Monday 23 December 2013

End of 2013

This is likely to be the last posting for this year, as I am closing down for a couple of weeks and/or will have nothing to say of any interest!
Looking forward to 2014, with the prospect of Could Have Fooled Me V and the Dorset Art Weeks.

Thursday 19 December 2013

You win some, you loose some!

Unloaded another batch of pots from our wood fuelled kiln today.
It had been a struggle to fire in the rain, with damp wood and not enough wind to excite the flames! We did not leave until 6am, which resulted in me not being at my best for the last day of the TAG conference at Bournemouth University - however that was a good event with loads of networking and reasonable sales to the archaeologists. I also got to fondle some real iron age pots, two of which were of a type I have made replicas - and I was happy with the match!
Some very good pots came out of the wood kiln. The beaker at the top of this image had been electric fired with a fairly uninteresting finish, the ash has fluxed the glaze and turned it a richer darker brown - my favourite!
However the bowl below was one of three that blew up. That'll teach me to load slightly damp pots in the kiln! Ah, the joys of the festive season rush!
We had some great results with the Udu drums made at a recent workshop, they should go down well with their makers.
Thanks to Laurence Eastwood - Larry No Plates - for masterminding the firing.
I have set up an archive page on the website to record the firing :-

Friday 13 December 2013

Half Loaded

I got half way through loading the wood fuelled kiln today, not a job best done in a December drizzle!
Pleased with the wares, mainly mortaria bowls, some being refired after the last firing was not quite hot enough in the corners.
Also featuring the drums made at a recent workshop by Laurence and his students.
Busy day tomorrow, off to Hengistbury Head for the opening of the visitor centre then a drive across Dorset to Bridport to strike the Dorset Pottery Group exhibition.
Sunday will hopefully see the rest of the kiln loaded.
3 days next week at Bournemouth University, attending the 35th Annual Conference of the Theoretical Archaeology Group. I am part of the entertainment, making prehistoric pots and selling my wares. A good place to meet interesting people who might help me understand a bit more concerning the current thinking about ceramics in prehistory. However I might not understand most of what they say in their very own Archeo-babble, a language developed by folk in academic circles!

Saturday 7 December 2013

Bowled Over

I've just finished applying glaze to the next batch of "mortaria" bowls, ready for the next wood firing. All they have to do now is dry out soon enough during the next week.

I've spent a few days recently down at the Bridport Arts Centre, setting up and stewarding the Dorset Pottery Group's annual exhibition. We are all very proud of the displays and are hopeful for reasonable sales during the 2 weeks. There is an archive of photos on the group's website :-

Saturday 30 November 2013

Like real Cool !

The wood fueled firing went very well, a batch of excellent pots emerged.
See the archive about the firing at this link:-
It is always a time of angst waiting to unload a kiln, expecially a large one with many pots.
Laurence Eastwood's pots were probably the best he has ever fired, just in time for the exhibition in Bridport with the Dorset Pottery Group.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Feeling Hot and Cold

A cold night of interupted sleep later, the Wood fueled kiln has been fired and will be ready to unload tomorrow morning. Very pleased with the whole operation, a slightly longer than hoped for push for the last 50 degrees C up to 1250C - got there by 10pm and then a couple of hours soaking - an opportunity to sit and have a thirst quenching beer with friends, while stoking the fireboxes (just as well I have not written that Risk Assessment yet!).

The kiln seems to be behaving well now, after a few modifications. Laurence rebuilt the bottom of the fireboxes, to get the embers to burn better into ash without clogging up the air supply route - that seems to have worked OK.

Monday 25 November 2013

Cold Becoming Warmer!

We finished loading the wood fueled kiln today - ready to fire on Wednesday. Not looking forward to the all night session before, when the kiln is preheated - I have to wake up every hour and put another log or two in the fireboxes. The forecast is cool! However when the firing gets going I'll soon warm up a bit!
Really pleased with the wares we loaded, young Laurence Eastwood's pots are looking better every time we load and I was very happy with most of mine. It will be good to have restocked with some of my favourite lines, such as these mixing bowls, the baby sisters of the "mortaria" which have sold well this year.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Juggling Along

I've got the current batch of jugs ready for firing in the wood kiln, all the handles joined on and the raw glaze applied to the insides. All they have to do now is dry out, which isn't going to happen in this weather. But I'll be firing the old electric kiln with a batch of shiny brown beakers, so the waste heat from that can be used.
These jugs have sturdy shapes and hark back to "pitchers", simple peasant pots that were functional.
They are only glazed on the inside to save wasting expensive materials.

