or ‘As I Went Out One Mid-Summer Morning’ (Laurie Lee). Dylan won the Tom Paine Award for the song, which references Tom Paine, and Tom Paine had a strong link with Chichester, so it all goes round and round.
I wanted to post a video here, but it would cost me 60$ a year for the facility, so double click the following link to see the footage on YouTube:
The video is crudely edited – I’m still low on the learning curve – but things can only get better, as we once believed before TB cosied up to GWB.
Postscript: The video originally had Dylan’s song, from the John Wesley Harding album, as a soundtrack. Due to understandable copyright restrictions, it was blocked by YouTube. I have replaced it with a free-to-play track by Lunasa, but which carries a payload of adverts. Sorry!
The new canoe is in the making, and one of my worst (?best) puns may yet become its name. The photo shows the strongback in the making, and on which the canoe proper will be built. The plans were bought from Bear Mountain Boats in Canada, and the Western Red Cedar for the planking will come from Canada too, via a timber yard in Southampton. The design is old-school ‘Prospector’, proven and pleasing.The construction is modern: strip-planking soaked in epoxy and protected with glassfibre mat. It won’t be a quick build.
The pottery, and therefore the blog, have been dormant for a year. I miss them both, but just now I’m paddling much more than potting. Of course, if you want to take your cue from the Moody Blues’ second hit single, I won’t be offended. For my part, I’m with Heraclitus, and further, browsing a new translation, I see that he actually wrote “You cannot paddle in the same river twice”. He was also a bit of a riddler…..
As all is largely quiet in the mud-shed, I thought I’d do a post about my good friend Kevin Borman’s latest book. I had the honour of helping with the proof-reading, and there is also a ceramic connection as I supplied a little information about bentonite for the book. On one level ‘Flamingos in the Desert’ is a guide book to the Almeria region of southern Spain, where Kevin lives with his partner Troy. On another, it is a wide ranging and quirky account of his exploration of the area: sleeping under the stars on mountain tops, multi-day hikes along the coast and along rivers, bird-watching, poking about in ruins, tracing abandoned railways, water-mills and watchtowers, researching Moorish history, gardening in a semi-desert, spaghetti Westerns, goat-herding, pigeon-keeping, geology & geography – and much more, too much to list. It’s another well-crafted book by a knowledgeable and inquisitive writer. If you are still interested, Google it. Other Search Engines are of course available.
Some days there are so many reasons for not getting stuck in that I despair of ever making another pot. This time I am excused. My old wood-burning stove has gone, replaced by this seemingly mundane slap-up of old bricks. Lurking behind the haphazard facade is my version of a rocket stove, no less, and it works a treat. The flue goes up 3′, back down to the floor, then up again, before joining the main stack. The mass of bricks warms up and becomes a radiator. Surprisingly it burns less wood, heat for heat, than the old stove. I’m still not making any pots though – it’s just too cosy sitting in front of this beast.
The Pete’s Pots studio has been operating in standby mode for most of the last 6 months, but now it is time to gear up for the 2014 Emsworth Arts Trail. This year I shall be sharing a venue with textile artist Robina Richter and watercolourist Stuart Thompson at ‘Bina’s house in Westbourne. Apart from some garden pots, all my work will use the technique illustrated in the accompanying photo, and will draw inspiration from the current debate on fracking , including fracking as metaphor.
Late in the evening we watched the International Space Station sweep brightly over from west to east, but the Perseids eluded us due to the smear of cloud. In the early hours the sky cleared, and with no moon the stars were crisp. The Perseids delighted as always, a bitter-sweet pleasure marking the dying days of Summer. On cue, the early morning had an autumnal whiff and nip. Pure joy.
When our friend Cass had a birthday party she invited us all to bring something crafty to do, suitable for all ages. My contribution was strips of raw clay and a few scribing tools. People wrote birthday messages for Cass, or just doodled. I fired and glazed the strips and hung them from a willow ring.
