Sunday, 13 December 2015

All Dressed UP and Nowhere To Go.

Decided not to do any Christmas Markets this year, couldn't bear the thought of standing in cold marquees, draughty halls, theatre foyers watching folks walk by looking for stocking fillers and porcelain Christmas tree decorations. The last couple of years I have sold very little anyway and after coming down with flu just in time for the festive day and the long awaited Goose lunch, due to spending three days in a cheerless freezing tent, I came to the conclusion it wasn't worth it.

Yet it's very strange not to be whizzing around, packing the van, worrying about not having enough pots, never seeing daylight, coming back to a cold home at some ungodly hour and unpacking almost all the pots again.

Christmas Markets are not very Christmassy after all. We all do it in the hope of selling loads of stuff and there's not much Christmas spirit in that. The word Market somehow conjures up the thought of a bargain, something not too expensive, put it in a basket and folks think it's a good price and the basket soon empties whilst everything else still sits there despite the tinsel and holly. "What's yer best price mate" they all chime.

Instead it has been very enjoyable making the pots that I want to make, try and complete a few of the thoughts and ideas that have been banging around in my head for a while, but no real time to develop them. Play around with some wood and make lids for all those boxes I made and fired last summer that are just gathering dust. After all this is what I set out to do all those years ago before I got distracted by the lure of a bit of cash for Christmas. To make pots that speak for me, that say what I want them to say, not just provide a table full of pots to fill a need for someone else's perceived Christmas shopping list, when they really don't know what that is except that it must fit a budget, a number that they are not sure of either.

Best price?

Peace and goodwill to all.

Friday, 13 November 2015

'The Great Pottery Throw Down'

I've steered clear of the seemingly endless debate about 'The Great Pottery Throw down' (BBC 2). With huffy professionals claiming it would denigrate their art as crass T.V. entertainment, squiffey pots with handles like babies arms. The enthusiasts counter claiming that it would create public awareness of pottery, some even hoping for an increase in interest and sales given the high profile on T.V.

Like many others, I received the email from Love productions inviting an application to apply. Read the small print however and you find that the criteria eliminates professionals, those with experience of selling their work or of exhibiting work in a gallery or ceramics fair. There was nothing about possessing knowledge or skill, but that goes hand in hand with being a serious practitioner. Plainly the search for Britain's best potter is for amateurs only. A bit like finding the world's fastest sprinter, but not letting Usain Bolt take part.

Love productions sent follow up pleas too and well wishers forwarded the details also. It seemed the internet was cast, trawling for wannabe celebrity potters. It takes enormous self belief or a massive ego to even contemplate entering anything like this. I have enough problems confronting my pottery demons without doing it in front of two million others. Imagine being turned down from even taking part in making yourself look a prat?
Emails from Love looking for technicians followed. So you don't even have to be able to prepare the clay or fire a kiln to be a Great potter. The debate moved on to who would be the experts or host this vaguely desperate attempt to follow up on baking cakes or cooking overly elaborate dinners.

I don't do much telly, an hour is more than I can sit still for so I haven't seen a complete session of Bake Off, so tuning in to 'Thrown Down' was not high on my bucket list. I missed the first episode, but curiosity got the better and we watched the second episode, partly because the promise of making coil pots was widely trailed.
The challenge - To make a wash basin with coils. I would have thought throwing was the obvious method, so it was interesting that most of the contestants chose to employ moulds which they obviously had made or planned some time before. Plainly, making coil pots was not something any of them had much experience in. They were preoccupied with cracks and pots exploding in the kiln, so there was much scoring and slopping slip and water and the belief that a generous coating of glaze would mend or disguise bad workmanship. It was like a trip down memory lane, back to evening class where everyone found how difficult it was to make good coil pots, skip hand building and get back to the wheel.
It's not for me to to say if the creations were good or bad, the acid test is to stand for three days and try and sell them.
Was it good T.V.?
The experts were ill at ease with each other, there was no chemistry and they didn't say much either other than look for glimmers of positive creativity. Forgive the trendy haircut, real potters wear jeans and T shirts. Who wears bespoke, tight fitting, designer jackets in a pottery workshop with all that glaze flying around? - plenty of innuendo and chat from the presenter, but isn't it the promise of this format, that someone crashes and burns, ultimately failing that provides the entertainment?
The only star being Richard Miller the technician, providing measured, quiet comments as he loaded these creations into the kiln.

