Thursday, 18 August 2011

New website

Feel free to browse this blog for archive blog posts.

For current Eastnor Pottery activity please take a look at our new website . There you will find details on all our courses, workshops and educational work as well as up to date news and forthcoming events.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Mud Settee at Evesham Nursery

I spent three lovely days working with the children and staff of Evesham Nursery school in their idyllic forest school site.

The children helped dig, bag shift, and re-arrange half a tonne of Worcestershire's finest soil before rendering the structure with a soggy mix of mud, clay, water and straw.

Visit our Facebook photo album to see the sofa taking shape.

Pottery Hen Party

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of hosting a pottery hen party for a group of girls from North Wales.

As the gang had been 'celebrating' the previous evening, a calm and gentle activity was sought to soothe tired heads and weary souls! Making and painting coil-pots at Eastnor Pottery provided the perfect solution.

To view the marvellous creations the women made, please take a look at the Facebook album we've created.

Oratory Primary School

I spent a lovely couple of days working with the children and staff at The Oratory Primary School in Birmingham. Each child in the school made an individual coil-pot as well as experiencing a 'potter's wheel' assembly.

Pictured here, my lonesome wheel in the expanse of the empty hall.

Abbey Park First School

Gemma spent an enjoyable couple of days working with years three and four at Abbey Park First School in Pershore .

Prior to Gemma's visit, the children had worked with a storyteller on a couple of Indian folk tales; The Boy Who Wanted a Drum, and The Moon Creation Story.

On the first day, the children presented their stories to Gemma before producing a couple of collaborative flowerpots. On day two the children concentrated on their own individual creations inspired by the characters from the stories.The two classes really used their imagination, producing some beautiful drawings and excellent 3D drums, figures, moons, boats, and houses, amongst other things. What an inspirational project!

All of the work will now be dried and fired before returning to the school in a few week's time.

Potter on Film...(Again)

For the second time last week my practice was recorded as moving image.

Brearley and Teviot Nursery are making a promotional DVD of all the fantastic opportunities and learning experiences they offer the children.

As well as experiencing the sheer joy of water and spinning clay, the children made honey pots, cups and a fantastic aeroplane (pictured above).

The man behind the lens - James a talented film-maker who also facilitates educational projects in and around the city.

Bilston Video

I spent the day last Monday being filmed for a short DVD to accompany my exhibition at Bilston Craft Museum.

The production team, pictured left to right; Anthony (film-maker), Carrie and Natalie (Bilston Craft Gallery).

Mum's on Tour

Once a year a group of friends from Oxford relinquish their family ties and chores and spend a weekend away enjoying each others company. The mini break usually encompasses a group activity; last weekend it was the potter's wheel.

The girls spent Sunday morning in Eastnor making some very tidy looking pots on the potter's wheel, and some credible hand-built sculptures and constructions. We've created a Facebook photo album to record the fun and clay frolics!

Potter's Wheel Workshop

Sally and Barry proudly display their freshly thrown wares. The couple were attending one of our regular potter's wheel workshops.

Having never thrown a pot before, they grasped the concept straight away. the pair made a collection of plates, bowls and mugs which we'll fire and glaze once they've had a chance to dry out.

If you fancy sampling the delights of the potter's wheel, please check out our website .

Country House Collection

Participants from our Easter children's pottery workshops sessions collect their masterpieces.

Friday, 6 May 2011

A Drumming Good Time

The boys tryout my drum pots in the pottery garden...

The Cracks Have Appeared...

It's been a few weeks since I was last at the Brickworks. On my last visit, I left the largest completed vessel unwrapped to allow the bricks to dry and shrink.

Quite a dramatic effect I think you'll agree?

I love the tones and colour displayed by the uneven drying - the darker bricks at the bottom are still quite damp whilst the 'white' ones at the top are nearly dry enough for firing.

Work Experience Student

Introducing Sally, who has joined us this week on a work experience placement. Sally is a second year Ceramics student from Cardiff School of Art and Design. We are really grateful for the extra pair of hands, especially a degree student with knowledge and understanding of materials and process.