Peter Allwright is an artist. His paintings have a startling vibrancy. People scurry against background colours whose luminous intensity must take the greatest skill to achieve. I was honoured to receive a commission for some biscuit jars onto which Peter will paint. Appropriately they needed to be fired twice. Now, why is the first firing called the ‘biscuit’ firing – wouldn’t it be more etymologically correct to use the term for the second firing? Anyway, have a look at Peter’s paintings, they are stunning.
I’ve had a few questions & comments about the new header image, so I’ll go public. The image is from the rim of a large bowl which was destined for submission in a competition. The interior was to have been inscribed with the post-codes of all the proposed UK fracking sites, nothing more. The aim was to promote discussion about the merits, or otherwise, of fracking in the UK. Ironically the piece developed a crack during the second firing, so I regarded it as flawed and didn’t submit it. I think maybe I was wrong.
There’s a buzz in the Pete’s Pots studio, but the kiln has been cold for days and the wheel is still. The bees are back! Last year the nest in the roof went quiet after a few months and I feared the worst, but the Tree Bees have returned and are busy busy. Maybe all those honeypots I made had something to do with it.
My good friend Caroline commissioned a bird bath to sit on an existing pedestal, with a rim to make a snug fit. With due allowance for shrinkage the fit was perfect, but a massive circumferential crack opened up during the glaze firing. Strangely it adds a certain charm, and although I was able to offer alternatives I was pleased that this one was favoured – I like it very much.
Why are the best outcomes so often the result of an intensely focussed need for a sudden solution – or is the answer self-evident? The need was for a display bench for the Open Studios, and the solution was an old oxen yoke cut in half and capped with an ash plank retrieved when I re-roofed the barn. Knocked up in minutes, it stole the show. Oh, and only one of the pots is mine. The other, a little beauty, came from the Charity Shop.
I’ve been slapping leaf sprigs from the Green Man construction all over the place, and here they are on a tile, coated with my favourite blue glaze. The last of my stock sold last weekend, but some nifty footwork in the studio has produced a new batch – which should be coming out of the kiln as our first visitors surge up the drive on Saturday on Day 3 of the Arts Trail. Sod’s Law says none of them will sell. As I said, c’est la vie.
This is it, almost my total stock. Perilously little for 5 days of Arts Trail. A lot went last weekend at the Art in the Garden Trail, and it has been too cold recently to get much more made. On the upside, I’m pleased with the gallery (as I like to call my garage). Pointedly, no photo of the studio, but come opening time tomorrow it will be spruce. If I say that often enough, it’s bound to be true.Oh, and then there are all the neode pots on the window wall – forgot about those. And all the Green Men, sun tiles, leaf tiles and fish tiles. Not too bad then. Roll on tomorrow morning.
Just a couple of days to go and the pace is manic. Oh dear – the weather is starting to look like a repeat of last year. Never mind, the kiln will be on, and the wood-burner, and the kettle, so we can snug down and moan about the cold. The screenshot above is of the front and back pages of the brochure – spot Pete’s Pots!
It has been quite a busy day and I didn’t get a chance to take a decent pic, so forgive the quick snap. Many have exchanged hard-earned cash for pots & pieces. I’ve met some lovely people, not least my host Mary and her son Simon & daughter Jennifer. This little corner of Bosham is a hidden Bohemian gem, an artists’ enclave. I want to go and live there. The event continues tomorrow, 11 ’til 4. Next two weekends : Emsworth Arts Trail.
First craft market of the year at Emsworth this morning. Both the sun and the people of Emsworth came out in force, there was a super buzz in the hall, and sales were good. Rowlands Castle for me next Saturday, then Bosham Art in the Garden Trail , followed over the next two weekends of the Emsworth Arts Trail. More sun, please, more sun!
It should have been night out with friends to celebrate the start of Spring, but not even Orion’s dog, brightest of the bright, could make it through the veil of cloud. Even so, Merulus was in fine voice in the early hours, followed later by his erstwhile cousins the Rubeculas. A sudden inspiration to put the Green Man’s leaves onto a stoneware planter came during the song and I think it has worked well.