Pine resin was also used to waterproof pottery jugs, when times were hard! Hopefully I can find people willing to pay for the glaze!
I also made a larger jar, which I have turned the surface off of to reveal the heavily grogged texture, which I rather admire. The aim is to get the wood ash to react with the surface and form a pleasing result.

But now for some work getting ready for this weekend's festive offering by the Upwey Potters. I'll probably spend more time making mince pies than selling pots!

Friday 15 November 2013


I set up my new display at Brewers Quay in Weymouth today, it looks pretty good and will hopefully attract some sales.

I have been sticking handles on jugs this afternoon, all good practice for one of the skills I have never enjoyed!

Looking forward to a weekend making pottery drums with Laurence and a bunch of friends.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Continuing PD

We went to an illustrated talk by Peter Randall-Page last night at Hooke Park.
Brilliant! Inspiring! Take a look at the website :-
Glad someone else gets fixated about particular shapes and patterns, it's not just me then!
Spent today throwing jugs and bowls for the next wood firing, having looked at my stock pile, which seems to be lacking jugs. The "mortaria" bowls are my current best sellers.
Off tomorrow to restock the Dorset County Museum shop, which has had a pleasing run of sales of my pots, with hopefully more during the coming festive season.
Also starting at a new retail outlet - I have taken a small display space at the back of Brewers Quay. Hopefully the first thing folk see as they enter the building from the car park (or the last as they leave!). Hopefully a good investment to get involved at this venue, which has been suffering from the involvement of greedy developers, but now seems to be reinventing itself again. I still wish it was a proper brewery, like in my youth!  

Thursday 7 November 2013

A Polished Performance

I have unloaded and sorted the pottery which we submitted to the flames of the village bonfire.
I am very pleased to report that almost all of my vessels came out well. 3 large pots broke, but just about everything else survived and prospered from the effects of the heat.
Polishing and burnishing pottery is a time consuming activity that is not really "worth the effort", except that it is a restful task that can be a relaxing time spent examining the pots while they are being handled and also allowing some time to think of other things!
I have put an archive of the project on my website, hoping to get yet more images from some of the other participants.
Now to spend some more time applying beeswax polish to further enhance the look of the pots, before they are displayed. First at the Upwey Potters' show on 23rd/24th November and then at the Dorset Pottery Groups' show at Bridport Arts Centre in early December.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Seeing In The Dark

I've just dug up the biggest carrot I've ever grown in my garden! No weird tails or embarressing suggestive shapes. A minor blemish or two - that's organic for you!
Looking forward to making a curry using that.
The thread of this installment is seeing in the dark or through the mirk at least! Carrots are well known for their properties in that direction.
Recently I've been enjoying listening to Grayson Perry's Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4. He has a way of shining light on the Art World which illuminates some of the mysteries that pervade the common perceptions about Art.!/
Well worth a listen and a bit of pondering.
I've been busy preparing my vessels for the Nov 5th Bonfire, plus helping my students and friends to get theirs ready for the ordeal by fire. Looking forward to seeing the results, but slightly worried that folk will be underwhelmed by the effects - so perhaps I need to polish up my arts bollocks ready to justify the outcomes?! My major offerings are cooling down in my old electric kiln, having been taken to just over 900C to turn them ceramic, but not too high that the burnishing and fine slip coatings break down.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Remember, Remember the 5th of November!

I am running a project to use the Upwey Village Nov 5th Bonfire to enhance some pottery. I have been encouraging my evening class students and villagers to make some smooth pots that can be submitted to the flames, thus picking up some unusual colourings.
My own entries have been turned and burnished and are drying out ahead of being coated with fine slip and polished some more. They will then be electric fired to 950C and then packed in metal containers, surrounded with sawdust and an assortment of combustables and colourants and then buried in the bonfire.

