Feet of Clay

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

https://mycanoeandme.com

‘Tis but a bell-jar

crock 1crock 2 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?

A Butter Carrillon

butter crocks -1I 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.

We Have the Technology

P1000456
Breakfast stop on the Chichester Canal

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:

As I Paddled Out One Mid-Summer Morning

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!

Gnu Gnu

001 StrongbackThe 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.

Heraclitus – Patron Saint of Canoeists

258 L. Eishort, Cuillins from kayakThe Black Cuillin from Loch Eishort

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…..

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.

A Night Out with Friends

PerseidLate 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.

Biscuit Biscuit

bisc jarPeter 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.

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.

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.

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!

…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

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

 

Emsworth Buzz

ec 6apr13 pitch -2

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!

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.

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.

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.

Riding the Waves

dolphinMy 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.

Getting There

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.

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.

 

‘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:.

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!

Cor Blimey Corbles

We are nosing about the Wye Valley, and on the way to Hay we ogled the sculptures at Kilpeck church.  I spare you, dear reader, the glorious sheela-na-gig.  Some of my own work has taken a sculptural turn recently, so I took many photos for inspiration. In Hay, Simon Hulbert’s Brook Street Pottery & Gallery has some magnificent pieces, and the Hay Deli has a tiny cafe with  enormously good food. A great day out, a misty moisty morning when cloudy was the weather – all day.

A Certain Blue Penetrates Your Soul…..

…..said Henri Matisse. And for some indefinable  reason, blue works better on ceramics than perhaps any other colour.  The new web-site header  is a close-up from the large plate (see Aug 19th). It is startling how the closer view gives a completely new experience of the surface and includes a tiny reflection of a window.

Silent Witness

I’ve just roofed the little terrace at the front of ‘chez nous’, using some old tiles which were part of the original house roof. The house is 300 years old and I’m sure some of the tiles were recycled from even older buildings. They are low-fired, hence fragile, and without doubt from a wood-fired kiln. They are hand-made, irregular, weathered, and charming. They break if I stare too hard at them. Could they be medieval? Possibly. Older? Maybe. Holding one is holding a silent witness to perhaps one tenth of the span of that anthropoid hubris otherwise known as civilisation.

By contrast the new tiles I bought recently are machine made, extruded, high fired, and blandly uniform. I can walk over them and they don’t break. To hold one is to hold evidence of an efficient modern industrial process.

Is there a lesson here for the kind of pots I should be making?

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?

More Light! More Light!

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.

Ecosoapy

These little soap dishes have always been popular. Comments suggest that they are usually used for special soaps, to prevent them going to mush. This month’s Ethical Consumer magazine makes the following points: In Britain, only 20% of ‘personal cleansers’ sold are soap bars, although solid soap is just as effective as liquid soap. Clever marketing has induced a fear of other people’s bacteria lurking on soap bars. Most liquid soaps are made from petroleum, while many traditional bars are made from animal fats and/or plant oils. Using a branded body wash costs 11p per wash , compared to 0.07p for bar soap, which is thus 16 times less costly. Finally, packaging and transport weight considerations favour bar soap. I’m just saying…..

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.

Of Clay and Coffee

On a recent jaunt into the wilds of Wiltshire we found ourselves west of Salisbury in Tisbury, buying a map. Across the road was the pottery shop and studio of Kate Good. Since most ceramics are magnetic, we were of course drawn in. Getting out was more difficult, as Kate is a lovely lady and her work is of a quality which puts mine to shame. Unpretentious, unassuming, beautfully made. A potter’s potter. As if that wasn’t reason enough to visit Tisbury, just a few doors away is Beaton’s Tearooms & Restaurant. Carrot cake oozing honey and fresh walnuts, coffee of a rare quality, and impressive attention to detail in the service and setting. Superb. They even have a small bookshop. No wonder Tisbury was bustling – why would anyone want to leave? Eat your hearts out, clone-towns.

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.

The Bees Knees

A few days ago I  noticed a muffled buzzing in the studio roof, and now I have discovered that bumble-bees are nesting there. Better still, it is the rare Bombus hypnorum  species which first appeared in the UK only 11 years ago, in Hants. They are perfectly benign, and were landing on my head and crawling over my hands as I was trying get a good photo (I suddenly realised!)

No Rest for the Wicked?

Another superb weekend for the Arts Trail  Open Studio. This time the sun shone, so there was a lot of sitting in the sun and chit-chatting.  A big party and a really great time. People were very generous with the Rowans collecting tins; I’ll post the total amount here when I know it.  I’m trying to keep the gallery much as it was, because numerous people asked if it was possible to come and visit at any time.  On the other hand, I need the working space for the slab roller and the bigger pots, so I’ve put covers over the shelves to keep the dust off. The gallery will probably stay for the rest of the year.  Meanwhile, I’ve got a batch of commissions to work through. No rest for the wicked, as the candle commiserated with the oil lamp.

Thank you Google !!

Well, how about that then? As we launch into w/e 2 of the Arts Trail, with O&P safely back here on their mooring, what should Google do but flag up Edward Lear’s 200th birthday on their home-page, with specific reference to The Owl and The Pussycat. For some reason best known to themselves they chose not to refer to us…..                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   As my contribution to the celebration, here is the complete poem as stamped on the hull:

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea,

In a beautiful wooden boat.

They took some stew and plenty of goo

In case it didn’t float.

But all was well as they rode the swell

Along the British coast

So to builders and donors and muffligate owners

They tippled a hearty toast.

It’s a lovely day here, the sun is shining at last, and we look forward to welcoming this weekend’s visitors to the studios. I’ll be doing a kiln-opening late-morning – disaster or delight?