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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
Well, it’s been a busy week, with several Craft Fairs and studio visitors. Rowland’s Castle, delightful as always, was enhanced by Sylvia’s home-made mince pies & mulled wine. Being at Chichester College provoked vague memories of a past life. The Gallery (as I like to call my garage) has been spruced up (a seasonally appropriate cliché). Next Saturday I’m at Tuppenny Barn, when all proceeds go towards funding Maggie’s magnificent Education Centre. Since this photo was taken, the straw-bale walls have been built.
A 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 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.
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.
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.
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:.
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?
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!
A friend of mine at the craft market comissioned a couple of lamp bases for her new lounge, based on the shape and size of my large vases. “No problem”, said I naively, “Just needs a narrower neck”. Wrong. Bringing the coils up to a narrower neck changes the aesthetic of the overall shape. Then there is the tricky problem, given shrinkage, of how to get the hole correctly sized for the lamp fitting. And these issues are not confronted until about 90% of the coiling is done. Oh dear, back on the learning curve again. The first four attempts are in the bin, but now it is starting to come good, and very satisfying it is too. A pity that I am 180 years too late for Goethe.
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.