Saturday, 19 August 2017


Hello Potters and Friends,

Here it is my new throwing wheel! It looks a little more messy at the moment because it has been well used since I bought it. But as it has been a great success for me I wanted to let you know all about it.

I have to say that I was initially in two minds about it as it looked, not just smaller than my big Shimpo Whisper, but it didn't appear to be very robust — I couldn't have been more wrong.
Also I can lift it and take it into the garden or place it anywhere I choose provided it stands on a wobble-free table. 
It has certainly released me from my basement workshop and given me hours of daylight.

So I'll give you a closer look.

Firstly, the controls. Red on/off switch and another that lets you choose clockwise or anti-clockwise spin — useful for left-handed throwers.

Next the batts. These blue batts look a bit flimsy don't they? Be assured they are good and strong and you get two.  As you can see they press down on the two bolts on the wheel-head and are quite secure. Sometimes I have to rub a little bit of Vaseline in the holes to help press them in because the holes get a bit clogged up with dry clay.

The wheel will take up to 9kg (20 lbs) of clay, so considering that I make large mugs with only 1lb of clay I think it's safe to say that it will satisfy most needs.

By having these easily removable batts I can make large or small flat dishes, lift the batt off the wheel and leave the dish untouched until leather-hard. This is brilliant for me as I make lots of flat dishes and plates that remain flat during the firing process. My warping days are gone.

I make a lot of butter dishes and garlic keepers and I like them to stand well together without any wobbles. 

At my last Open Studio sale, flat plates and dishes lined the front of my table.

I bought my wheel at Potclays in Stoke-on-Trent, UK and the cost was just over £600. This is half of the cost of a normal Shimpo wheel. But not only does it have all the benefits that I have already mentioned but the fact that it is so easily transported meant that I was able to give throwing workshops in the summer. 
I was invited to travel to an artist's studio where some keen would-be potters could try their hand on my wheel as well as learn the art of hand-building.

So this little wheel has opened up something new for me to consider in the future.

If you'd like to see one in action then go to You Tube and see Simon Leach testing one out for his workshop. 


Sunday, 5 February 2017


Hi Potters and Friends,

Well, coupled with the temperature here in England well below zero this winter, it's also been a bit chilly in my workshop of late. The controller on my kiln just gave up the ghost and said... I've had enough!   I was in the process of firing some commissions at that time but when your tools let you down all you can do is quit.
Here's a peep at the problem.

Quite frankly I was terrified. I'm not an electrician and neither is Alan but with the help of Tom from Potclays Supplies who sent us a replacement with coloured tags in the appropriate places, we fumbled our way to success. So with the manual in hand I re-programmed this unfamiliar box, (all programmers had been up-graded about 5 years previously) and with slight fear my commissions were re-packed in the kiln.

Pots made for Chrome Yellow Art Supplies, Leamington.

If you've seen my yellow glaze in previous posts then you can see that these pots came out a lot darker yet brighter than normal. I deduce from this that the kiln is under-firing. Glazes generally pale in higher temperatures. I've yet to test this theory! 

So what could I do in the meantime..

Before all I experimented with a technique called inlay. If you see the previous post you can see the fabulous inlay work of American potter Michael Kline. This method is about layering one coloured clay onto a contrasting clay, then a lot of scraping back. I threw everything at this test piece and I can honestly say that it is more difficult than I thought.

Ok, but more work required.

Incidentally, I used a wooden picture frame as a mould. I laid the rolled-out clay on top and then - with a wooden board underneath - I dropped it on the floor. The clay drops into shape straight away. Good trick.

But during my enforced rest I could do other things this winter. I have been painting on more pieces of my WWII ammunition box.

I've bought some heavily grogged black volcanic clay to try hand-building again. Very satisfying but it rips into your fingers somewhat. So I used the edge of a clam shell to create the grooves.

But the most fun is larking about in the park with my grandson, Hector. Can't beat it.

I've enjoyed having this time out and I really believe it does you good.