Laurence and I threw a couple of large urns this afternoon, both of us helping to keep them concentric and under control. We were very impressed with our vessels. Tomorrow we will continue throwing them, just to thin them out a little (and hopefully not distort them too much).
Laurence may be allowed to put on some lug handles to give a bit more interest.
These will go in the next wood firing.
The exercise (both the physical effort and the strategic approach) was very satisfying - making pots is usually a sole occupation and so it is interesting to work closely alongside another potter and see how they do things.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Going North

I've been visiting Somerset Art Weeks today, with a couple of the Artwey "Old Hands". A very enjoyable day out exploring other folk's creative activities and some wonderful locations.
"Celebrating" creativity - as the poster says and so does Dorset Art Weeks'.
I've had a busy few weeks, starting my pottery classes up again, sorting out autumn workshops
and doing more Ancient Wessex events.
I'm off to the Cranborne Chae Woodfair this weekend - being ancient again, maybe even dressing the part!
I recently enjoyed making some replicas of Iron Age Black Burnished ware bowls and jars, getting quicker and more confident than last time (which is a few years ago). Hopefully they will survive firing and smoking. I had a very useful chat to a charcoal burner last weekend, about how traditional earth clamps are made - he still does them a couple of times a year, so I am aiming to use what he explained to do one myself with some BBW pots snuggled in with the timber, thus making charcoal and blackening the pots at the same time. Watch this space!

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Ancient & Modern

I had a great weekend at the Ancient Technology Centre, very relaxing and laid back - mainly because we were not over-run with folk wanting to play with us!
I did some experiments with Bronze Age "Bunsen Burners" that I had made and conclusively proved that mutton and bacon fat are not good fuels. I need to do some more research into how things burn.
Rumour has it that it is my birthday today, so I might have a day off - although traditionally I cut a 25kg bag of clay up into lumps equal to the number of years I have been alive and throw them in celebration. Time was when the pots kept about the same size as I made them thinner each year - now they just get smaller and smaller! But I need some bowls for Raku firing with workshops, so perhaps I'll do those.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Amaizing !

I'm delivering the final selection of replica pots to Hengistbury Head later today. I think they will go down well. I have made an archive of images of them on the website :-

The Hengistbury project has been a bit like growing sweet corn - it has taken a good few months from looking at the seed catalogue and choosing the variety to grow; then germinating the seeds in small pots - the seeds are fairly large and obviously like the final product, but a bit dried up; then nurturing the small plants and planting them out when the frosts have gone; checking their growth - keep the snails away, feeding them and watering them when it is dry; watching the cobs swell and mature; finally picking the crop and peeling away the husks to reveal the beautiful corn hiding in the silk tassles. Then enjoying the taste with friends and family! Make your own connections with the ceramic processes!

Thursday 22 August 2013

Beakers Six of One

I've just finished making half a dozen beakers - to be fired on Saturday in an open bonfire at the Oak Fair at Stock Gaylard. I'm happy that I am getting more confident and faster at making these by pinching two sections and joining them. But it is so slow compared to throwing on a wheel!

On Tuesday I tried firing a beaker while still damp, as per various folk's suggestions, to get over the problem of spalling, where chunks of the vessel blow off when exposed to the flames. As you can see from the photo, it did not work for me this time - that's what they call experimental archaeology!
Perhaps it was not wet enough or it was the wrong type of fire! Back to the drawing board with that one.

Monday 19 August 2013

Changing States

I've been try to catch up with my gardening recently. It seems to be a battle against Mother Nature's small creatures, such as these Cabbage White butterfly caterpillars.
I tend to aim at "extreme prejudice" a great way of saying killing your enemies!
However I also have some sympathy for creatures that live in the dirt, trying to scrape a living and hoping one day to change into something beautiful! But I sometimes think I'm more like a slug that will never change!
I'm just finishing off a replacement batch of pots for the Hengistbury pottery project, to fill the gaps left by the pots that failed due to the misbehaviour of the sea-shell temper. I aim to deliver them all next week!

Thursday 8 August 2013

Wood Firing - Temper, Temper

A good wood firing unloaded, a great batch of pots, many made for the Hengistbury pottery project.
More information and images at this link

This firing was an interesting exercise, only taken to 1000C, instead of the usual 1300C, with earthenware rather than stoneware clays. It was a much easier single handed firing that took 12 hours from early morning to dusk.
Some pots are wasters, the locally dig clay having not coped with temperatures above 950C and a couple of bases blown - too thickly potted and too quickly fired close to where the flames enter the chamber.

