Flamingos, not pots, in the Desert

716HkvZ6CxL._SL1360_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.

Procrastinatorium

rocket stoveSome 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.

All Quiet on the W. urn Front

brochure pic 2

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.

Dangley dongles

chimes

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.

We need to Talk about Fracking

cropped-neode-header-fb.jpg

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.

The Bees are Back in Town

bee 2013There’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.

Crackpot

Cf b'bath jpMy 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.

A Leg to Stand On

yoke tableWhy 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.

Sailor Vee

leaf tileI’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.

Building the Ship as we Sail down the Harbour

EAT13 gallery -2

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. EAT13  gallery -1On 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.EAT gallery -3Oh, 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.

Emsworth Arts Trail

EAT brochureJust 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!

Bosham Art in the Garden Trail

B A Gdn -1It 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.

…and in the blue corner

RCCM blue -2

Well, it was a wet one, but, as expected,  ardours remained dry and the crack was good. The point was reached where sales to date of Not-Green Men exceeded the green ones.  RCCM blue -1

.

.

.

The blues were much approved of, and the  two blue suns sold almost immediately, the others  languishing. What is the world coming to?

 

A Night Out with Friends

leaf planterIt 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.

Take a Dip, Get a Grip

birdbathI 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.

Fast and Bulbous

orb -1                                                                                               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.

Cloaking the Green Man

Gn Man -3With 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.

From the Ashes of Adversity

blue nautiloidMy 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.

Art in the Garden

semperI 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.

The Big Question

Untitled-1 copyAmongst 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 Thought for Food

soupA 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?

Neodes & Neologisms

neode w rimAmongst 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.

Cottling the Green Man

Green Man 1A 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?

Is We or Are I ?

Op 3As 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.

At Last the Days are Growing Longer

generic  PP Xmas card

With the passing of the Winter Solstice there is a palpable sense of heading into a new year –  the days are already getting longer, although it’s difficult to believe in this wet and gloomy weather. So Pete’s Pots wishes everyone out there a joyous Xmas with friends and family. To my potter friends, may your clay respond lovingly to your touch, and shape itself to your wishes rather than its own. May your firings be surprising yet successful, and may your pots bring joy to all who hold them.

Famous-ish….. at last….. maybe…..

The delightful and super-efficient Tara, who organised the Chichester College Xmas Fair, has just sent us all her  Press Release for the 20th Dec issue of the weekly Chichester Observer. It includes a rather good photo of my stall taken by one of her students, a comment I can’t remember making so probably did, and comments from other stall-holders. Perhaps the story will be syndicated, maybe ‘Hello’ magazine will take it up. I’d better spruce myself up ready for the paparazzi.  Or maybe….  not.

Hey Blue, There is a Song For You

emma vase

If you are sensitive to the magic and melancholy of the 60’s, the title of this post may resonate with you. Similarly, there is a strange connection between the colour blue  and ceramics. For many people it is the only one to consider.  This lidded jar was made by Emma when she spent a day in the studio exploring some clay possibilities. I’ve glazed it for her. She wanted…..    blue.

Funtington Fair

funtington dec'12A great day out yesterday at the Funtington Church Xmas Fair. The ceramics sold well, especially honey-pots, neodes and Xmas decorations. I shared happy memories of Sheffield with Alys from Olive Homeware, and talked foraging with Chris whose  bottles of Chorister’s Comfort Cordial , which helps to keep the  choir singing sweetly, all flew off her stall in very short time. In fact the whole day was suffused with delightful music, and the drive home was suffused with the aroma of a loaf from Matt, whose artisan bakery makes probably the best bread in the world.  Time for a quick turnaround now:   Chichester College’s Xmas Fayre  next Wednesday followed by Rowland’s Castle on Saturday, then Tuppeny Barn on the 15th.

 

The Bees Knees

The first batch of glazed honey-pots came out of the kiln yesterday. I’m pleased with the glaze and the design, even if the bee looks too much like a fly. But then flies like honey too, and I wouldn’t want to be accused of dissing the Diptera.

The next fortnight will be busy, with four craft markets in quick succession. My stock level is running low, so I’ll need 2 B B-like.  Too much posting, not enough potting.