No doubt the debate will continue, but surely the only winners from The Great Pottery Throw Down will be the suppliers of kilns or wheels and clay. We will have to wait a year or so to benefit when all the kilns, wheels and gear appears on Ebay.

Wash basin?

As a foot note, a few years back I had an email from someone wanting to extend their pottery skills, especially hand building and knowledge of wood firing. We exchanged emails and kiln information and finally set aside a day so they could see the kiln and spend a day in the workshop. They didn't show up. Now they claim to be a conceptual artist and interestingly were one of the first potters to be shown the door from The Great Pottery Throw Down. Takes all sorts!

Monday, 28 September 2015

An Appointment with Mr. Boswell

I was familiar with the photographs by Ben Boswell. He photographed Dame Lucy Rie, David Frith amongst others, but I had only seen pictures, we had never met.
It was at Art in Clay, Hatfield this year, whilst I was lost for the moment, trying to coax some over dry clay back into shape, he appeared in front of me. He politely asked if he could take a couple of pictures of me trying to make a box shape and asked if he could visit me at my workshop sometime; take a little longer, take some studies of me working, when he would have all his camera gear with him.
In the summer months I can be elusive, I am not good at remembering my mobile phone and when I do, forget to switch it on. Most of the time I have been criss-crossing Europe and time in the workshop has been limited, so photographic sessions got forgotten.

I next met Ben at CoCA at the opening of the ceramics gallery in York. As usual he was behind a lens, covering the opening of the new Museum and Gallery, snapping the gathering of collectors, potters and academics.
He asked me again and we fixed up a few possible dates.
I don't like having my photograph taken, I freeze, don't know what to do with my hands. Force a smile that looks like I'm in pain and wish the whole occasion would be over quickly. Very quickly.
I hate even more, looking at the pictures afterwards. I have been very successful most of my life in avoiding people pointing cameras at me as my family will confirm. So there were a couple of days of anxiety and worry before he was due to arrive.

I decided that if I was to be immortalised, it would be making big coiled bowls. My favourite, I revisit this shape over and over. The failure rate in the kiln is high, because they warp or some foreign object drops into the bowl, no matter how scrupulous I am, but the pleasure and challenge in making is worth the disappointments. So by the time Ben arrived there were two or three in various states of completion, with bits of plastic and sponge and a pile of scrapings on the bench. Yeah, it looked pretty much like it always does, no tidying up or time for make up!

My workshop is tiny, so we had to prop the door open and shoot through the open window; it was a glorious day and the morning light was perfect.
I coiled and scraped, squinted and frowned as I worked, blocking out of my mind all thoughts of being captured forever in pixels in 500 photographs.

The two hours that we put aside became three, with the more formal portraits taken at the close of the session when I didn't care any more. A few poses in the showroom and we were done.

Making pots is something I've been doing for a long time, it's something I've always wanted to do and I am blessed that I can now make what I like, when I like. It's a very personal activity for me and sharing that is something I am not used to. Seeing the DVD of edited shots that arrived a week later was quite an apprehensive moment. The still frames capture exquisitely the making of a large coiled bowl. It's then that I notice what slender fingers and girlie hands I have, the intense stare and frown of concentration. I am bowled over by the beauty of the light on the surface of the clay, the ghost of a fingerprint on the wet clay, the almost abstract qualities held in the close ups. Even a couple of the portraits are acceptable to me, it's amazing how a true professional can make such beauty out of something as mundane as playing with mud!

Thanks Ben.
All photographs by Ben Boswell -

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

On Tour

It starts around October, deciding which fairs and markets to apply for. The entry forms are down loaded, duly completed, photographs selected and popped into the post box. More and more applications are now by email which involves a certain amount of head scratching, trying to fathom out image size, dpi, jpeg or whatever and yes, they all ask for the information in different ways. Computer skills are something else the potter needs to add to their skill set.
Press send and the zoom noise tells you it has gone or you hope it has. It's just not the same as putting the envelope into the red post box, besides I enjoy the walk down to the village shop and silently saying farewell with fingers crossed for good measure. There is no knowing which events I will be selected for, it could be all or it could be nothing, so it's best to forget about it and get on with making wonderful pots just in case.

Slowly the letters and emails arrive. I quickly scan the letter for key words :- regret, unsuccessful, sorry; the disappointment only lasts a day, the delight much longer and then reality kicks in and the real work starts.

