First month as Mark Hewitt's Apprentice

Lauren and I moved down to Pittsboro, North Carolina at the end of May, and have been getting settled in to a house near Mark Hewitt's pottery. It's starting to feel like home; Lauren has been painting wildly with an off-white color called "drumskin" and some magic chalkboard paint.

Plans to make a vegetable patch in the garden are coming together. I have laid out tarps over the grass to kill it and get it ready for tilling next weekend. Once it's fenced in, we'll get a flock of chickens. Right in town we have the Livestock Conservancy who promote heritage breeds in order to keep livestock as diverse as possible. We're planning on raising struggling breeds. I want to get the chickens situated first, but Lauren is pretty excited about goats. The race is on.

Our valiant steed Lucille and the house, hidden by a big pecan tree.

It's been an adjustment moving here from New York. I was always busy in Brooklyn, but had a very loose schedule, whereas now I have a full on 8:30am-5pm job. The biggest culture shock has been the weather, though: from the relatively temperate climate of NY, we find ourselves in a positively wild one down here. Most days it's over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun is unrelenting, but almost every afternoon we get a heavy shower. No wonder the plants grow so wild and trees so tall. Any portion of land left untended springs up like a jungle. A few days ago, we had a monumental storm with lightening striking repeatedly around us, winds so hard they broke a couple of my porch pots. Also there is an amazing amount of bugs here; large bugs, colorful bugs, biting bugs.

This shed is on our land (approximately an acre) and will house the chucks at night. The veg patch will be behind it.

The work is very enjoyable; Adrian (the other apprentice, who has been here 2 1/2 years now) and I generally do labour in the mornings and make pots in the afternoon. The labour can be anything from sorting wood to mixing glazes to landscaping, but our day usually starts by prepping Mark's clay; pugging it to his desired consistency and balling it up. Mark is a machine: one day last week he threw 100 mugs before 3pm and handled them all the next day. My best effort so far was 43-ish, but some of them did not survive the cull. Adrian is a very skilled thrower too, and both he and Mark have been very generous with demonstrations, getting me into the swing of it. The clay is stiffer and more groggy than I'm used to, but I can see how far you can stretch it. So far I have tried my hand at a different pot each week; juice cups (tumblers), pancheons (wide straight sided bowls), mugs and now honey pots, in that order. I have not got close to mastering any of the forms, but it's nice to be able to try out different forms rather than making hundreds of four-inch bowls for weeks (which was how I started at Winchcombe). Raw glazing and slip decoration have been probably the hardest part so far; I have a long way to go in terms of decorating pots.

But enough text for now. Our place is only a five minute walk from the pottery, and a lovely walk it is. Let me take you down there...

Walking down the road tut pottery.

Gorgeous trees lining the road.

One of Mark's planters.

Kiln shed to the left, workshop to the right and the barn (with finished pots) in the background.

Wood for the firing. Adrian and I were cutting some of this earlier today.

A finished stack of strips for the end of the firing.

Kiln shelves resting against the kiln, waiting for some TLC.

Follow me into the workshop;

This is the wheel I'm throwing on at present.

One of Daniel Johnston's (a former apprentice) honey pots.

I made my first stab at these little pots today (12oz clay). They were quite tricky; you have to leave a good amount of clay at the rim for a gallery and push out the belly impossibly far. Mark told me "they cannot be too fat. That's a challenge." The trouble is that once you get them really fat they want to split or collapse. Tough times! The one below was the nicest shape I managed, despite it not being nearly as fat as Daniel's.

My best effort today.

A small collection of honey pots and lids. Many didn't make it!

Here's some wares drying out (mostly Adrian and Mark's pots);

Bottles, tankards, tumblers, hanging plant pots, vases, platters, bowls and plates!

Some mugs I made last week. Mark will often use blue glass squares in his pieces. They melt when fired.

And finally some of Mark and Adrian's big pots;

Adrian's are the front two.