After a successful first time blog/online exhibition, I have decided to show the making for the next firing. The site will be updated on a weekly basis. After the last blog/exhibition I have been doing many jobs around the home and pottery. We are building a new workshop, as since my original large workshop area has shrunk dramatically with the arrival of Sabine, my partner and then Elsa, our daughter. The new workshop is built mostly of cob (sub soil, clay and straw), a traditional building material for Devon.
It has been well over a month since I have made any pots. We are entering my favourite season of the year. I love the first signs of spring. The Snowdrops and daffodils are emerging from the earth. The birds are also much more active and seem to be singing louder and my hens are laying eggs again. I too, can just feel myself wanting to get back on the wheel and start creating pots.
So, I hope in the next few days to start filling up the racks with pots.
Week one of making:
It’s seems such a long time ago since I sat on my wheel to make pots. Firstly clay to be mixed, So much nicer, now, with our new Soldner clay mixer, which I imported from over the pond. I must say, that the company we bought it from (Muddy Elbow) were so professional and nice to do business with. The mixer works so well and is much better than mixing the clay by foot.
The first pot of the wheel is a large jar, which you can see on the posting. Unfortunately the filming has made me and the pot short and fat. I know as one gets older and drinks more beer this will happen, but I am sure I am not that bad yet.
I hope that you enjoy this new posting and please leave any comments and questions that you may have; I will try to answer them all.
Beating out the base
Drawing up clay from inside
Throwing the coils
First section complete
Tall and slim completed vase
THE HUMBLE MUG
Wake up and caress something hot, steamy and exotic!
What a real treat to have you first cuppa of the day in a wood fired mug. So many people, who are drawn to wood fired pottery but can’t quite bring themselves to buying a large piece, will buy a mug. The mug will bring the tea drinker much pleasure, slowly turning the mug to reveal its story of the fire and allowing the user to become more aware of the beauties of the wood fired pot.
Here in good old Blighty we have a bit of a reputation for our very own tea ceremonies. Tea drinking is a very important ritual through all classes. I drink up to 5- 6 cups a day.
I think that the good old mug should have the same rating as the tea bowl, maybe even better as you don’t burn your fingers whilst drinking!
Week two of making:
51 ON SATURDAY
So, my birthday. I can’t believe how quickly time goes by when you have a career that you enjoy so much. It really doesn’t seem so long ago that I arrived at Powdermills as a young man with a pile of bricks and my kick wheel and £1000 in the middle of Dartmoor National Park.
At that time, January 1988, after leaving ceramic studies at Derby, I thought I that I knew all that there was about wood firing. Now, as I get older and have much more experience under my belt, I realize how much I still have to learn.
Wood firing is really so vast and complex and I think I would need two or three life spans to complete the picture. Maybe the drive force for a wood firer is that knowledge that is just out of reach?
As most of the UK, Devon has had a little snow, so I hope that you won’t be bored with our snowy pictures.
I plan to celebrate my birthday by inviting some friends around for a few beers and a curry.
Perhaps we might fire up the hot tub in the snow?
I would really like to hear some of your views about we are doing on this website; do you enjoy it and question about the work.
The Barn Pottery
The show room in the snow
View down the valley
Up the drive
Throwing the tall bottle, 4ft high, to go under the side stoking hole of the kiln.
This bottle is going to be worked on during the firing by pouring charcoal and stoking with wood to bury the pot embers. It just fits the width of my kiln.
Week three of making:
Well, another week goes by. Last weekends celebrations were really quite calm. We had curry and beer and good friends around. I am pleased to say that I didn’t have much of a hangover on Sunday. I am having a proper party after the firing!
I am now really getting in to the swing of making pots again. I t is very difficult to get into a rhythm this time of the year with what seemed an eternity over the Christmas period. The snow we had last week caused havoc here in Moreton. I went up to the CO-OP supermarket to be confronted by people panic buying milk. Some were clutching up to three 4-pint cartons? I expect they had to throw most of it away!
Anyway, I have been enjoying throwing smaller things this week, lots of bottles. I just love bottles. The form is a real joy to throw and they fit in all kinds of great spots in the kiln. I am greatly inspired by early German Bellarmines. There is just something beautiful in what seems to be such a simple form. Like almost all of the pots I like they are not adorned with much decoration. I think, that just like a beautiful woman needs no make-up. So, a well-made pot with good form and the maker’s integrity, will be beautiful and stand up for itself. The proof in the “bare bones”. I am not by any means opposed to decorated pots as we live with many in our home. A classic traditional form is truly one to aspire to? Tradition means building on past experience. Tradition is moving forward. Tradition is very often looked down upon by many art schools, which to me seems so narrow and conservative as not to be able to utilise the past masters of this craft.