This year I ended up with eight events along with a solo show in Rotterdam, the logistics are scary; Holland then Germany - Scotland, back to Holland and Germany again and finally the south of France, with a few of the big shows in England for good measure, all crammed into just a few summer months. There are ferries to book, places to stay, routes to plan and the display stand requirements are different in every one of them too. Everything from a patch of grass to a market stall, a space on a cobbled square or a street in France. Oh, we need lots of pots as well and bags and wrapping, business cards and a whole bunch of other stuff without which we cannot create a good display and survive. So the David Wright Pottery European Tour 2015 takes shape.

The one thing I can't plan for is the weather, the downside of relying on outdoor venues for exhibiting and selling your work is the vulnerability to adverse conditions. The Pharmacy thermometer in Aubagne read 46 degrees one day, I needed thermal clothing just a week or so before in Cumbria.
Light rain can be accommodated, we call it summer showers, but in Diessen the rain was a horizontal deluge. It was cold too and after a night of high winds and heavy rain, the stall was covered with bits of tree and leaves and everything was soppy wet. High fired pots can take it and are waterproof, but visitors are not and two days of rain rendered everywhere a sea of mud. Standing discussing the finer points of a particular ash glaze under an umbrella with rain dripping off the end of your nose, wet trousers and squelchy boots takes endurance to the limit. Just then the tissue paper flies off into the lake and you realise that it is impossible to dry wet bubble wrap. Aspirations to be green disappear too, when you discover a paper bag is useless in a storm and only the despised, bad old plastic bag will do the job.

Language difficulties are not conducive to selling pots either, we try but Dutch, German, French... Scottish? Your head becomes scrambled, I found myself asking for food in Italian at a restaurant in Germany, the waiter seemed to understand and the food arrived as ordered. I have a translation of my artist's statement displayed alongside the pots. It helps to break the ice and explain the process without too much making imaginary coils in mid air, until I realised that the wry smiles are because vessels has been translated as ships.
Stupid questions are stupid questions in any language. "Will this bowl fall over if I put bananas in it?" take a lot of effort in restraint and maybe it's a good thing that lack of language skill means that I can't suggests an alternative place for placing the offending fruit.

So why do we do it?
Strangely it's very enjoyable, I meet the person who buys the pot, I have fun, go to lots of places that I would not otherwise experience. Eat great food, meet and make friends, share the same hardships and laugh about it. And all because of a few pots.

The Tour list.
Clay2Day Holland
Diessen Ceramics Fair, Germany
Potfest Scotland
Earth and Fire, Rufford
Art in Clay, Hatfield
Potfest in the Park
Oldenburg Ceramics Fair, Germany
Argilla Aubagne, France

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Clay, Wood and Fire

This is the English transcript of an email conversation with the Dutch magazine Klei. The article appeared in the July issue, 2015.

I learnt pottery at evening classes. I worked in advertising, I was always late for class, consequently the wheels were always occupied so I would find a corner and make pots by other ways. There was this preoccupation that throwing was the only real way to make pots. Later in the evening the wheels would become free, but I never liked cleaning up someone else’s ‘clay soup’.

When I realised that two hours each week was not enough to make good progress, I found a small space at home, but there was not enough room for a wheel to make my pots. My potter friends all ask me why I don’t use a wheel, I get plenty of offers for free tuition and sometimes have tried. It’s a bit like golf, I know what I should do, but it never happens how I would like it to be. Maybe I am obstinate, but after so long now, I like it this way. I can achieve exactly what I want with no worries about technique or process. Anyway I have no desire to make mugs and plates in quantity, I enjoy the slower pace of working with just clay and my hands.

Making pots with coils is probably the oldest method of making pots, certainly large pots, long before the wheel was used. Coils are long ropes of clay, rolled out with the fingers. Coiling is a strange word even in English, ropes is usually better understood by non potters. The coils are joined with my fingers and then beaten with a flat piece of wood or paddle. In the USA they call it paddling. Everyone develops their own way of working, this is mine. 

I made some boxes with ceramic lids, after all that’s what we are supposed to do as potters. I didn’t like the way fired clay against fired clay grates and rattles. My Dad made walking sticks and he suggested I found a way to use up all the beautiful pieces of wood that get left over. I was good at wood work at school, it was a natural progression to make wooden lids for my pots. My inheritance when my Father died was some boxes of wood, some unfinished walking sticks and his tools.

Now all the wood is mainly given to fire the kiln, some is too good to burn. It’s a symbiotic process. Waste wood is burnt on the kiln, the good pieces saved to make lids, the residue is burnt on our wood stove in winter to keep warm and the wood ash used to make glaze.

