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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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Make a thing a day

Last week I took part in makeathingaday on Instagram

‘a generous process laboratory where makers make a thing a day to giveaway. It was started in January 2015 by George Winks of Temper Studio to kick start his creative year, as a way of testing new ideas, and as a personal challenge to make something new each day for a week.’

Take a look at the website to see other makers projects… there is some beautiful work there.

It was a fantastic experience and an opportunity to experiment with concepts that I have had stored away in sketchbooks for some time. I thought it would be good to make an archive of my week’s work. Click on an image for details of the day’s process…

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the week’s work set aside to dry. They are now in the kiln being biscuit fired and hopefully they will be glazed by the end of the week. I’ll post finished images before I send them off to their already selected winners.

Out of hand

A while ago I promised to show you the results of my latest glaze firing. I’ve been so frantic preparing for Potfest that I’ve been somewhat sidetracked, trying to get as much made in the short amount of time I have before my first show. I’ve surprised myself in how much I have enjoyed the pressure and I feel my work is improving daily – possibly as a result. I’ve a lot to learn still but it’s a relief to know that I am continuing to love every minute of it. I’m just in the middle of a family holiday on the Outer Isles and my sketchbooks are brimming with new ideas… designs… decorations… shapes… I can’t wait to get back to the wheel. But first, more glazing and firings will need to be done in an attempt to finish a few last pieces before a week on Thursday when I head off to Penrith. Here are a few of my favorites from the last two firings…


Utensil jars


Dipping bowls and salt pot


Tea bowls

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Tea bowls with new design

Magpie {18}

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Handbuilt stoneware pod with slip and sgraffito decoration, by Hilary Duncan

I’ve been meaning to go and see Hilary Duncan since I started out at this. She only lives a few miles down the River Dee from me, but you know how it is… time flies. Last week I had no excuse as it was the second week of NEOS 2013 and the turn of the Central region’s exhibitors. I drove deep into the Blackhall forest to find her and discovered not only a breathtaking location but work to more than match it.

Scratching away

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Sorry, late post this week. I couldn’t find the camera charger so no photographing until this evening. We’re all getting back into a rhythm now that it’s a fortnight into the new school term. It’s been a good week, and I feel like I’ve made progress. I’ve managed to throw some larger pieces using between 1.5 and 2.5 kilos of clay; I’ve been trying out a refined series of sgraffito designs; and the shelves in the studio are filling up. I’ve also done my first batch of clay reclamation. I’m just waiting for it to dry out a little more before the wedging begins – that’s when my arms will really feel it.

A Good Friday

handles cuptop holes

It’s been busy here today but I’ve managed to squeeze in a good bit of time in the studio.

I’ve pulled handles for the cups I threw on Wednesday;
Applied slip decoration;
Fixed handles to the cups;
Drawn sgraffito patterns to insides;
Made ceramic buttons for the raku kiln that I’m about to build.

I’ve managed to do a lot but there’s still a long task list.

Slowly, slowly…

A few temporary glitches seem to have held things up a bit recently. However the new part for the kiln arrived yesterday and I finally managed to squeeze in a few hours cup throwing on Monday. It’s slow, but I think I’m making a small amount of progress. What I do find is that you can’t take your eye off the ball for a minute. Even when I do a bit of half decent throwing, then there’s the turning. Once the turning is done, there are the handles…

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I’m hoping to do some handle tests over the coming weeks – these are a bit thick, but hand-pulled – I’m aiming for something finer. I’d like to try some cut ones too and see which looks best. Also I’m trying out some sgraffito on the insides. I like the idea of sipping a cup of tea and discovering/hiding a pattern as you drink. Let’s see if I can get these ones to survive their glaze firing.