Visit to Clive Bowen's Pottery (Shebbear Pottery), Devonshire, UK, May 6th 2016.

I have long admired Clive's pots; I became aware of his work whilst I was at Winchcombe Pottery.  Over the past year here in North Carolina, Mark has often mentioned Clive in the studio, so paying him a visit was a high priority on our trip to England. Luckily he also lives within five miles of Svend Bayer, who we also visited, and who will be the next victim of this blog.

A bit of history on Clive: Clive studied etching and painting at Cardiff College of Art and then began an apprenticeship at Yelland Pottery under Michael Leach in 1965. He also did some work at Wenford Bridge in the early '70s, and threw some pots at Brannam Pottery. Since 1971, Clive has been working from Shebbear Pottery. He has not signed his pots since the early '70s, but he does not need to: the red Fremington earthenware clay body, warm lead glazes, and loose slip decoration make his pots unmistakable.

We've arrived!
It was a grey English day in May when Lauren and I visited Shebbear Pottery. I had written to Clive and Rosie from the states and arranged our visit in advance, so we were lucky enough to have lunch at the Bowens'. As Rosie whipped up a storm, we went out for a ramble around the workshop and to the greenhouse to pick salad greens.

The courtyard at the centre of Clive and Rosie's house, workshop, and kiln shed.

The two resident ducks.
When we walked in to the workshop the energy was immediately apparent. There were boards of pots stacked up, decorated and ready to be glazed. I wish we could have seen Clive at work but the evidence of his labor was all around us. He makes a wide range of pots, from bowls to mugs to storage jars to vases and large umbrella pots. Clive's forms are strong--a product of his early immersion in the Leach/Cardew school--but it is his decoration that I find most alluring. The pots feel so alive and fresh.

The American folklorist Henry Glassie (who has written many books about craft all over the world and taken a particular interest in pottery) visited the Hewitt Pottery a couple of months ago, and I mentioned that I would be visiting Shebbear. His eyes lit up. Henry is in the process of writing a book about Mark Hewitt and his former apprentices, and had been over to see Clive and Svend, among other people and potters, as part of his research. He admired Clive's work and said that he understood the decoration in terms of jazz: Clive's love of jazz directly feeds into his decoration. I can see where Henry is coming from; Clive's sliptrailing and wiping seem so spontaneous. It's clear that Clive is decorating at speed: there is no way you can decorate with that fluidity if you are moving slowly or thinking too much. It seem to me that each pot is an improvisation on a theme, with similar motifs and movements repeated but in slightly differing ways, with the form determining some of the perimeters for the motion.

Where the magic happens.

View from Clive's wheel.

Boards of pots waiting to be fired.

Clive had decorated this pot on the morning we arrived.

Big pots. I really like the shape of the middle one.

Decorated pots ready to be fired.


Proud jug (or pitcher, depending which side of the Atlantic you are on).

Bowls; the shape reminds me of Cardew's rose bowls.

Tiles out to dry.

Clive uses these to make slumped molded dishes with slabs of clay.

Another couple of large jars.


Prawn tile amidst the normal ones.

Horse sculpture by Clive's daughter.

Sink, tools, and tasty tiles.

View out of the back door to the studio.
Clive's kiln is a magnificent beast. It is based on Cardew's kiln from Wenford bridge, with a large circular chamber leading to a bottle chamber. You fire off the first chamber getting it to top temperature before moving onto the bottle chamber. The bottle acts as the chimney and pre-heats on account of the fire in the first chamber. These two chambers have the potential to hold a great many pots, so Clive has never actually fired them both together, preferring to simply use the bottle as a chimney and stack the circular chamber. I have never seen a kiln like this and would be fascinated to help fire it sometime. The kiln room was much more enclosed than the kiln sheds I am used to seeing around North Carolina. It felt cozy, with shelves full of old pots and store cupboards full of yet more pots, and an upper gallery which allowed a bird's eye view down over the kiln.

View down the circular chamber of Clive's kiln. You can see the bottle neck in the right edge of the photo--the chambers connect underground.

The bottle chamber of Clive's kiln.

Looking down on Lauren and Clive beside the kiln.

Some of Clive's saggars. Most of his work is fired in these to prevent ash hitting the pots.

Kiln furniture and saggars.

Firing wood.

Some pots that Clive made on a recent trip to Japan.

Platter made by Clive in Japan.

Fish tile. Clive Bowen.
Clive describing some of the beauties. Top left is a salt glazed pot from Jugtown in Seagrove, North Carolina.

The mug in the background is a Michael Cardew.

Clive's collection of little teabowls, waiting for a bespoke cabinet to house them.

This pot was made by Clive and fired just down the road in Svend Bayer's kiln.

Lovely jar by Clive. I really like the way the handle sits on top of the domed lid.

Here are some of marvelous pots from inside the house.

Plate made by Jo; one of Clive's kids.