Wood work requires very different skills to working with clay. I enjoy that challenge and a lot of thought goes into finding the right piece of wood for each box. The marriage of wood and wood fired pots somehow seems appropriate.

Making sticks follows very traditional rules, so all the wood for the first few boxes are made from English hardwoods. At the moment I have Myrtle from Australia, Wenge from Zaire, these are left overs from trendy kitchens. Sometimes pallets used for transporting stone from India are made of really beautiful exotic woods. Such waste!

Because I build by hand I can use very coarse clay with lots of grog. I also add some fire clay. As I build I scrape the surface, I love this texture and all my work is made this way. I smooth the inside of bowls with a rubber tool to provide a contrast.

I usually make small batches of ash glaze, the colour is brighter when it is fresh. The results from each mix will be slightly different as wood from each tree will produce a different colour in all shades of grey, green, olive. I love these natural colours and when they are wood fired, the extra ash from the kiln can make them very complex, sometimes unexpected natural glass will be formed.

I am mainly self taught, my ash glaze recipe is from Bernard Leach. I wash the ash in a bucket and skim off the charcoal and scum from the surface, rinse a couple of times, sieve it and dry it in shallow pans in the sun.

Recipe :- 4 parts wood ash, 4 parts potash feldspar, 2 parts china clay.

I also have a shino glaze and a celadon, I like to keep things simple.

The kiln is my most important tool, how it is fired, the kind of wood used even the weather can give a different result. Understanding what happens in this very hot box takes a long time to learn. No two wood kilns fire exactly the same or produce the same results. After a firing I take some of the pots that catch my eye and study them for a few days. This is a cycle of events, the pots from the kiln inform the making, glazing and position of the pots in the kiln of the next firing. There is a constant process of learning, evolving and moving slowly forward.

Why did I start pottery? Partly because I had never worked with clay, it was not taught at my school, partly because my job was not very fulfilling and I wanted to make things with my hands and get them dirty.

Clay is extremely malleable. You can stretch, bend, make marks in it, make it liquid, beat it and glue it together with it’s self and if it doesn’t work out, recycle it and try again. Wood is very unforgiving, make a mistake and it’s game over.

The possibilities using clay are endless, go to any ceramics market and see the diversity of work, yet it is such a readily available material. If I dig down half a metre in my garden I will find clay, not much use for high fired pots, but maybe for bricks or making a nice plum coloured slip.

At evening class and at all schools, firing is in electric kilns, both for bisque and glaze, no one gets to load the kilns or fire them apart from the technician. So firing is a mystery for students. My first kiln was a little electric top loader and I learnt to use it from reading books and just getting on with it. All the pots that we have bought, love and use every day are mostly traditional and have been fired in a kiln with flames. Either gas, oil or wood, it’s this warm and interesting surface that makes them special. My early electric fired pots lacked this quality and I set about reading everything I could about wood firing.

I discovered a weekend course to build a small, simple kiln and fire it with wood. Looking back the results were not great, but I was hooked and built one for myself in a space in my garden. Once you join the wood firing community you are invited to help fire other kilns and so a journey begins.

I have built several now and have been there to fire many more, from Anagama kilns that can take five or six days or Fast-fire kilns that can take as little as ten hours. There is no going back now, there is so much more to discover.

I don’t give titles to my work, they are just simple pots. They get given ‘pet’ names like Swirly Whirly, dribble bottle, flat vase etc, but this is only for my benefit.

I once entered a pot for an exhibition in a museum and called it “Fat boy”. The museum changed it to ‘Round bottle’ so that it did not offend large people! 

This article preceeds a solo exhibition at Theemaas, Rotterdam.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Toad in the Woods

So, I joined a wood firing group. I didn't have much experience of wood firing at the time, just a weekend course building and firing a very simple kiln, watched a few videos, read everything I could lay my hands on.
I liked the warm and varied surface on wood fired pots and had decided this is what I wanted for my work.

There were two kilns; The Rocket, which looked like a train kiln with a Bourry box. No one was sure about or very interested in this kiln. We fired it once, it was temperamental but the result was mildly pleasing. The other kiln resembled a half buried tunnel with a chimney at one end. Everyone was obsessed with the Anagama kiln, it was regarded as sacred, revered and the only true way for any real wood firer.
It was known as the Toad, short, low and wide, it's origins surrounded in folk lore, there were many claimants as builders, many notable potters had fired this kiln, hidden in the woods at Rufford Abbey, but all had moved on.