Although stoneware glazed wares are more attractive in my eyes, perhaps I should turn to more sustainable (i.e. cheaper!) ways of potting, such as these earthenware vessels. But is there a market for them? They are sort of less functional, but I could develop a range of glazes or just sell them as unglazed vessels - the larger urns make very sculptural forms which can be used as containers for ritual deposits (for example waste paper bins!), with some very attractive tonal differences and the added tempers give some great surface textures.
Tempers are ground up materials added to clays to help them perform better, while constructing, firing and using the pots. I sometimes feel the need for tempers myself - usually liquid refreshments!

Saturday 3 August 2013

Refreshed and Restarted

I'm back from Corfe Castle, after a couple of weeks demonstrating and selling pots. It went very well and was a great chance to unwind a bit and also make some more ancient pots.
They have now all been loaded into the wood kiln - as per photo. I'm aiming to fire that next Monday, for the first time a low temperature earthenware firing.
Hopefully that will produce the rest of the pots I need for the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre pottery project, which need to be delivered soon.

I have also been making Udu Drums, inspired by Laurence Eastwood's attempts, mine are a strange mixture of African musical instrument decorated in the style of prehistorical British pottery vessels. I am looking forward to seeing how they emerge.

Talking of emerging, I've just read the Saatchi On-line Gallery's guide to Buying Emerging Art - downloadable at this link (Hopefully!). Very interesting sales pitch for their way of working, but I'm not convinced. I completely agree about only buying stuff you fall in love with, because you have to live with it, but then to say you need to choose an artist because they have been to the right college and/or won the right art awards seems to fall into their trap of following a formula, which ends up with the gallery's own stock of work becoming inflated in value because of the demand they have helped to create and maintain (often against the odds and by using some fairly shady methods). OK I may be a bitter and twisted Oldie, but I do think that most of us creative folk would do better without that perception abounding in the general public's view.
I am now in residence at the Upwey Village Hall again, this time as a guest of the Vyvyan-Penney family until 11th August. I am proud of the display, showing a variety of my recent output.
I have just sent out another Mail Chimp bulk email to our fans - it can be seen at this link.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Taking a Working Rest

This is the last message for a couple of weeks, as tomorrow I am off to Corfe Castle with the Ancient Wessex Network until 28th July.
I have been going there for many years for a working holiday. We camp in the castle and demonstrate our skills and attempt to sell all manner of things to the thousands of tourists.
I'll miss my family and some of the comforts of modern life, but happily leave most of them behind.

Check out details of the event at

Monday 8 July 2013

Mud Pies

I have been playing Mud Pies again over the last few days. Trying different methods of preparing clay dug locally - in particular removing the larger bits of grit which damage the pots by expanding as they break down, strangely after the firing is over and they take in water from the air.
Anyway - in the spirit of experimental archaeology I put some of the wet clay in a sacking bag and squeezed it so the clay oozed through the weaving, hopefully leaving the grit trapped in the bag. Then the clay is spread out in the sun to dry out a bit before being wrapped up ready for use after a bit of wedging to mix the hard and soft lumps together, plus adding some sand, grog and maybe other clays.

A busy few days now, the last pottery classes of the term are an excuse for Raku firings with a party atmosphere.

Monday 1 July 2013

Back Inspired

Back from the International Ceramics Festival. A brilliant event to recharge the enthusiasm and get inspired.
I have got to keep some of the ideas ticking over and try my own take on some of the processes demonstrated.
Need more sleep after the long drives.
See stuff on the Facebook link

Thursday 27 June 2013


I am off to the ICF in Wales tomorrow, for a big dose of inspiration. Two years ago I found the event really uplifting - with a great blend of practical activities to watch and brilliant potters demonstrating and talking about their processes.
I am particularly looking forward to meeting Joe Finch, who will be building kilns - he did the design for the fast-fire wood kiln that I have built.
I expect to come back with more enthusiasm than ever to create better ceramics and insights into how other potters thrive.

