Saturday, 31 October 2015


Hello Potters and Friends.

Yes, can you believe it, I had a visit from Sachiyo Kawabe who is a very well known potter from Mashiko, just north of Tokyo.

She has family in England which was the real reason for her visit, but I felt very fortunate to have met her. She brought some of her pots to show me and left me with this excellent cup that I use for my tea every morning. And she picked out this painted bowl of mine to take home.

Mashiko is known as a pottery town and was the home for many years of famous potter Shoji Hamada. It was also here that Bernard Leach was first introduced to Japanese pottery and became life-long friends with Hamada, whom he brought back with him to work in the Leach Pottery in St Ives, Cornwall.

Sachiyo and her husband built their own kiln - called a climbing kiln - which only gets fired once a year. Fingers must be well and truly crossed at that kiln opening. 

This is an example of a climbing kiln in Mashiko.

Unfortunately it was destroyed in the Japanese earthquake 2011, along with all her pots for a big exhibition. It is now rebuilt but what an experience. One's livelihood put back months in just a couple of seconds!
Should my small electric disappear into the ground I'm fortunate enough to be able to ring Potclays Ltd to send me a replacement. 

But on to my recent making.....
I have discovered a sort of new technique that I'm rather pleased with. Firstly here is the end result.

I love the mixed glazes but I'm more pleased with the mixed clays.

I've never got this banding right before. It has always ended up a bit muddy. So here's the secret.

No mixing clays beforehand. Centre your one main clay on the wheel first, then add your contrasting clay as in the picture. I've got a bit of a Union Jack thing going on here by the look of it. Not intentional. 

The more times you 'cone up' the more bands of colour you'll create. Now, press down into the centre straight away and pull out to make your pot as usual.  Of course, the bands disappear at this point and you can't see much until you scrape away the surface when you 'turn' the pot at leather hard stage. But all becomes clear in the final firing. Have faith, it will happen.

And finally, just out of the kiln, is the last of my commissions. Japanese teapots (kyusu) and cups (chawans). Sachiyo looked them over just before I glazed them and I'm pleased to say that I took her enthusiastic nod as a double thumbs up!


Saturday, 29 August 2015


Hello Potters and Friends,

Couldn't resist the Shakespearian flavour to the title of this post. My son is working with Benedict Cumberbatch in 'Hamlet' at the Barbican at the moment, so it's part of my world right now.
Crazy times, he tells me. 'Sometimes it's been more like being in a rock concert than a play'.
Indeed, as an actor myself, I've never witnessed such hysteria over a piece of Shakespeare. However, Hamlet is now being seen by people who possibly didn't like having to study Shakespeare at school and who firmly believed they would never have to encounter it again. I applaud Mr Cumberbatch for that.

But on to those commissions.
A successful Open Studio Exhibition always produces requests to re-make the popular pots that have already been sold.
Repeating a piece of work that was a complete one-off, possibly even a result of a mistake, is quite a challenge.

I know some makers who will not take commissions at any price, but I somehow always find myself saying, 'Yes of course I'll make you another one'.  But adding, ' It'll be exactly like that one...... but a bit different'.

So I've made a start.

Waiting to be bisque fired.

 The painted pots on the shelf at the back were the most popular. Here's the sold one.  

Hare over the Moon

Hares always seem to be very popular, but difficult to make them not look like elongated rabbits.

I've been asked to make a side-handled Japanese teapot for an actor friend. So here's the first one drying out in the workshop. I always make two – just in case.

When making anything involving adding handles or spouts, I like to be certain that the fix to the pot is as secure as I can make it. So I made a small amount of paper clay for the purpose. This is the strongest and best sure-fire slurry for the job.

Rip up newspaper and pour on boiling water. When cool, squeeze it out and add it to some liquid clay from your slurry bucket. Roughly, 30% paper, 70% gooey clay. Then whizz it all together with an electric hand whisk and you have the perfect clay glue.

Now doesn't that look good?

Most of this I put in a sealed container to keep wet and some I dried out and kneaded into a ball to be kept for other uses.

Alan and I took on a fun project during the exhibition before my favourite pots disappeared. We took some photographs to be turned into greetings cards by our local printer.  

They are A6 size, blank inside and very colourful.

Inside my greenhouse.

The Oystercatcher

Goosey Goosey 

They are all for sale at £2 each so if you'd like any, just post me a comment or go through contact me on my website at


Saturday, 30 May 2015


Hello Potters and Friends,

Yes, our Warwickshire Open Studio exhibition is very close now; beginning the end of June and running for two weeks into July. And so my, 'never been seen before, hand-painted, unglazed collection' is just about ready for the eyes of the world.

