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.
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.
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!
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.
…..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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
A good friend of mine commissioned a set of mugs for a relative of his who was about to embark on a degree course. Each mug boasts a famous bit of Mathematics in gold lettering, and this one was especially apposite. Answers on a postcard please for what the complete formula is, and whose formula it is (Terry, you are banned from taking part!)
Back in the UK and all the ware which was drying out nicely while we were getting soaked in the Pyrenees is lined up for firing. First batch for biscuiting included the bigger orbs and a couple of large plates. All the stock orbs sold during the Open Studio days in May, as did the ‘tyre’ planters – replacements for these went in the kiln as the orbs came out.
Finally I have made the last of the items for orders received at the Open Studios weekends. But for the Irish trip, they would all have been fired and delivered by now – apologies to those affected. All the sempervivum (house leek) planters in stock sold at the time, even though they were a bit wonky and narrowly escaped the bin. I think I’ve cracked the technique now, tricky but satisfying. Working out how to make unfamiliar items is a large part of the joy of making them.
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!)
The blog has been quiet for the last 3 weeks as we have been in SW Ireland. A great trip but disappointing on the pottery front. For example we visited a couple of high profile potteries where the work was, in my opinion, a blatant rip-off targetted at tourists. Ridiculously expensive for what it was, ie poorly made, lacking elegance, churned out in quantity with little attention to detail, etc.
On the upside, The Rowans Hospice have told me that our Arts Trail collection on their behalf was worth nearly £75 with Gift Aid included. Our deep thanks go to everyone who contributed.
The snails? On the wall of the Signal Station at Mizen Head. Design inspiration – see them on a pot soon. Oh, and if you find yourself near Dingle, do visit the Phoenix Restaurant. Beautiful place, beautiful people.
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.
Last day of the Emsworth Arts Trail today. All set for a warm and sunny one, even better than yesterday, when we were able to sit out in the garden chatting with friends and visitors. Rock bun numbers diminished rapidly, but there’ll be a fresh baking this morning. Flap jack is holding up well, but expected to go. The ‘Seconds & Rejects’ table in the gallery seems to be drawing the most interest. Is primacy of perfection a myth? Or is it that we just like a bargain? Come and decide for yourself, it will be lovely to see you. As well as the pottery and photography in the garage gallery, we have knitting and weaving in the summerhouse, which we affectionately call ‘Sheila’s Shed’.
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?
We have had the most wonderful 3 days, with a steady stream of visitors to the studios. We are some way off the main Trail, so anyone making the effort to come here, especially in the cold & wind & rain, probably had a particular interest in pottery, knitting or weaving. Many friends & neighbours also popped in, some that we hadn’t seen for a while. The wood-burner in the pottery kept us cosy, and the lemon drizzle & flapjack took a hammering. So did the stock, but we are still good for next weekend.
Day 2 of the Arts Trail, and another lovely day. We had a steady stream of visitors, lots of chatting and drinking tea in the studio huddled round the wood-burner. From this you may gather that it was another wild wet and windy one, but spirits were not dampened. This evening O&P went to Thornham Marina to take their position in the Arts Trail exhibition tent ready for tomorrow. We also had a chance to have a good look at the boat. Absolutely fantastic, what a visionary idea, what superb craftsmanship. Double-click to enlarge pics.
Despite the cold and the rain it has been a great day, with a steady stream of visitors who seemed to like the pots and certainly bought a lot. Thank goodness I have built up a good stock level, otherwise by Day 5, at this rate, it would be “Yes, I do make pots, but I’m afraid I haven’t got any to show you”. In the afternoon I did a session on the wheel which seemed to go down well, and the lump of mud obediently transformed into a fine jug which is earmarked as a present for one of our guests.
Things are looking up – the forecast has changed from heavy rain to light rain for today. All is spruce and dapper, and apart from everyhting that I”ve forgotten to do, everything is done. Our first visitor arrived on the dot of 10, a passing dog-walker, who stayed for a chat and a browse. The rain has stopped, no-one has nicked the wind-sock and poster in the road yet, so all is good.
36 hours before we open to the public and the last load of special pots goes in the kiln. My favourites these, handmade in France and biscuit fired over there in my little raku kiln, brought back for glazing and the second firing.
So it was – shall we say a bit of a downer – when the kiln packed up 2 hours into the firing cycle. Kaput. Zilch.
Dylan at Northern Kilns saved the day. He talked me through the diagnostics and I discovered that the contactor had failed. I got a spare from the local electrical wholesaler, fitted it, and now we’re back in business. Hence the big sighs of relief as the figures climbed on the temperature display.
My toe is fine, my head has healed (don’t ask), and I have a new camera, so all is well with the world. Only a week now until the Arts Trail, and mild panic has set in. With reason maybe, as most of my special pots were made from a delivery of clay which proved to be faulty, warping far too readily when fired.
I’ve managed to build up some other stock, even if it is a bit last-minute. Hence these items being fast-dried as the kiln cools from the previous firing, and an extra stock of terracotta which only needs one firing.
My last blog had an unintended extra – some sort of advertising which I didn’t put there. My apologies to those of you who are reading the blog; I now need to find out where this came from and how to block it.
Update, a few minutes later:
It’s not malicious. Seems that with the ‘free’ version of WordPress, which I’m using, the price you pay is to have occasional and randomly selected adverts slipped into the blog. I’ll probably upgrade to the paid version to avoid this, although the transfer is not seamless and I may have to re-submit a lot of my content. I’d be interested to know if any readers of the blog have found the ads tiresome?
Oh dear – no photo this time as my camera has died on me. What I had wanted was a photo of the window of estate agents Hazle & Co in Emsworth, who have kindly ‘adopted’ us as part of the Arts Trail publicity, with some pots on display. I am very well disposed towards David Hazle and his son Matt. Theirs is an independent local business established in 1964 and reliant on an exceptionally high and well-deserved reputation. David pulled out all the stops to find us the perfect house in 1985, when his ‘chain’ competitors showed indifference at best, and I’ll never forget that.
Participants in the Emsworth Arts Trail have been invited to submit a piece of work with a marine theme for an exhibition on launch day, 7th May, at The Boat Project at Thornham Marina. I’m working on this model which is almost ready for biscuit firing, to be followed by the glaze firing. That’s assuming it survives that far, and just now, as dry raw clay, it is very fragile.The poem references the Boat Project, a quite remarkable construction of a sailing boat from donated pieces of wood – old tennis rackets, chairs, wooden toys, and so on. Click here to view the Boat Project website.
Saturday 7th April, is the next Emsworth Crafts market. Just now I am nursing a sore toe after minor surgery, but I hope to be fit enough tomorrow to load up the car ready for an early start on Saturday. If so I’ll be taking some new work with me, including this planter made using an inner-tube as a former