The membership fluctuated, on paper there were about twenty to twenty five members, a couple who were "Full time" potters, but most like me, just wanting to experience, learn and get a few stunning pots out sometime. If there were twenty members, so there were twenty different ideas on how to fire the Toad, as in all groups there are so called experts, delegators, leaders and those that just get on and do it. Splitting and stacking wood for example, a basic and necessary part of the process, but it was always the same two or three that pitched up. It's surprising how many wood firers have bad backs.
If there were many views as to how to make this beast offer up the kind of work that everyone ogled at in magazines, then there were as many different kinds of ceramic endeavour to fill it.
There were objects in porcelain, constructions in paper clay, amorphous shapes, sometimes vast in scale. There were traditional vessels and more mugs than you could poke a stick at. Every type of stoneware clay was employed, with secret ingredients to promote flashing and fire colours, dripping with glaze concoctions to satisfy the most ardent alchemist.
Each of these had to be placed in a specific location. Work would arrive unaccompanied in plastic crates with little diagrams to show how and where to place them. Everyone was 'allowed' ten to twelve pots each firing, but in a democratic process worthy of FIFA, some managed thirty or so and ten large amorphous sculptures always managed prime location at the front by the fire box, where it was hoped lots of ash would settle.
A logistical nightmare and not without some petulance and letters of resignation.
There were long debates about wadding recipes and types of wood to fuel the kiln but all this and five days and nights of endeavour, produced uniform drab, grey and brown pots. The flashing never flashed, the fire colours faded with the embers, partly because it was insisted that the kiln was closed in reduction. Jamming the fire box with wood then closing every orifice with slurry in a vast cloud of dense black smoke. All that carbon and unfluxed ash, it seems we never observed what the Toad was trying to tell us.

Finally it was time for me to move on. My last appearance at Rufford I was down for the graveyard shift,  eight till four, no one really wanted to do it, I quite enjoyed the solitude, watching for dawn to break, listening for the burst of birdsong. Arriving only to find the kiln completely jammed with wood, not even space for another splinter, the temperature down to where it had been the day before. It took all night and most of the dawn to clear the wood and get back to where it had been twenty four hours previously. The next shift didn't appear either so eight hours became sixteen.
They ran out of wood next day and the end result was very disappointing. Despite all this , I learnt a huge amount, sufficient for me to have confidence to go my own way. ( I don't use any of the wadding recipes either).

The Toad finally became a victim to poor maintenance and the health and safety police. Firing a large kiln at night doesn't fit the requirements of a risk averse organisation. Thousands of years of wood firing knowledge does not satisfy some job's worth's need to mitigate all risk and put the process on a memory stick.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Propagate or Promulgate

My daughter asked me once "Where do all the flowers go in winter"?
I can't remember the exact answer, it was something along the lines of ; Flowers never go away completely, they are still slowly growing, but they are tiny, wrapped inside the plants and bulbs, saving themselves for the sun and the bees.
It seemed to answer the question and each year since, this little miracle happens. First the Hellebores and Snowdrops, then the Crocus have their few weeks of glory and all the while the spidery flowers of Hamamelis bloom, with their rich scent wafting outside the workshop, long before the Bumble bees appear from sleep.

We grow nearly all our vegetables, but at this time of year the only things left growing are a few Leeks, Parsnips, some Kale and a scraggy Cabbage or two. The snow and frost saw everything else off. The seed packets for this year lie in wait for a little more warmth and longer days, Potatoes chitting slowly, waiting for the frosts to finally disappear.
It's the season for warm winter soups and stews, made better for being presented in a Mark Griffiths bowl, piping hot gravy from a Richard Batterham jug, a winter stew in a Llanarth casserole.
So where do Potters go in the winter?
Well, probably much like flowers, they sit wrapped up in their cold workshops, making when they can, stacking wood, working on new shapes and ideas, building reserves of pots ready for the first wood firing of the year and the hoped for swarms of buyers for their wares. Another year begins, full of anticipation. We press ourselves to or work, the fruits of our winter labours sprouting from sheds and kilns in a profusion of shapes, textures and colours.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Beautiful Life

A short film by Kristian Barrett.

I've never made a film, Kristian has never made a pot.
It was an email out of the blue that brought us together. Kristian wanted to make a film about making pots, I happen to make them. He did not understand that the whole process of making a pot takes several days; longer than the day he thought we could set aside to film it all. So I drew a story board, like a comic strip, about the journey from clay to finished vessel.

