Thursday, 1 December 2022

Pottery history..for Barbara

 I first met clay when we moved to Eastleigh. I was eight, and there was a dustbin full of dubious looking and smalling grey clay for us to use and construct things.

The main problem was that everything had to go back in the bin at the end of the lesson..that did not seem right!!

No more clay...but always plenty of drawing, and from age 12, photography, until in Grammar school at 14 in art lessons. We had two teachers who had been to the Slade school of Art. No experience of anything 3 D. A little stand up kick wheel, slip and a couple of glazes for decoration and one kiln..must have been between 4 to 6 cubic foot capacity.  

I got top marks for Art GCE 'O' level, then went on with pottery being the main subject for 'A' level.  I made a small cruet set...white glazed with added manganese around the rim.

Unfortunately one teacher managed to drop the small spoon I had carved..twice! Anyhow I ended up with a second 'O' level in that...and an 'A' grade in Geology A level....quite apt, as ceramics is applied geology!!

Without the required 'A' level grades I couldn't go on to Aberystwyth university..but a good thing as now I realise that that was Art History!! Why no-one said about applying for Art Colleges I don't know..perhaps they thought that was beneath a grammar school to consider.

During this time on my spare time wanders by bike I visited the mill with a pottery near Salisbury I think, and saw the work of Oldrich Asenbryl

I moved to Cardiff..a short lived marriage which didn't work..and he walked out...but one of his comments was, You should go to Art College....and in 73 I did the foundation course at Cardiff college of Art...which, at Howard Gardens, was on the fifth floor!!!! With fantastic light.

I applied for a 2 year course at Derby and was accepted...but also was accepted on Cardiff's 3 year ceramics course.  

On the day of my interview I was queuing for the canteen, and heard a jokey comment from behind me...and turned to see who it was...and looked up...and met a friend for life...whose life sadly ended a few years ago. Peter Goodridge.

I accepted Cardiff's offer. There we were, eighteen of us at the start!  It was a testing time for both students and staff as it was the transition time from diploma to degree courses for Art...and at the end of two years I had had enough..having to justify my work to four tutors constantly...I had had enough!! By that time there were only nine of us left..

I went to work for David Frith at Brookhouse Pottery near Denbigh in North Wales, until I married again in September 1977.

Much travelling ensued again following his employment. But eventually we bought a house in Nantlle in 1980, and workshop then family ensued.

Four offspring later we moved to a small smallholding in Garn Dolbenmaen near Porthmadog.  No workshop, but with my children we established a large fruit and vege garden and planted the beginnings of an orchard. 

I worked for two seasons in the Golden Dragon bookshop in Porthmeirion village, before joining Snowdon Mill pottery in Porthmadog as a designer/maker.

Everything went pearshaped in 1997 and I was on my own as a single parent...by 1998 I got a job in a pottery gifts factory in Barry in South Wales, and we were off moving again!!

It wasn't a good place to work, so I was fortunate to get a part time.bookshop job again, in the National History Museum at St Ffagan outside of Cardiff.

This gave me a chance to join an arts cooperative for a while and develop my work.

I bought a house in Cardiff, and after renovation I could afford a house part way up the Ebbw Valley, that had a garage...which after rebuilding became a workshop!!

The work in St Ffagan moved sideways...and I started working for the potter in the museum, making small sheep!! He sold me a kiln...which I hope to get working again soon. That worked well until I moved north to Scotland.

I was fortunate to meet up with Peter Goodridge again and help with saltglaze firings at his workshop, with other potters..his wife, Melanie Brown, Rosemary Cochrane and others.   It was such a good time, also being a member of the Black Mountains cooperative and doing a turn in the gallery and café outside Abergavenny once a month and selling my work well there, and in markets at Hay on Wye, Brecon, Builth Wells and Usk.

Then came the pirate...and the move to Scotland!!

Now I need to get back working, as we have built a good workshop extension...

A break away in Aotearoa NZ is just what we need to boost health and inspiration..there will be no excuse after that!!

6 comments:

molly said...


Wonderful to read your story. It's amazing how each part of our life leads us to the next part and even one different choice or decision would have taken us in completely different direction!

Fresca said...

Oh, I've been curious to know all this for a long time--
thanks for writing out your history.
I'm eager to see what you will create in your new workshop!!!

Barbara R. said...

Thank you so much! This is more than I expected...but an understandable thread throughout your life. It's so heartwarming to hear each step you took. I hope you all enjoy being away from the Scotland winter...and come home inspired!

Allison said...

Well, that was an interesting read! Thanks for putting it in the blog.

Betty the Wood Fairy said...

I just knew it, I don't know if you told me in a past post but I knew that you were connected in some way to Abergavenny - my mother Evie lived in Abergavenny during her 2nd marriage (he himself a bit of a character)... (she was a clairvoyant and had a little shop front opposite the pub on the Hereford road going out of town. She was well known locally and often seen in the market/selling dried heather. She later moved to Ebbw Vale where she spent her remaining days. Maybe you encountered her in the market or even visited her! who knows :) I enjoyed reading your background and how you came to be skilled at your trade :) Betty (wood fairy)

srgb said...

Welcome to The Land of the Long White Cloud I hope Christchurch is kind to you we have 26c in The Bay of Plenty today and feels a lot warmer in the sun, I guess its warm in Christchurch, enjoy the cheap power while you can.
Your last 2 post read very well, enjoy your travels in NZ.