I will be teaching some glaze workshops again in 2021. These get full very quickly so make sure you book up soon.
We will make a series of glaze tests on the first day, fire them overnight and then discuss the results the next afternoon. In the morning I will talk about glaze chemistry and what each material contributes to the glaze. I will be also be teaching at Forest Row School of Ceramics later this year.
We recently visited the Dorset Jurassic coast, so named because it features layers of Jurassic limestone: 145 million year old Portland stone and Purbeck stone, as well as layers of Wealden clay, Greensand and Cretaceous chalk cliffs. Some of these layers contain fossil sea urchins and shells, and there is a even a fossil forest, with the remains of cypress tree stumps. The layers, or strata, have been uplifted and are now at a steep angle, some even vertical. The hard limestone has been eroded less than the clay, resulting in some unusual features like Durdle Door, a natural sea arch. Lulworth Cove is a perfect circle, where a river has cut through the limestone and the sea has come in and washed away the softer clay.
We collected some of the clay to make into a pinch pot. It was quite sandy clay and may contain too much calcium to fire above earthenware temperatures.
The layers of limestone are very thin because they were deposited in a shallow lagoon which frequently evaporated and dried up. The chalk cliffs are much thicker because they were deposited when the sea was relatively deep. The pebbles on the beach are the flints which dropped out of the chalk cliffs as they were eroded by the sea. This took tens of millions of years, the pebbles gradually getting smaller until they became shingle and then sand. The chalk on the seabed reflects the light, making the sea look turquoise here even on a cloudy day.
Design Nation put together a lovely exhibition called Head, Hand and Heart with talks and demonstrations during London Craft Week 2018. The exhibition was held in Helen Yardley studio, where she designs and makes her bold, abstract rugs. Curated by Design Nation, Helen Yardley and leading design journalist Barbara Chandler, the show included Harriet Elkerton and Linda Bloomfield ceramics, Anna Gravelle, Angie Parker and Jacky Puzey textiles, Hugh Miller furniture, Christine Meyer-Eaglestone marquetry, Gizella Warburton textile vessels, Ruth Singer textile and found objects, and Clare Wilson glass vessels. There was a panel discussion chaired by Barbara Chandler, a pecha kucha session and demonstrations of weaving, rug tufting, porcelain throwing, marquetry and Japanese textured carving.
All the work was beautiful but the most intricate piece was the ‘In Shadows’ cabinet by Hugh Miller. Inside were beautiful ceramic cups with a crystalline matt glaze by a Japanese potter from Osaka, as well as wooden boxes containing coffee, exquisitely carved spoons and whisks. The slatted doors, outer ones in bamboo and inner ones slatted with thin brass rods, cast shadows to give a dimly lit atmosphere like inside a Japanese tea house. “‘In Shadows’ is inspired by Japanese applied arts philosophy and is made in British elm, Japanese Bamboo and Brass. The timber is stained black with Japanese calligraphy ink. Hidden within is a Japanese coffee set by renowned ceramic artist Saiko Fukuoka. Over 1000 man-hours have been invested in its construction, including the hand finishing of over 150m of solid drawn brass.” Hugh Miller. Photos by Dan Weill for London Craft Week.
The exhibition will be travelling to Eunique trade show in Karlsruhe, Germany, 8-10 June 2018.
In September I exhibited at the London Design Fair in the British Craft Pavilion curated by Hole and Corner magazine. Before the show, photographer Chloe Winstanley visited my studio in West London and took some lovely photos for an interview feature. At the show I met some other lovely potters, including Rebecca Proctor of Modern Craft Workshop in Cornwall, Matt and Catherine of Pottery West in Sheffield, Ana of Kana London and David Worsley of Dove Street Pottery in West Yorkshire. The look in the British Craft Pavilion was modern rustic, with modern furniture and textiles, hand-turned wooden bowls, forged steel knives, cast concrete and jesmonite, a material made from gypsum and acrylic resin. I also met Ali from Francli craftwear, who recently made me a split-leg pottery apron.
