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Finishing my pots

I was back at Eastnor Pottery again today, finishing off the pots and plates which I threw last month. The idea is that you put the “leather-hard” pots back on the wheel-head, upside down, then get them exactly centred (not easy, particularly if the pot is a bit wobbly) and stick it in place with soft clay. Then you can turn away the excess clay from the base of the pot to make it less heavy, add a foot-ring, and generally tidy it up before decorating it.

I had a bit of a disaster with my first pot today. I didn’t secure it well enough to the wheel-head, and it flew off at high speed when I was trying to neaten up the base. That of course bashed it out of shape, and although I managed to coax it back into something almost circularly symmetrical, I was less than pleased with the finished article. I’ll have to see how it comes out once it’s been glazed and fired. I may have done enough to rescue it. Otherwise it will be landfill!

I was much more conservative when sticking down the other pots and plates, and had no further problems. Out of the four lids I threw last time, three were a good enough fit to a pot to make a pair. The remaining lid didn’t properly fit anything so went into the recycling bid to be reclaimed and reused. Then I had to decorate them in pairs, so that I can tell later which lid I’ve decided to pair with which pot.

The pottery was very busy today. There were three other people who were on day two of a weekend course, so they were turning the pots they threw yesterday. They all had been exceedingly prolific and had at least a dozen pots each which they were aiming to finish today. By the time I left mid-afternoon they were still frantically turning away, and hadn’t started painting their pots yet, so they were going to have their work cut out! Everything that was finished today will then be thoroughly dried out (if there is any moisture left at all, the pot will explode in the kiln, potentially taking others with it) then fired, glazed and fired a second time. They should be ready in time for Christmas, which is just as well as several of today’s pots are intended as Christmas presented.

Also working in a corner of the pottery was a Swedish couple who are doing a sort of work-experience trip around the UK. The woman is a ceramics student in Sweden and as part of her course is expected to spend half a term travelling and working with established potters to learn from them. She had dragged her boyfriend, a mechanic, along as well, and they were spending the weekend helping Jon the Potter with some tasks around the pottery, as well as making some tiles for an ongoing job he is working on. They have been travelling round the UK for several weeks, and when she gets back to Sweden she is expected to write a short dissertation on what she’d learned, and give a presentation to the rest of the class. She realises that it’s very difficult to establish yourself as an artisan potter – it’s difficult to sell pots for enough money to support yourself unless you are a “known name” and therefore collectable – but how do you bootstrap that? And it seems that what she’s learned in the last few weeks is that it’s no easier in the UK than it is in Sweden.

We were talking over lunch, and she was very keen to find a way to make her ceramics pay, but recognised that she would probably need several sidelines to help bring in enough money. She would like to go into partnership with her sister who is a cook and confectioner, and open a ceramics cafe. She’s been spending this work experience period doing some research into how small pottery businesses manage here in the UK, including looking at ceramics cafes. It made me glad that my pottery is only a hobby, and that I don’t need to find a way to monetise it!