THE HOT TUB IN THE SNOW : wood fired, of course
The green ware beginning to fill the shelfs
Week four of making:
This week has been a little bit difficult trying to arrange time in the workshop. My daughter Elsa has not been to pre- school, because it is half term. So, I have had to take my turn looking after her. Also being an armchair cricket fan, I’ve been following the test series between England and West Indies, a real nail biting finish!
So, we had a delivery of building timber that was ordered for the new workshop. This is for the floor for the next level, £1000 worth? The shock of the bill got me into the frame of mind to start building again. We thought, that this week we would show some pictures of the building progress over the last year.
The granite footings
The building sits on a layer of stone, that is about 1meter deep. The granite was all found around the property and dragged out by hand. The roof structure you can see was temporary to allow building work in wet weather.
The raw material
Some neighbours were removing soil to erect a garage. So we were able to help out in getting rid of their waste. It must have been around 100 tons of gravely sub soil. This mixed with some clay and straw was ideal for our project.
The ingredients mixed by hand and foot. Building with cob is very hard and time consuming.
The first lift.
It was really exciting to see the structure growing.
We made up shuttering, enabling us to mix the cob wetter, which made it far easier.
Casting one of these blocks 8’x 24”x18” was a hard days work for two people.
A section of the wall with some lime render on. Thelime render helps protect the cob from the wet weather, but also allows it to breath.
The view of my new workspace. The building will have a second storey, made from wood. I am really looking forward to working in the new workshop.
Some old discarded pots down by the stream with snowdrops.
Glazing and Packing:
Wet kiln! Wet pots! Wet wood!
Well, as usual, behind schedule. Although the weather has been ok, nothing has dried and experience has told me never to put damp pots into the kiln, because they go off with a dull boom. It’s al ways tempting to fool oneself, that if you fire slowly, then it will all be fine?
Anyway, I decided to change firing dates. So, now the firing will be starting tomorrow, 3rd March until Friday 6th. The video of the kiln pack will be uploaded on the 3rd March.
Friederike comes from Germany to help with the firing.
Debris from the last firing.
Friederikes first job: cleaning the kiln.
Friederikes next job.
Glazing large dish
Extruding wadding clay tubes for placing pots.
“At last we’ve started”, then the heavens opened. Rain! Rain! Rain!
The firing crew are perhaps wondering why on earth they have to come to cold and wet Devon.
Some odd fellows arrived today. Some strange geezer called Doug Fitch and John Edgeler came to talk about a show at the long rooms in Winchcombe. The show is to be called “The Derby Boys” with myself, Doug and my old mate Simon Hancox (should be a good show).
Well, I really hope that the weather improves? It really makes everything so much harder. I have always strived to be prepared for firings, but it very rarely happens.
Because my workshop is so small, I have to do all my glazing outside and sometimes dashing in and out with pots when it rains.
I think we might have problems, as the wood is a little damp. It’s becoming difficult, these days, to get enough wood to fire my kilns. Mostly due to the increase in oil prices, so everyone has bought wood burners to heat their homes. This, of course, has pushed up the price for my wood and it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain the large quantities that I need. Perhaps in the future it won’t be viable any more?
Odd fellows and firing crew:
from left to right:
Doug Fitch, Rhodee, Nic Collins, Friederike Dux, Andy Douglas, Pete Montgomery, John Edgeler,
A big thank you to the firing crew!
As predicted, the firing was a great problem at the beginning. It was only a few weeks ago that 1 ft of snow was sitting on the kiln. Also with damp wood, we had difficulties to maintain a steady heat. We also had the first night and day with heavy rain and gale force wind and then on the second night several inches of snow again!
This kiln was only build as a temporary kiln over eight years ago. Well, we got there. The mugs and bowls and guinomis are real stunners, also many of the bottles turned out to be mighty fine pots.
I have decided to show smaller pots on next week’s exhibition. As most of the little videos have been of making mugs, bowls and handles.
I hope that you have enjoyed following my progress for the spring firing and will be tempted to buy a mug for you morning cuppa.