Friday, 25 April 2014

In Search of a Pedigree

When I first started making pots it was for no other reason than to make something from clay. I had never worked with earth before, I knew nothing, never heard of Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach could have played inside right for Accrington Stanley for all I knew.
It's amazing that such simple desires can lead on to something completely absorbing and signposts where your life path may lead you. What starts as nothing more than an inner need to make a few things has become a much longer journey. Making a few pots, or perhaps they would be better described as vessels, one is encouraged to launch them on the wider world and exhibit these very personal attempts in a glass case, in a dingy corridor, to show not very interested people what clever students go to evening classes.
Then someone else asks you to "Do a stall" at a local school craft market, and you are on your way, taken the Queens shilling as it were and it all starts to get very serious.


I have always made the kind of pots that I want to make, not for any commercial reasons. I'll make a bottle and then another. I'll look at the form and try a variation and over the years they have moved quite significantly from where the journey started, not knowing where it may end, adding skills along the way. I've declined to make little bowls to replicate some that were bought in Greece years ago. These requests happen from time to time. That's someone else's work, besides I don't throw and why would it make sense to make domestic pots in volume with coils? It takes too long, what takes me an hour can be thrown in minutes on the wheel.

Now this is where it gets more complicated. You make pots - you need to find somewhere to sell them. (Very quickly one learns that relatives and friends prefer gift vouchers for presents - they can make their own choice and a David Wright vase is not always on their radar).
Local school craft fairs are not the answer either. Home made cakes and cuddly toys are a much better option for folks to indulge their five pounds. So you find yourself applying for ceramic events and this is where the requisite CV is required.

Mine is very brief and without some creative writing and a list of events participated in, it's sparse, very sparse. What I need is a pedigree.

Not from a pottery dynasty, my dad is not a well known potter either. An apprenticeship would be useful, someone with a big reputation or a few months at several workshops would work well.
Failing that a degree at one of the ceramics courses, difficult now as they are all closing, but if I could boast that Harrow was my alma mater, then so much the better. Going the ceramic degree route  opens other doors, grants and opportunities for those starting out or continue with further education or take a residency or even teach.
There are always chances for newcomers or emerging artists of course.

Too late to emerge, hardly a newcomer, no wish to do modules, research and write about clay bodies, don't want to teach. There are regular enquiries from youngsters wanting to work here, learn to hand build,  fire a wood kiln, so me being an apprentice is kind of ...  well, late.
 I don't want to wear a frock either and my dad threw my bedraggled teddy bear away when I was eight.


I just want to make things, sell enough to pay for my clay addiction. I want to make quiet, understated pots, create the maximum with the minimum. Explore the possibilities of simple hand built forms, make glazes from local/found sources and fire with scrounged wood. Will that do?