Hello. I’m Hamish. May as well start with a picture of me:
|On a walk in the beauteous Cotswolds, backpack full of blackberries|
So yes. Hello. If you are reading this then I thank you, and apologise in advance. I have never written a blog before and am very much a trainee potter. My posts will mostly focus on pottery as I am trying to immerse myself in the craft but beware, I am still a beginner. Starting this blog is intended to be an aid in this pursuit.
I can envisage occasional posts on other subjects, such as food, glass blowing, wine making and beer brewing but we’ll get there when they happen.
I thought I would begin with a potted history of my potting to date:
I first tried throwing a pot at the invitation of my girlfriend Lauren's dad, Nelson. He took me along to the studio where he goes in Los Angeles, run by Harry Berman.
As soon as I felt the clay on the wheel I knew I wanted to practice and practice and practice until I could centre clay and make a form. Any form. I found it very difficult at first. The clay seemed to want to fly off the wheel; it seemed to have a mind of its own. The frustration of it rose up in me. Everyone in the studio was calm and collected, getting on with their pieces, whilst I was huffing and puffing, clay and water flying everywhere. Nelson advised me to keep my arms locked in place, to contain the clay by not moving. Easier said than done, but after a few goes before I made a shape which resembled a bowl.
I was elated. It was off-centre, wonky, but still I'd made a bowl. On return visits to the studio I managed to have it bisqued, then glazed, seeing it through to the finished article. It is now in my living room at home. I made a few other pieces at Harry's studio too. Enough to make me want to make a lot more.
Then, as part of my university course I got to spend a year at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Only half of my classes had to be literature, so I took creative writing, sculpture, book making, glass blowing and ceramics. They had a pottery studio, run by Geoffrey Pagan. It was an amazing opportunity to play. For $50 a term I got to use as much clay as I wanted and see many pieces fired. Geoffrey makes amazing work himself and taught me a lot. We did gas, raku and pit firings. The raku was particularly enjoyable.
The summer after Reed I came to Winchcombe Pottery to work for seven weeks, during which time I got a taste for production throwing and the history of English pottery. Michael Cardew appeared on my radar in a big way, as did Ray Finch who had passed away the previous January. It was exciting to dedicate all my time to pottery, and I enjoyed getting to know the whole team at Winchcombe-- Mike Finch, Matt Grimmitt, John Forster and Rhi Nathanson.
Back to Norwich to write my dissertation and finish my degree. Trying not to think about making pots whilst sat in the library! During this time I did manage to take trips over to Kings Lynn to see Andrew Douglas, an excellent potter who lives out in the Norfolk countryside. We built a small wood fired kiln that went up like a rocket and did a few firings together. This was great fun and convinced me wood firing is the way forward.
Earlier this summer I went over to La Meridiana, an International Ceramics School in Tuscany, to work as an assistant. This was a fantastic experience. Lots of work but plenty of perks such as a three-course Italian lunch every day, several different clays to experiment with and lots of very knowledgeable ceramicists to quiz. I was there for three courses. The first one was run by Mark Hewitt, who works in North Carolina. He was one of Michael Cardew's apprentices and it shows. Seeing him throw was incredible. He stands up to throw and is able to control a huge amount of clay and still apply delicate details. Master potter.
The second course was run by Donna Polseno and Lisa Ehrich, focusing on sculptural forms for the garden. I had never done hand building, let alone sculpt figures. It is very challenging and I have a lot of respect for those who can do it. Donna and Lisa make beautiful work. The class did an excellent group sculpture too.
The final course I was there for was run by Liz Quackenbush, and focused on majolica. This was not something that had ever really interested me, but a combination of Liz's enthusiasm and our trips to local museums changed my view. The old traditional majolica pots have a much dirtier quality than their modern counterparts, which I liked a lot-- I'll post pictures soon.
Pietro Madelena, who started La Meridiana with his wife in 1981, was inspirational. A potter in his own right, he set up a kick wheel for me in a barn just up the hill from the main school studio. He showed me some excellent throwing techniques, some of which have been used in the Mediterranean for centuries. His friend John Colbeck was also at the school whilst I was there, doing tests of new clay bodies, and it was beneficial getting to talk to him about his experiences and help him.
Phew. That took a while. But there we go. I am up to date. Present day. Back at Winchcombe Pottery full time. I've been back a few weeks now. What a place! More soon.