The show was very busy and I met many journalists, bloggers, curators, interior designers, restaurateurs and buyers as well as many old and new friends. Interiors journalist Barbara Chandler took a lovely photo and I shared the tube journey back home from East London with her. My stand was in a great location next to the cafe, talks and demonstration area, and a highlight was taking part in a chocolate tasting workshop with Land chocolate. I now have some new orders, commissions from restaurants and new ideas for upcoming glaze articles and books.
Last Saturday was the opening of our exhibition at Sarah Wiseman Gallery in Summertown, north Oxford. I met Sarah Spackman many years ago at a craft fair and she bought some of my pots to paint. Then, when we were both demonstrating at Art in Action at Waterperry Gardens near Oxford, we swapped a painting for some pots. For the Dialogues exhibition, I made some bottles inspired by Giorgio Morandi’s still life paintings and Sarah included them in some of her new paintings. I particularly like the painting below which includes some of my bottles and a plate of cherries. Sarah trained at Camberwell and loves painting still life compositions with hints of bright colour.
Earlier in the year we visited Sarah’s studio in Oxford and bought a painting. Sarah has shelves of pottery and objects which she arranges in still life compositions. She likes likes to paint fruit or flowers in season, often from her allotment or a friend’s tree.
The exhibition continues until 30 September. You can see the exhibition catalogue here.
During our summer holiday in Cornwall we had a lovely walk along the SW coast path from Perranporth to Portreath, passing several abandoned mines and spoil heaps, great places to look for rocks and minerals.
We started our 12 mile walk at Perranporth, south of Newquay on the north Cornwall coast. At Cligga Head, we passed an abandoned tungsten mine, where they mined wolframite, a black mineral containing tungsten, iron and manganese. There was also a lot of greisen, decomposed granite, on the first step towards becoming china clay. While the granite mass was solidifying 300 million years ago, hot gases caused it to decompose. It is now easily weathered by the rain and sea and we could see white granules of quartz everywhere under the heather. The hot gases forced the granite up through cracks in the older Devonian slate rocks and caused minerals to dissolve and reform in seams. The ends of mine shafts can be seen in the cliff face, which is stained red with iron oxide.
Rocks and pebbles found on our walk. Bottom right, altered granite; the large white crystals are feldspar. Bottom left, turquoise rock stained with copper. Middle left, red rock stained with iron oxide. The black rocks and pebbles are Devonian slate (400 million years old), with white veins of quartz running through them.
At St Agnes head, there is a granite outcrop which has been weathered into a clay and sand deposit where clay is dug for the Leach Pottery. Further along the coast path is the remains of an old tin mine, Wheal Coates, where the chimney of the Victorian pump engine house still stands at the top of the cliffs. Tin ore was found in seams below sea level, and so water had to be pumped from the mine shafts. We tried throwing a rock down one of the old mine shafts and it took a very long time to hit the bottom.
We also had a lovely visit to the Leach Pottery in St Ives, where we were shown round the working studio by trainee potter Lexie Macleod. The potters use a mix of St. Agnes clay, ball clay from Devon and iron oxide to give the dark, toasted colour they want. They use several glazes, a green ash glaze, black tenmoku, a dolomite white and a white/orange shino. They often throw a hundred mugs in a day, which then take several more days to finish and add handles. Their outlets include Seasalt, who fund an apprentice, and David Mellor in London and Sheffield.
I went to Bath at the weekend, walking from Bradford on Avon along the canal, then through a mile long railway tunnel cut into the limestone. In Monkton Combe we passed the house of William Smith, who made the first geological map of Britain in 1815. The map shows the white streak of oolitic limestone which Bath is built of. The limestone was formed during the Jurassic, by small, round accretions of calcium carbonate deposited at the bottom of a shallow sea. Either side of the limestone are layers of mudstone and fuller’s earth, a type of calcium rich bentonite clay. William Smith put money into a Bath stone mine, which unfortunately produced only inferior stone and he had to go to debtors’ prison. He was not recognised until old age as the father of British geology.
