Magpie {52}


Earthenware slipware mug decorated with cobalt and iron oxide, by Adrift Pottery

A few weeks ago we went on a mad whistle stop tour of the South West. We made a fairly large detour into West Wales to catch up with old friends, and realised that we were only a few miles away from Karen and Andy’s pottery. We’ve been following each other for years on Instagram, and it was a delight to finally meet face-to-face. I came away with this gorgeous Chrysanthemum mug, but deciding was very difficult as there was so much to choose from…

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Inspired

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Each year we head to the Outer Isles for a family holiday. Whatever the weather we always have the best of times, and this year was no exception. Most days were spent on the beach, with my husband and girls investigating rock pools, the dog going mad in the sand and me soaking up as much of it as I can.

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I sketch and photograph whenever possible whilst I’m on North Uist. It’s my way of unwinding. There is so much to inspire and motivate – the colours and textures of the sea, shore, lochs and hills. Everywhere you look there’s something…

I also finally remembered to bring some pots with me to shoot amongst the landscape that inspired them…

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Show up 2

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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…

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.

Reflecting

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After yesterday’s biscuit firing I washed everything today, ready for glazing*. During this process I had a chance for a moment’s contemplation as this is the first time in a while that I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my throwing. The pieces feel lighter and more consistent in thickness… some real progress. Recently someone gave me some advice about throwing with softer clay for wider pieces such as plates and this has been really helpful.

As I have mentioned before, with potting there always seems to some kind of humbling element just to keep you in check. With this firing I have been reminded that rushing things is never a good idea… We will be without electricity early next week so I knew I needed to get a biscuit firing and one glaze firing done before then. I over packed the kiln and some pieces were not as dry as they should have been. I thought I had allowed for this by adding some preheat time to the already slow firing schedule… well I suppose that two breakages out of a total 77 pots isn’t too bad. Here’s hoping the survivors make it through their glaze firings ready for Ministry of Craft on 6 December.

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I must say that although I am really enjoying progressing my existing work I sometimes find it difficult to resist the urge to develop new ideas. I’ve got page after page of sketches that I’m itching to try out… I’m looking forward to experimenting in the New Year, when hopefully things will be a little quieter.

*It is important to brush, sponge or wash off of any dust from the first firing to ensure glaze adheres well. Also before washing I like to sand the bases and rims to remove any rough spots.