Market Day

I know why farmers like going to Market.  It isn’t just the buzz of the auction, it’s the chance to chin-wag. I had a lovely morning at Rowland’s Castle today. Sales were good, but so was the crack. Debby (who makes and sells amazing mulberry chutney) bounded over to show me a picture on her phone of the orchid she had potted in the neode she bought last month, and it looks magnificent – doesn’t it! I met Richard who used to live in our village as a young boy – he said that one of his teachers used to live in the village, and amazingly that is now our house. A charming lady from the Pagan and Druid Society gave me a commission to make three Green Men.  I met a young lad who is an engineering student at the college where I used to teach who is dead keen to learn how to make pots. I discovered that my  neighbouring stall-holder used to be a very good friend of someone, now deceased, who was a very dear friend to me. I sold candle-sticks and mugs, soap-dishes and jugs. I went home with much less in the car than I arrived with. All good.

‘Tis the Last Rose of Summer

Blooming alone it might be, but it looks happy in my little pot, as does the holly with the sprig of conifer. All three were picked the same day, in this year of strange weather when the garden doesn’t know if it is coming or going.  Talking of going, I’m at Rowland’s Castle tomorrow. 10 ’til 1 in Village Hall. Looking forward to it.

Sweets for my Sweet, Sugar for my……

Well, if you’re as old as me you’ll know the answer to this one. And if not, the picture is a bit of a give-away.  But do you know who sang it *originally*?  To get to the point – I’ve been experimenting with these designs for a commission, and it’s turned out to be one of the most interesting things I’ve worked on recently.  As always, once form is matched with function it hits the sweet spot, as it were. I’m probably going to glaze them ‘light oat-meal’ with a dash of colour on the bee; the one in the photo is raw clay. Some will be sold at Tuppenny Barn to raise money for their educational project, shown in the photo below:.

ecm

Emsworth Crafts market tomorrow, 10 ’til 1. My last one in Emsworth this year as I shall be at Funtington in December. This year-end is turning out very busy, with commissions rolling in and invitations to extra markets.  Next year there may be less of them, as the pottery is moving in a new direction. I am selling an increasing number of the larger pots, which I enjoy making, but they are less practical for the craft market pitches.  More Open Days maybe?

Not my Pot

Today we visited Wobage Farm, one of the epicentres of British studio pottery. Despite the sad loss of Michael Casson some years ago, this unassuming jumble of outbuildings continues to be a stimulating working environment for other members the family and associated craftspeople. Pictured is a jug by Jeremy Steward. I can only aspire to produce work of this quality – but aspire I do, and with a vengeance!

Luce

The first lamp bases are rolling out at last. Getting the hole the right size for the lamp-holder was quite a challenge. In fact, even buying the lamp-holders was a challenge, as not even the local electrical wholesalers stock them. Don’t people make their own lamps any more?

The Plate’s the Thing

The success rate on the big plates is slowly improving. Careful drying and firing are needed. This beauty, stoneware with a plain blue glaze and crimped edge, is my favourite so far. Others – some of them, anyway – are in the bin. In fact, my bin is rather full, as I’ve been having a smashing time, clearing out all sorts of rubbish stock. Feels good. Hope I’ve got enough left for the next few craft markets, or it’s out with the super-glue.

Newton’s Law of Cooling

dӨ/dt = -k(Ө –S)

As always, a lovely morning at Emsworth.  Showery weather and a popular sporting event conspired to keep people away in their droves, but it was all good fun, and a  chance to catch up with fellow stall-holders.  Actual sales were few, but I did receive a commission to make two  lamp holders based on the shape and size of one of the large garden pots, and I shall enjoy making them. One of the sales was the mug referred to in an earlier post. The purchaser recognised the formula – Emsworthians are smarter than Wodehouse would have you believe, although Jeeves might well have known the basics of differential calculus.

August Emsworth Crafts

The next Emsworth Crafts market looms – this Saturday, 4th August, 10 ’til 1. After being absent for a few months I’ll be back on my pitch  with some new pots. These 20cm diameter orbs will be there, plus some new jugs, mugs, planters, plates, and whatever else I can find space for.