I make these as bird-baths, the idea being that the crinkly rings give the feathery dippers a grip to stop them slipping & sliding relentlessly into deep water. This one of a batch I am making in stoneware for the Bosham Art in the Garden Trail, Sat 20th & Sun 21st April. They will be on sale at around £45.
I’m sure the late Captain had not a trace of horse DNA in his heart, and to him I dedicate this orb. Bulbous yes, but maybe not so fast. Before you ask – not two halves stuck together, and not slipcast. How did I make it? Carefully.
With glaze issues fairly well resolved, the first batch of seven Green Men has gone to a new home. This was an interesting commission. After sculpting a basic face in clay, then making a plaster cast, I sculpted a selection of leaves and made flush casts to create sprigs. The sprigs, up to 15, were laid over the basic face. The result was superb in raw clay, but fine detail was lost under the glaze, so I made another cast of the complete face. Much quicker now, and keeps the cost well down.
My Green Men need to be – well, green – and I don’t normally do green. Clayman’s Bottle Green glaze looked perfect on his sample tile, but I think I under-fired, and my results were mediocre to say the least. I’d had a bit of space left in the kiln so I test fired this nautiloid wall plaque with blue glaze over a white slip, the pattern having been carved through the slip with a lino-cutting tool. I do rather like the result. The Green Men will have to have another roasting.
The new header shows my little shelf at The Carousel, a new shop in Chichester which opens on Saturday 2nd March at 11.30. Iris has done a wonderful job getting it all together, and we all wish her well.
I was delighted and honoured to receive an invitation to take part in the Bosham Art in the Garden Trail. This admirable event takes place in over 20 gardens. Proceeds from entrance fees, food sales, and a percentage of art sales, go to local charities. Artwork has to have a garden theme. It all happens on Sat/Sun 20th/21st April, 11 a.m.until 4 p.m. Click on the link in blue for further details. I’d better make a few flowerpots – at least it isn’t so cold in the studio just now.
Amongst a batch of commissions from before Xmas was one for a pair of house names. The somewhat unusual name was to be clearly readable despite being set back from the road, with unobtrusive decoration. After a few sketches we settled on what you can see here, and the plaques came out of the kiln today. The big question – what does the name mean? And yes, I have Googled it.
A peripheral – or maybe central? – benefit of being a potter is the subtle enjoyment of using one’s own cookware and tableware. Today with 4″ of snow outside and still snowing, we are having a snug lunch by the wood-stove. Soup, bowl, plate, table mat and soda bread all by the hand of either Mr or Mrs Pots. So who is washing up?
My friend and former colleague Veronica took up pottery a couple of years ago, a little while after moving to Poole. This dynamic and finely modelled dolphin is one of her recent pieces. Currently I am struggling with figurative work, so I can appreciate how much time and skill goes into a form like this.
Amongst the bigger pots these are one of my top sellers, and always attract comments and questions such as “What are they for?”, “How do you make them?”, “What are they called?” . The answers are: “Anything or nothing”, “It’s a secret”, and “Neodes”. I’m waiting for the call from the OED.
A commission for 3 Green Man wall plates has given me some trouble, as I am not a sculptor. Googling him produced a vast number of images. I don’t want mine to be a copy, so that was an extra constraint. After several sacrifices to the bin I came up with this, and, as I write, the plaster is setting in the cottle. Further vegetation will be added, but cannot be included in the plasterwork because of the undercuts. So fiddly. Is this why Henry Moore went for smooth?
As of 27th Dec, Pete’s Pots is – and are – now on Facebook, with a dedicated business page. As a business page it can only be ‘liked’, not ‘friended’. Peter le Potter is my ‘personal’ pottery page, which can be ‘friended’, but I can’t get the link to work from here to there. So much time wasted on the technology when I should be up to my elbows in clay.