Magpie {53}


Blue Owl Bowl: hand-built, gas fired stoneware, by Chiu-i Wu

I’ve seen Chiu-i’s work on a number of occasions and have always been captivated by the whimsical imagination of her pieces. At Potfest Scotland last year I fell in love with a particular piece, but hesitated in buying it until I had reached my own sales target. Big mistake… unsurprisingly by the Sunday it had already been bought.

This year I was determined not to make the same error, so I visited her stand early last Friday to take a look. I wasn’t disappointed, and this gorgeous little bowl has come home with me.

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A week ago was the twentieth Potfest Scotland, and my second time at this wonderful event, held in the beautiful grounds of Scone Palace, Perth.

Last year I had an amazing time, but I was nervous. I had already done a couple of shows but each new location brings its own challenges and learning curve. It was great to return knowing what to expect, and therefore have a clearer idea of what I needed to bring with me – both in terms of work and stand.

Here’s a journal of the week…

Tuesday 7 June
I unloaded the kiln – the final one of a series of three sets of biscuit and glaze firings. I have been trying to build up as large a body of work as I can this spring as my summer is going to be busy with a significant amount of time away from the studio. As well as making pieces for Potfest I am working concurrently on orders that need to be finished in the next month. As the work is removed from the kiln I check each piece individually, remove any seconds or breakages and sand the bases to remove any roughness.

Wednesday 8 June
First I select the work that I want to take with me – laying it all out on the kitchen table gives me a good overview. Each piece is individually priced and a stock list taken – I find this very useful as I can note down items as they sell and then easily review which pots are doing well. Then starts the laborious job of packing everything into boxes so that it doesn’t break in transit. At the moment I use bubble wrap, but I’m in the process of changing over to a more eco friendly approach of newsprint and corrugated card.

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All the stand items are brought down from the loft; tablecloths ironed, and shelves and boards given a fresh coat of paint. I have a checklist to make sure I don’t forget anything – from a float of change, my sales book, business cards, down to safety pins and the crucial roll of duct tape.

Thursday 9 June
The morning is spent loading the van – similar to a game of Tetris. I leave home in the sunshine and make the two hour drive to Perth arriving just before 2pm. As one of the early ones to arrive I manage to get a parking place quickly and set about unloading the van before moving it to the campsite.

Each stand area is marked out clearly on the grass inside the marquees and comes with two trestle tables. The first task is to set up the basic stand using tables, boards, cloths and shelving. This year I made two backing boards to clamp to tables in an attempt to make a cleaner looking stand by screening out my neighbours’ work. Once this is done the pots are carefully unpacked and I set about creating a display. I’m always slow at this and I’m easily sidetracked by catching up with friends. Finally I head to my bed at 10pm.

Friday 10 June
Unfortunately after a glorious day yesterday the weather takes a turn for the worse and the dreich and damp set in for the entire weekend. I learned last year to bring every sort of clothing imaginable and I head to the marquees resembling the Michelin man in wellies and endless layers.

I find the first day exciting and nerve wracking in equal measure… will people come, will they like my work? It turns out to be busy despite the weather and an enjoyable day, filled with interesting conversations and meeting old and new customers and friends.

Saturday 11 June
Another surprisingly large number of visitors considering the rain. It’s hard work manning a stall, even though apparently there is a lot of standing around and chatting… you are constantly on tenterhooks, and although I try to remain relaxed in the end it all comes down to the importance of making sales and earning a living.

Last year another potter invited me to join a group going into Perth for the evening. We did the same this year – starting with a very welcome trip to the leisure pool for a thaw out in the sauna, jacuzzi and steam room. We came out glowing. Then on for some supper before heading back to the campsite.

Sunday 12 June
The rain never seems to let up and although it’s a warmer day the damp seems to be getting into my bones. Hardy visitors still seem to come however, although not as many as the previous day for me. Come 5 o’clock I’m actually relieved that the show is over and that I can start the long process of rewrapping and loading everything into the van. At 7.30pm I make my goodbyes and head home.

Monday 13 June
It’s not finished yet as the van still needs to be unpacked – the stand and work put away. I check my sales book against the cash and card transactions taken to make sure that they correspond, and enter the whole lot into my accounts. Phew.

I had hoped to photograph all the exhibitors’ stands but I never seemed to have enough time – one of the challenges of attending a fair single-handed. Here’s a gallery of the ones I managed to get round. Apologies to those I missed – there was some stunning work on show…

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Last weekend I packed up all the pots I had in stock and took them to my first show of the year, Potfest Scotland at Scone Palace. I thought I’d be less nervous this time, but what with losing a significant number of large pieces in my most recent firing I was definitely feeling knots in my stomach.

Whilst I was setting up I discovered I had some lovely neighbours in my tent and, just like Potfest in the Pens last year, the weekend proved to be a wonderful combination of making new friends, meeting customers and making sales. The weather wasn’t particularly kind to us but we still had a great time… with an evening trip to Perth swimming pool for a thawing sauna and jacuzzi a welcome respite from camping in the van.

Another of the good things from the weekend was the lovely feedback I had about the new pieces I’ve been making with coloured footrings – inspired by lichens and seaweed (see gallery). I also picked up a few tips and ideas to do with setting up stand backdrops which I’ll definitely implement next time around.

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Now I must get on and make more pots in time for my next show in Penrith.

Heating up nicely

What a weekend and it’s not even over yet.

Over the last few days summer seems to have finally arrived and what better way to enjoy it than at Potfest Scotland. I spent my Friday perusing the work of 70 potters exhibiting in the glorious grounds of Scone Palace.

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Last night I fitted the new tube assembly to my kiln and have subsequently done two test fires to ensure correct adjustment. I’ve just loaded the kiln and will be warming it gently overnight before completing my second ever biscuit firing tomorrow. I’m slightly anxious as I have some of my friends’ pieces in there.