Friday 21 June 2013

Letting Go

I'm off on my travels over the next couple of weekends, this one to celebrate my wife's birthday on Dartmoor with our daughters and the next at the International Ceramic Festival in west Wales.
Meanwhile the Ancient Wessex Network team are doing their thing, hosted by the National Trust at Max Gate in Dorchester. I am sure they will manage very well without me!
We have a busy time with the network this summer, which I am really looking forward to.
News just in is that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a large grant to the local South Dorset Ridgeway AONB project over the next 5 years. I hope I can help them achieve their aims to promote the area and educate the visitors.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Archive Hour

I've just finished publishing the archive webpage for the recent wood firing. That is a time for reflexion and consideration "in the cold light of day" - after a period of handling the results while cleaning them up and then taking the photographs and preparing them for the internet.
Laurence and I are very happy with the pots and have just about caught up on some sleep.
Take a look at the archive at this link.

I spent the day at the Upwey Hall, making some more Iron Age replicas for the Hengistbury project and keeping an eye on Laurence and his fellow exhibitors during their first exhibition as young emerging artists. It was great to see their enthusiasm and vitality, both through their work and their attitudes. I look forward to seeing them all develop.

Friday 14 June 2013

Open All Hours

Fired and opened the wood kiln over the last few days and nights. With some great results.
Heavily reduced toasted surfaces and brilliant ash flecks on the pale glazes.
Now for some catching up with sleep.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Back to Normal

With the end of the Upwey Potters' annual show, as part of the Artwey Open Studios, I am heading back to normality - whatever that might be!
It has been such a pleasure working with the other Upwey Potters and meeting our fans. The vibe has been very positive, with people enjoying themselves and finding comfort and happiness in what we do.
The wood firing kiln has been almost fully loaded with pottery, ready to fire on Wednesday. I am very pleased with what went into the kiln, both my own goodies and in particular the work by Laurence Eastwood - for an 18 year old he has recently produced some really splendid pottery. He is so full of enthusiasm and creativity, some of which has rubbed off on me! Laurence is hoping to get some worthy pots out of the kiln  - just in time for his exhibition this weekend - the poster for which is below.

Friday 7 June 2013

The Closing Stages of Open Studios

Coming to the end of the Artwey Open Studios, with the Upwey Potters.
It has been an interesting time, a great chance to talk to fans and admirers (and people who stumble across us when falling out of the Wishing Well Cafe).
Fellow Artwey OS participant Susan Hughes has discussed her views on her blog :-
I've been burning the candle at both ends (and in the middle to boot at times), trying to get "stuff" done. Threw 80 pots yesterday, beakers and small bowls, been turning, decorating and raw glazing them today, hope to get them ready for wood firing next week, we started loading the kiln this morning. That'll be stock for the summer events.

Sunday 2 June 2013

All Raku'd Out

I've spent the weekend firing my portable Raku kiln at the Dorset Art Fair, over a hundred small globes were glazed and fired for the entertainment of the visitors - some even got sold straight from the kiln! The rest will keep me going for a year or so!!
It was a great event, good weather, splendid location and reasonable numbers of visitors - well done Jem and the team from DVA.
There are some more images of the globes on the Upwey Potters website at this link.

Meanwhile the Upwey Potters' annual exhibition continues for another week. My task is to construct a Trevisker Urn - a replica of a large ancient vessel for the Hengistbury Head project.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

The Joy of Raku Firing

I am all set up to do my Raku Firing demonstration this weekend at the Dorset Art Fair.
There is always something exciting and wonderful about this method of creating special glazes. Very Zen!
Each firing is different and each pot is unique. There is the fine line between brilliance and disaster, which we dance along - attempting to manage the chaos amid all the variable factors.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Throwing Up

I've been demonstrating throwing these replica mortaria at the Upwey Potters' annual exhibition, which started this weekend. It is part of the Artwey Open Studio event for the next two weeks.
A great chance to make some more stock - ready for the next wood firing.
Plus I am selling some wares to all the lovely visitors.
There are some more photos on the Upwey Potters' website at this link

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Urning a place in prehistory

This is a hand-built attempt at making a Glastonbury Ware urn. A reasonable copy that should look good when cleaned up a bit and fired.
This and other replicas are being made for the project at Hengistbury Head, more can be seen at the webpage devoted to it.
I had a great weekend at "Spring Tide", the event staged by the National Trust at Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock. Not as many sales as previous years, but much interest in what we were doing and a chance to make a couple more large urns.
The Launch of the Artwey Open Studios at the NAtional Sailing Academy went very well, together with the unveiling of the Giant Wall, Arwey's 2012 project.
Tomorrow we start setting up for the Upwey Potters' annual exhibition. My yurt will go up in the Village Hall's playground, as a display space for my ancient pots.
Also looking forward to the Dorset Art Fair on 1st & 2nd June at Kingston Maurward.
A busy time ahead!