During the walk, we noticed many wild flowers which grow in chalk soils, including Bath asparagus, ornithogalum pyrenaicum, which only grows in seven counties but is common around Bath and Bristol. The shoots used to be eaten as asparagus. In the grounds of Monkton Combe school, we saw bee orchids, ophrys apifera, which look like little brown bees with pink wings.
In the Monkton Combe village churchyard was the grave of Harry Patch, the last surviving soldier of the First World War, who died in 2009 aged 111.
I was interested in how the underlying limestone has affected the landscape, the flowers that grow there and the birds and animals. During the walk we heard chiffchaffs, saw a kestrel carrying a mouse, passed ducklings and dragonflies, as well as yellow irises, purple hedge woundwort and pink geranium pyrenaicum, hedgerow cranesbill.
We went through a very long, dark tunnel through the limestone hill, walked across Bloomfield Green and ended up in Bath, the city made of beautiful Georgian houses of cream coloured limestone.
Last week I took part in an exhibition on Marks and Tools put together by Design Nation at Oxo Tower Wharf. The curator was Liz Cooper, who brilliantly pulled together all the work from 23 different makers and designers. Interiors journalist Barbara Chandler wrote an online showcase about the makers and their tools. As well as ceramics, glass, textiles and furniture, there were photographs of all the makers using their favourite tools and talks from textile artist Margo Selby, glass blower Michael Ruh and ceramicist and printmaker Hannah Tounsend. Other exhibitors included Anna Gravelle who makes tufted textiles, Gillies Jones who make beautiful glass bowls and furniture designer Hugh Miller. What I loved about the exhibition was that it showed furniture, tableware, textiles, lighting and wall pieces together as you would have them in your home, rather than the way they are usually separated into different categories in museums. Design Nation bring together designers and makers from different areas, encouraging collaboration and innovation.
I have been asked to teach several glaze courses in 2017.
A new pottery school is opening in Forest Row in Sussex. I will be teaching glazes there 0n 17-19 February 2017. Contact Katrina Pechal on 0789 444 7938. You can visit the school when they open in December, courses start in January with tutors including Stephen Parry and Ruthanne Tudball.
The founder Katrina Pechal says, “ I am saddened to see so many high-level ceramics courses around the country closing. My days training at Camberwell School of Art were inspiring, having lessons with famous potters like Takashi Yasadu, Colin Pearson and Ewen Henderson among others was a great privilege and I want the next generation of potters to have the same opportunities. I have noticed a recent increase in the popularity of pottery, thanks in part to the BBC’s “The Great Pottery Throw Down. I feel this is a perfect time to move to a bigger site with better facilities where I can help students to train and develop their craft”.
Forest Row School of Ceramics will be based in the Rachel Carson building at Emerson College, set in beautiful grounds within walking distance of the village. It offers outdoor space, which Katrina needs for a kiln site (a kiln-building workshop run by Joe Finch, Potter and author of Kiln Construction (a brick by brick approach), is already planned for early next year). Emerson also has more classrooms Katrina can utilise as she expands plus affordable student accommodation it needed.
Forest Row is three miles from East Grinstead in Sussex, situated next to the idyllic Ashdown Forest yet within easy access of the M23/M25 and a short drive from Gatwick Airport, the South Downs and the creative hub of Brighton.
I will also be teaching colour in glazes at West Dean College on 5-9 March (the course is now full but you can try the waiting list), and demonstrating throwing and glazes all weekend at the Scottish Potters’ Spring Workshop at Tulliallan on 10-12 March.
For anyone in London there are glaze courses at the Morley College in February and April but I will not be teaching them.
Exciting news: I will be teaching a glaze course in Belgium in 2018.
If you can’t come on a course, you can still learn from my books.