Sally's been working with me at Coleford Brick and Tile Company, in the Forest of Dene, helping with the work for my show at the Bilston Museum and Art Gallery.

Photo Session

Tuesday was a busy day here at the Pottery. Gemma and myself were joined once again by Chris Smart - photographer extraordinaire, Natalie - exhibitions officer from Bilston Museum and Art Gallery, and Sally - work experience student from Cardiff School of Art and Design.

The day was spent photographing my work for the exhibition in July. There was a lot of 'moving' furniture and pottery around the studio as Chris experimented with backgrounds, light and composition. As per usual the results were fantastic. The images will be used for publicity purposes prior to the show and for large prints to be hung on the walls to compliment the pots.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Kiln Catastrophe

For some years now, the nature of my practice has been interpersonal - I've worked with participants of all ages and abilities, making things out of clay destined to be recycled rather than being fired.

I was starkly and cruelly reminded this week of the potential for disaster when committing work to the kiln.

I lifted the kiln lid to find all of the pieces or severely cracked beyond repair - 2-3 days of work ruined in one foul swoop.

You would think that twenty years plus of experience would render the firing of work a mundane and risk free activity...It's anything but. There are so many variables to the process of firing; temperature, rate of temperature climb, size of the work, position in the kiln...I could go on.

Just one small change - in this case the shape of the thrown form, and you can pretty much throw everything you know out of the window!

Although I've been working with brick clay for the past three years, I'm still learning how it works...but when you have a deadline looming, the need to get it right is intensified.

I had forgotten what a frustrating and destructive process transforming clay into ceramic could be. Those pieces that survive the rigours of the kiln are special and should not in any way be taken for granted - lots of 'metaphor for life' potential me thinks!

Skills on Show at Brearley & Teviot Nursery

It always astounds me the social and personal developments that take place during a child's first year in education at Nursery school.

I've had the privilege to work at Brearley and Teviot Nursery for the past twelve months and have witnessed huge changes in the class of 2011. As a new intake in September 2010, the children enjoyed experiencing clay in a physical and tactile manner - squidging, flattening and experimenting with simple hand tools.

The majority of children I worked with on Wednesday had advanced to the point where they wanted to produce objects as opposed to playing with the material.

The first animals, (mouse/elephant) although charming with all the correct features in the right places, were constructed out of solid lumps - destined to explode if they were ever to be fired. In an attempt to challenge the children's learning, I demonstrated the pinch-pot technique as a way of creating a hollow form - a technique normally reserved for older children.

The results were astounding - perfect pinch-pots executed with great skill and dexterity.

We took this technique outside, producing bowls, vases and other vessels to contain the dandelions, daisy and other vegetation the children had collected.

Children's Pottery Workshops at Easter

Blur's 'Country House' provided the inspiration for our children's pottery sessions in the Easter holidays. Young potters from all over the West Midlands (and beyond) sampled the traditional technique of slab building in order to create miniature dwellings. There were a considerable amount of thatched cottages produced as well as the odd hotel and haunted mansion. The children's masterpieces will be fired, glazed and will be ready for collection on the 6th, 7th, and 8th of May from Eastnor Pottery.

The next workshop sessions are due to take place in half term on the 1st and 2nd of June. The theme is coil-pot critters and places can only be reserved by telephoning 01531 633886, or by sending an email to

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Coleford Brick and Tile Company

I spent the majority of last week working at the Coleford Brick and Tile Company in the Forest of Dean.

The directors have been very generous, (once again) in allowing me to work on the factory floor and 'play' with their wonderful materials and products.

I'm making some large vessels - some one metre in diameter, out of carved 'green' bricks. The process involves piling the bricks into a rough shape before carving the surfaces to achieve a smooth effect. Once it's all dried, it will be disassembled, carefully labelled and then fired in the giant gas kilns at the works.

The piece will then be re-assembled in time for my exhibition in July at Bilston. For other blog entries relating to this project please take a look at: Coleford Residency 5 and 6, Brick Factory Visit 3, Coleford Residency, Bilston Show a Go-Go!,


Gillian's Pots

Gillian's probably our most loyal and long serving workshop participant; she's been coming here for years!

We love these daffodil vases made on a recent visit.