Thursday 16 May 2013

Blending In

I've been blending up another batch of clay for making ancient pottery replicas, this one is a mixture of some old recycled clay, some found locally in Upwey and a bit of new commercial earthenware clay - with added special ingredients of some sand from Hengistbury Head, some fairly coarse hand crushed fired clay (grog), some crushed flint and a pinch or two of iron oxide. I have used it to construct by hand some replica Glastonbury Ware bowls, which I hope will come out looking OK.
I had a shock to find that the test pot that I made using the clay dug in Coombe Valley Road - which I'd fired in my electric kiln - had started to disintegrate because I had not removed all the small chunks of flint and they had taken a few days to take in some water from the air resulting in an expansion and conversion to a powdery nodule. I just hope that the seiving I did with the next batch of clay removed all of that troublesome stuff, otherwise I have waste a good few hours recently! The next batch is currently swinging in a farmers shop bag drying out in the breeze.

I am getting ready for next weekend - I am making pots as part of the Ancient Wessex Network team at "Spring Tide", run by the National Trust at Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock. It looks like the weather may be better than forecast a few days ago.

Last Saturday I went to a meeting of the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group, hosted by Wessex Archaeology at Salisbury - it was a fantastic opportuinity to handle some real pieces of ancient pottery and talk to the archaeologists about it. They were also very kind about the pots of mine I took along - although, as expected, they prefered the slight seconds and firing rejects to the glazed pots I shown them.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Glastonbury Wares

I've been experimenting recently with the shapes and decorations of "Glastonbury Ware" - an Iron Age pottery type that has a distinctive shape and incised decoration, which has an echo of the swirling "Celtic" designs. This one may well be a design inspired by gold neck rings made of twisted metal strands with large globular ends.
This was thrown on the wheel, but I will also try making some by hand out of rings of clay joined together.

I have also been playing mud pies again, the local farmer dug some trial trenches next to my father-in-laws house, I guess to explore putting in some drainage. That threw up a load of fairly good clay which I selected some from. I have broken it up and left it to soak, then thinned it down to a slip which passed though a kitchen seive to remove the small flint grains. Now it is being dried out in plaster molds ready to be blended with sand and used to make more ancient replicas.
Take a look at the webpage to see some more details.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Throwing Away

I've started throwing today - a large batch of small globes for use Raku Firing during the Upwey Potters show which starts in a month's time and also for the Dorset Art Fair at Kingston Maurward. I really enjoyed getting back on the wheel after what seems like months spent hand-building the ancient pottery replicas. It brought home to me how productivity can be increased by using equipment and skills learnt over a long period of time, rather than working without tools and not a sufficiently long period of practice!

Having said that, I am very pleased with the urns I've been making by hand for the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre.
This one shows off the decoration applied by pushing a piece of rope into the damp clay.
I have come to the conclusion that I will use the Wood fired kiln to fire some of these - just taking them gently up to 900C, to turn them ceramic and perhaps get some effect of the wood burning.

Friday 12 April 2013

Creativity In a Nutshell

Back from Creativity In The Bronze Age Conference - a mixed bag of offerings, as usual with these sort of events some good and some not so good, from my own perspective. I'm not sure it delivered "what it said on the tin" about the creative process, but as that was a very tall order perhaps I should not be surprised. However some very thought provoking ideas were being kicked about - some useful concepts and ways of looking at how we operate as makers, but some ideas were knocked senseless.

Now back to getting ready for the workshops at Hengistbury Head next week, spent today preparing some more clay and making some more beakers and a larger collared urn that is needed as an example. Looks like over 50 people will be turning up over the 3 days to come and play!