In the previous post you can see how I trimmed and turned this pot before firing, and this is the finished piece – unglazed, as I'd said before, but I always like a glaze on the inside.

A little fan-shaped pot. Thrown, then the sides were gently pushed in. When glazing I prefer to paint it on to avoid drips on the outside. And I don't go right up to the top of the rim. This is so I can have better control when creating a straight edge. 

However....this one, and the one after, contradicts what I've just said!! Oh well, Hey ho!

I'm not very expert at dipping into a glaze and getting a level edge. I will always be on the slant! So that's why I painted on this glaze too. But that must be tricky when painting the inside of that rounded shoulder, I hear you cry. 
Well, yes it was, but I had an idea....

I bent a brush. I can't tell you how thrilled I was with this invention. I even interrupted Alan in his study brandishing the bent brush crying, " I've just got to show you this. Isn't it brilliant?" 
And looking back, I don't think he asked me what it was for. 

I'm also having a table at my grandson's Nursery Craft and general fun time event. I always like to have small and inexpensive pieces on sale so that everyone can take something away with them.  

 This Chinese writing says "MARRIAGE"

I am constantly looking at other potters' work, and it surprises me how I am so drawn to artists who produce work that is nothing like mine. 


Witty and unsentimental hand-painted figures. 



Friday, 3 April 2015


Hello Potters and Friends,

Cesar Manrique – he is the artist that captured my attention last week.

Five of us went on a family holiday to Lanzarote in the Canary islands, and Manrique has had such a big influence over the whole island, it's difficult not to see his artistic presence everywhere.  

 His many kinetic wind toys, as he called them, stand in strategic spots throughout the volcanic island turning and swirling in the perpetual breeze.

We visited his house that he built inside and around large volcanic bubbles. In each bubble he created either a living space or an outdoor pool linked by a lava tunnel to a barbecue area. 
One large bubble housed some of his sketches for his wind toys as well as some of his ceramics. 

Are these bold brush strokes or what......?

By coincidence I had just made a pot of a similar shape the week before. (Without the ears and the top-knot of course. I'd not thought of that combination!) 

Getting it out of the damp cupboard I realised that it needed a lot of trimming so I had to create a make-shift chuck in order to work on it upside down. 
So here was my solution....

I had a pot to hand with a good flared rim. Centre it and secure it.

A square of bubble wrap to protect my pot from getting marked and over she goes.

Spirit level to ensure no wonky bottom.

Then place a finger in the centre to keep it from tilting. 

A few bold strokes of my own and it's ready for the kiln.


Saturday, 21 February 2015


Hello Potters and Friends,

I've just realised this afternoon that I haven't written a post on this blog since December!
So I've put down my painting brush and sat at the computer.
But, thinking about it, there is a reason why I've been so lax - I've been working very slowly.

Here's what I'm in the middle of working on right now...

I'm using black underglaze and it takes me ages. The pot hasn't been bisque fired yet, and on unfired clay your brush tends to drag making progress very slow. Also this won't be glazed on the outside so I must be accurate with every stroke because I don't want to be scraping off the mistakes, then trying to cover up the scratch marks. 
When I was a student I remember rushing to finish a pot. Why? God knows. It wasn't a race. But what I've learned over the years is to pay attention to the detail. Make sure the pot is as you want it before going into the kiln. 
Potter Lucie Rie wisely said that you can never make a bad pot good by covering it in glaze and hoping it will be transformed. It will always be a bad pot and you'll never be happy with it. 

Here's a smaller one that's been bisque fired and I'm painting a glaze on the inside.

I didn't paint right to the top of the rim because I knew that I couldn't guarantee a lovely straight black edge on the rim.  But by holding the brush steady against the far side of the pot and then turning the banding wheel, I find I have more control over that straight edge. But be sure to turn it slowly. No spinning and hoping!

But what if you thought you'd made the perfect pot but when it came out of the kiln it looked like this....

Well, yes I could fling it towards the bin... but maybe all may not be lost.... 

Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of mending ceramic and making an artistic statement from it. This was a broken pot, put back together and the join exaggerated with gold. 

My plan is to fill the crack of my pot with paper clay (which may not shrink so much and is stronger for this job) then re-fire it, and using a porcelain gold pen, mark out the crack. These can be bought in most craft shops.
I won't be able to put it for sale but it will join other slightly flawed pots that adorn my kitchen. 

And now finally I must show you this picture of a brilliant piece of carpentry that I found on the Web.

For all you throwers of pots out there, how's that for simple invention? I showed this to the love of my life who is just now sprawled out on the sofa; eyes glued to a rugby match in HD. "No problem" he said, straining to look round me.  I think he just missed Ireland scoring a vital try. But anyway, great, I expect one appearing any day soon.