We met and toured the workshop, garden and kiln site, discussing all the things that we thought we could cover. The original concept was for a film about two and a half minutes long and embed it on my website. Kristian wanted it to have an educational theme and tell a story. I didn't want an ego trip with endless shots of finished pots. We both wanted something calm and rural. So we went our separate ways to think about it. Eventually we came up with a directors treatment, a sort of written/visual script with ideas for little shots to link the film together. Filming eventually started one sunny September day.

The thing about filming is the time it takes to produce just a short piece. Setting up tripods and sliders, rigs and sound. Moving angle, doing it again... and again, shooting everything several times. The first session was spent with me looking out of the window, making tea, boiling the kettle, walking endlessly in the garden and we never even got near to looking at clay. Only the part of me looking out of the window made it to the final cut. Over four hours filming in the garden, recording the hum of bees and waiting for a Wood Pigeon to say something, only made for a few seconds in the title sequence.
We like to think we live in perfect, peaceful, rural bliss, but try to record Bee song and every Ryanair flight to East Midlands goes over, every motor bike at full throttle goes by, then the builder next door starts to knock holes in a brick wall, it starts to rain and the light goes.
It took five sessions to get it all, I made lots of bits of pots and everything had to be shot out of sequence. This is where the story board is useful, but even so ideas popped up as we filmed. Kristian thought folk music would be good, I prefer blues... discuss!

Editing took several weeks, sound and graphics are added right at the end, the wait to see it all seemed, like, forever.

I'm really pleased with the final result, yet it still seems very strange, watching yourself at work and hearing your own voice. The two and a half minutes became eight, so that still leaves over fourteen hours of video on the cutting room floor. Much the same time and effort to make the square bottle featured!

This is Kristian's little film, view it on:-

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Making Promises

Around the end of December the media is full of reviews about the moments that made 2014. As January kicks in attention in the newspapers turns to an obsession with New Year resolutions.
The promise to eat sensibly, drink less and exercise more sounds more than revolutionary for some people, let alone changing what they make.
I don't think that I've ever made any rash promises to change my life style just because a New Year has dawned.
There is the opportunity to think about what I make and move my work in different directions though. All the applications are out there somewhere for ceramic markets and fairs, but right now there is nothing pressing. We are in a state of hibernation, no deadlines, nothing booked, no orders for more of the same, so it should be easy to make work that moves on from what has been seen before.
Except that when confronted with a clean, clear, empty bench, some nicely wedged clay waiting for the first finger marks, the ideas that I thought I had have all deserted me. It's very tempting to keep safe, making the pots you know sell well. Green pots for instance out sell brown or red, vases always disappear and there is a steady flow of requests for more. Visitors at craft fairs have pretty conservative tastes and look for what they thought they saw you had before, even if it was five years ago.
" Do you have any of those vases you make"?
It's easy to become trapped, I could probably make beakers blind fold, except that's not what it's all about and definitely not what I set out to achieve.
I'm not good at revolution. I work in a slow deliberate kind of evolution. Doing things that sort of worked before, held promise, but push it a little further. It may be a new form, but when I think about it, I've probably done it before because whatever I make has my handwriting all over it.

I've started to use slip more and more over the last year, the pots I used to make were very plain. I was quite happy with the naked, textured clay and the marks left by the fire. Forty years as a designer  has made me design my pots, never having trained as a production potter, I lack the brush skills and slick repetitive approach to painting grassy leaf motifs that seems endemic in British studio pottery. So I flick and speckle, splosh and daub black and white slip onto my designer, cheese hard clay. Wiping with a finger, scratching with a worn, old wire brush, poking with a bit of wood. Leave it for an hour or so and take a fresh look, flick a bit more. It makes a glorious mess, the floor, the walls, the bench, but this is about as free as my control freak nature allows. Examine small areas of the vessel surface and it looks exciting and full of promise, but try to repeat it and it's doomed to failure. The wet slip has an unctuous depth and lively surface, but leave it a couple of days and as the pots dry out all that changes and a grey monochromatic, flat look is left. It will take a glaze coat and a spell in the wood kiln to release all the promise, but all that is in the future and right now I need to make more to fill the kiln. My small New Years revolution is arrested until the kiln has been fired and opened, the new work viewed and evaluated so the next mini revolution can take flight.