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Conference Calls

I'm currently in Cambridge at the start of the CinBA conference, all about creativity in the Bronze Age. Very hopeful of an interesting and instructive couple of days - mixing with archaeologists and makers. Slightly worried about how my attempt at engaging them will be received.

Monday 8 April 2013

Telling It Like It Is

I've spent a good few hours compiling bulk email news alerts - so that all the fans and admirers of the organisations I work with get to hear about what is happening this year.
I use the Mail Chimp system, which seems to work very well for this sort of communication on the internet. Most folk seem happy to be told or reminded about activities.
Take a look at the Artseeker Mail Chimp News Alert.
I've also set up some of this year's events on the Ancient Wessex Network Website.
It looks like I will have a busy summer..... 

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Down My Way

I've had a great couple of days making and firing pots at Down Farm, as part of the project I am doing making replicas for the new visitor centre at Hengistbury Head. I was being recorded on video to be shown at the centre on a loop as part of the display.
We had some reasonable successes, several pots survived the firings and we made a very good large collared urn.
Thanks to Mark and Jennie for their help and encouragement.
I have posted a report on my website at this link.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Heading for A Great Experience

Just back from a useful meeting with the folk at Hengistbury Head, where I am engaged to make replica pots for the new visitor centre. We have sorted out how the workshops will be run, to enable the staff and volunteers to see how the pots have been made. Other "fans" of ancient pottery will be able to come along and make some pots and see how they are fired in simple bonfires and kilns.
My pottery classes term ended with a flash, with raku firing sessions that went pretty well. As usual there was a need for the Zen hat, with some very good results and some disappointing outcomes. The Fine Line between brilliance and disaster has not got any wider for me recently. No more classes for almost a month, which will be a rest, although I will miss them.
Now to do some more promotional work, it is great doing all these things, but a shame if no-one turns up!

Sunday 17 March 2013

Artwey - from Pillar to Poster

The Artwey Open Studio Map, which I did the design work for, is now at the printers, ready for distribution in a week's time.
I've done the poster & invite layouts, a sample is shown here.

I'm looking forward to the OS event, always a social time with the other Upwey Potters and Artwey members and an opportunity to talk with my friends and clients (not always the same people!!).

Feedback about my wares is always really useful for me, I don't always agree with what folk say about my pots, but I am sure their views must influence me. That and the backlog of stock of certain types of pot helps to direct what I make in the future.

I need some time to make pots for the next wood firing, but first I need to get on with the replicas for the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre, although the opening is being put back, I still need to produce pots for the workshops and fiilming in April.

Friday 8 March 2013

Accounting For My Actions

I've spent today drawing up the business accounts for Artseeker Ltd. Ah, the joys of being a creative accountant! That is a person working in the creative industries who prepares accounts - what else could I mean!
My Artwey Open Studio map design is almost ready for the printer - another delivery ahead of the deadline!
The Ancient Wessex Network is doing well negotiating the various activities planned in 2013. Our members will soon be given the chance to sign up for these activities.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

The Daily Grind

I have been using elbow grease over the last week, grinding up some old broken pots to make "grog" - to be added into raw clay for making replica pots for the Hengistbury Head pottery project.
The resulting grog is sieved through various sizes to separate them. I can then use them to create different clay fabrics, that behave differently while being made into pots, fired and then in functional use. They will also change the appearance of the surface, giving a mottled texture if coarse.
They should help the pots stand up to the extremes of heat within the firing processes, giving the clay more "body" and enabling the steam to escape more easily as they dry out.
I have also been grinding sea-shells and pre-heated flint, which were also used in ancient times.
More information at :-

Friday 1 March 2013

Mud Pies!

I have been busy making "mud pies" for the last few days, preparing clay and crushing old pots to put into the clay, ready to start making the pottery for the Hengistbury Head Pottery Project, I have been commissioned to make a couple of dozen pots for the archaeology display.
I've sorted out some workshops in April - as per flyer. I hope some of my friends and fans will come along and engage with the ancient technologies.
Book now to avoid disappointment!
I am also booked in to do some filming for the centre's displays
The visitor centre now has a website :-

Friday 22 February 2013


It has been a busy week, but rewarding. The opening of the Wesca Encounters exhibition at the Dorset County Museum has provided me with some artistic inputs, a meet the artists session was very revealing and useful to better understand where they are coming from. I urge everyone to visit the show, you've got until June, but don't leave it too late.
Tomorrow we stage the first workshop as part of Encounters, John Bartholomew is masterminding a bronze casting session at the Upwey Village Hall, working with the various methods of creating the molds into which the molten metal is poured. I shall be there with my video cameras.