St Richard's and Simon De Montfort Workshops

Gemma completed a series of after-school workshops in Evesham recently, working with parents and children at both St Richard's and Simon De Montfort schools. Coil-pot figures provided the theme, with everyone creating their own masterpiece - check out these fabulous examples. Once these pieces have been dried, fired and then glazed, they will be returned to their owners.

Oven Celebration

I've been working in collaboration with forest school Fiona at Washwood Heath Nursery School to build a pizza oven in the playground.

It took just three days to complete with lots of help from the children and staff at appropriate stages.

The children loved mixing the cob (clay, straw and sand) whilst the staff excelled at decorating the dome. Even when they were unable to help, we had an inquisitive audience sat on the periphery of the build site.
The project culminated on the last day of term and co-incided with the Nursery's Ofsted celebration event. The children's families were invited to share in the Nursery's 'Outstanding' report by enjoying music, food and other entertainment - as well as witnessing the inaugural lighting of the pizza oven.

Once the embers were nicely a glow, we were able to cook chapati's.

Jon Williams

The Magic of Madley Primary School

I don't think, in all my years of working in schools, I have ever come across a setting so up for clear blue creative experimentation. Imagine this, two major creative partnerships projects running alongside each other, one for the children (the village) and the other for the staff (muddy mountains). Throw into the mix no less than seven creative practitioners and you begin to get a feel for the innovative and imaginative approach to learning.

The head is keen that a certain amount of cross fertilisation occurs between the two projects, and with so many stakeholders involved, roles and logistics can sometimes be chaotic and blurred. However, the sheer volume of stuff going on makes for an exhilarating and creative atmosphere.

Initially, my role was to instigate the staff project - encouraging the team to design and build their very own 'muddy mountain' from two huge spoil heaps on the school field. The physical outcome could take any form, based on their reaction to the material, tools, techniques and environment.

Despite some early wobbles as we all grappled to get to know each other and the open-ended approach to problem solving, a wonderful maze and pod design was taken forward and executed with enthusiasm. It always amazes me how given time a group of individuals can pool their skills and resources to produce a brilliant outcome.

We now have three steel frames on order for the domes and the maze is definitely taking shape. On Thursday the children were invited to start their 'muddy mountain' in response to what the staff had produced so far. The children had great fun making a lovely mud chair in the woods, eventually to be housed in one of the pods.

Jon Williams

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Cherry Orchard First School

The fourth and final workshop in the current series took place at Cherry Orchard First School in Pershore the other day.

Jon's session provided the perfect opportunity to deliver all the fired work produced on his previous visits to the school. They'd certainly made some wonderful pieces including x4 large terracotta planters and a collaborative caterpillar - all designed for the school's sensory garden.

The final session was devoted to each child making an individual mini beast or bug.

Pottery Birthday Party

Although it would have been cutting it fine getting back from Birmingham, Jon and Gemma had agreed to host Emily's 11th birthday at the studio on Friday afternoon. We were delighted to say that everything fell in to place with Jon the potter, Emily and friends arriving within minutes of each other in Eastnor.

The session began with a collaborative pot - all the guests modelled Emily a little ballet themed motif. These were then applied to Jon's wheel demonstration piece - the result:- an encrusted, commemorative jug to be fired and will serve as a permanent reminder of a brilliant 11th birthday.

If you would like to celebrate your birthday or special occasion at the pottery, please visit our birthday party page at

Pizza Oven at Washwood Heath Nursery

Another day, another inspirational Birmingham Nursery!

Jon got the chance to join forces with Washwood Heath Nursery's resident forest school artist Fiona Hopkins. The pair had planned to build a pizza oven for the children to cook flat breads; and Friday provided the first opportunity to start work on the structure. Fiona had secured some beautiful reclaimed bricks which were fashioned into the stand. This activity took the majority of the day, what with moving, stacking, and admiring the aesthetics of the bricks!

The oven is being constructed in the outside play space so there was a constant audience of inquisitive youngsters. Jon and Fiona were kept busy answering a hundred questions and ensuring the children didn't stray too close.

The next stage is to make the oven - a messy business indeed, but one that the children will be able to engage in fully.