This evening we celebrate William Barnes' birthday - an excuse for me to play the village idiot again!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Juggling The Dates

This morning I made a list of the events I am attending in 2013, usually a displacement activity, but I think very useful to check I am not trying to be in more than one place at the same time! The calendar looks fairly full already.

The Upwey Potters met this afternoon, to discuss our activities, in particular the annual exhibition 25th May to 9th June, which is part of the Artwey Open Studio event, for which I am busy doing the design of the map.
The potters have arranged to meet again soon with the aim of updating the website with some new images and text for 2013.

Friday 8 February 2013

Encounters - The Set-Up

I've just been up to the Dorset County Museum to see how the setting up is going for Wesca's Encounters exhibition. I am very impressed with all the work being hung. My plinth is providing a challenge for the curators, but I am sure they will cope very well!

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Artwey Open Studio 2013

I've been working on processing the text and images for the Artwey Open Studio event in 2013, happening 25th May to 9th June throughout Weymouth and Portland. With my Artseeker hat on I look after the Artwey website and do the graphic design for the printed map.
I am always amazed at the talent of local creative people, seen from the images submitted.
I am really looking forward to participating in the event with the other Upwey Potters. More anon....

Monday 4 February 2013

EXARC and other August Bodies

I have recently joined EXARC, an international body devoted to promoting experimental archaeology, by helping both individual practitioners and institutions such as Open Air Museums.
As an experimental archaeologist, I am interested in seeking new information about particular technologioes and also finding out about how others "in the same field" behave.
I am a great believer in the aggregation of effort (management speak for the benefits of working within networks so that everybody involved gets a better deal). I have spent my life getting involved with "August Bodies", with that in mind. Sometimes I doubt my wisdom and at other times the benefits leap out at me.Let's hope EXARC turns out to be a good move.

Thursday 31 January 2013

Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre Replicas

I'm getting on with my next major project - a commission to produce a couple of dozen replica ancient pots for the new Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre. I've been researching all the types of pottery required, from Neolithic Grooved ware, through Beakers to Urns and Iron Age bowls. Plus the different clay bodies and inclusions - the added ingredients that make some of the pots very special. I've also been printing out full size images of the pots, so I can make templates of the profiles and check the decorations as I construct them. Plus a portfolio of each pot, with all the relevant details and photos to help capture how they should look.
I'll post some this on my website, when it is ready to roll.

A couple more opportunities arose today, during a trip to the offices of Dorset Visual Arts. In return for handing over the Upwey Potters' subscription, I have been offered a place at the DVA Art Fair in May, doing Raku Firing - including an evening performance for the great and the good.
Then the folk from Artsreach leapt at me asking about running workshops as part of their offering for the next phase of the South Dorset Ridgeway Awareness project. If the lottery funding comes through that will be spread over several years, just up my street and over the hill.

Monday 28 January 2013

CinBA here we come!

I have just been offered a chance to do a "sideshow" (my description) at the CinBA Conference in Cambridge University in April.
Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe (CinBA)
CinBA Logo

I am really looking forward to the conference, as part of my CPD (Continuing Pottery Development!?). I hope to learn more about the Bronze Age and how contemporary artists relate to it.
I will be conducting a small experiment within a display of some of my pottery, inviting delegates to sort items in terms of desirability. My piece of research concerns how both I as a contermporary maker and the potters of the Bronze Age would deal with satisfying the needs of our clients. Bronze Age pottery appears to lack inventiveness, remaining similar for generations and keeping to a reasonably tight design code for shape and decoration. That might just be a result of how modern archaeologists like to pigeon-hole their material evidence, but I don't see a great deal of differences. Modern makers are far less restricted by limitations of technology and materials, but also are free to be more spontaneously creative - making things that do not necessarily follow trends. However as a traditionalist, I tend to pick up on the "tried and tested" designs and run with them, at least in the back of my mind. My audience has expectations that if met tend to lead to better understanding and thus potential trade.
We shall see.