The jar on the left was made by a potter who stayed with them for a while. Excellent chattering pattern.

Large goblet by Michael Cardew, I like the lug handles and classic decoration.

Casserole dishes and baking pans above the stove top.

Baking dishes in the Bowen kitchen.

I can see a chicken in this.

Nice little functional serving or cooking dishes. I want to make some similar to these.

Sweet little casserole dish made by a visiting Norwegian potter to Shebbear.

Plates that Clive made to commemorate the births of some of his kids.
Saving the best bit til last, here are some pictures from the gallery that is attached to the house.

Wide view of Clive's gallery space.

Clive in the gallery talking to Lauren.

Clive Bowen. Potter at large.

Large jar with substantial knob. Clive Bowen.

Storage jar. Clive Bowen.

Slump molded dish. Slip trailed decoration. Clive Bowen.

Bowls. Clive Bowen.

Tankard. Clive Bowen.

Large chesty storage jar. Slip trailed decoration. Clive Bowen.

Platter. Slip trailed fish decoration. Clive Bowen.

The teapot we came away with. It has been in constant use since we got back to North Carolina and I can report that it pours perfectly and holds almost enough to fill my tea flask.

In case there weren't enough photos here or you would like to snag one of Clive's pots, here's a link to his website:

Mark Hewitt Pottery Spring 2016 Kiln Opening, Firing Kay

Our recent visit to England has somewhat slowed down my bloggering activities but now I have so much material and so many pictures to share. During our two week trip we were able to visit Svend Bayer, Clive Bowen, the pottery and museum at St Ives, and the Sainsbury's Centre (which has an amazing collection of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper pieces). Oh and an exhibition of Michael Cardew's pottery in Chipping Camden. I have my work cut out! But first I should put up some pics from our recent kiln opening.

This was a particularly exciting firing as the kiln was mostly filled with experimental glazes made using local materials. It was also Adrian's last firing as an apprentice at the Hewitt pottery. The firing went very smoothly and our expectations were mostly met by the results. The celadons and tenmokus were particularly dazzling, whilst the shinos proved a little trickier; some came out fantastically but others crawled. Overall we had some lovely results and a good sale. People responded well to the new glazes. At the end of the post I have included some pictures of my pots taken at Adrian's house with his flowtone backdrop. Personally I prefer seeing pots with a natural background such as a barn door or a grassy knoll, but in order to build a portfolio I am trying to document in a more professional manner.

Big pot by Mark Hewitt. This one is called "Mr Softie"
Empty kiln (apart from all the wads!)
Big pot by Mark Hewitt. I love the shape of this one.
Detail of the glass drip on this pot.
This one sold before the sale began.
Big pot by Mark Hewitt

The crowds arrive!
Marbled plate by Mark Hewitt.
Two part vase by Mark Hewitt. Regretting not snapping up this one-it was a super second.
Some little espresso cups I made.
Adrian and Patrick Rademaker (visiting up from Florida) stole my camera and blessed me with this picture of themselves, plus ruder versions!
Tableware by Mark Hewitt.
Jug/pitcher and mugs by Adrian King.
We have to write a little something for each kiln opening. Here's mine.
Droopy bellied sawanaky with shino glaze.
Cider jar/jug by Adrian King.
Celadon teapot by Adrian King.
White glazed vase with finger wiped decoration by Adrian King.
Heron scraffito tankard by Adrian King.
Two carbon trapped shino tankards by Adrian King.
Vase/wine vessel by Mark Hewitt. Ash glaze.
Celadons! Oh glorious celadons, by Mark Hewitt.
Big fat jar by Mark Hewitt. Tenmoku glaze.
Tableware by Mark Hewitt.
Nice tenmoku jar by Mark Hewitt.
Two part vases by Mark Hewitt.
A couple of my mugs. They have gone up from $9 to $15 this firing! Quite the increase!
Rows of my pots.
Casserole with lizard scraffito decoration.
The full inscription reads "Bernie is boss." If I could vote in the elections here it would definitely be for Bernie!
Display of my pots before the punters arrived.
Shooter, sawanaky and honey jar hanging out together.
Two of my tumblers. I like how the one on the right curves in at the top: I was aiming for this torpedo like shape.
Covered dish by Adrian King. You can use the lid as a bowl to eat from too.

I met this lovely lady at La Meridiana whilst she was on Mark's course. It is fun to catch up at kiln openings!
Some of Adrian's platters.
A rather handsome umbrella stand by Mark Hewitt.
A couple of my smaller casserole dishes.
And now on to the pictures I took using Adrian's flowtone background. Getting the light/highlights just right is an art I have yet to master but I think the results are alright. I would appreciate any feedback on the pics if you have any advice or suggestions.

Two part vase, celadon glaze.
Two part vase, tenmoku glaze over red slip decoration.
Sawanaky jar, shino gaze over red slip decoration.
Sawanaky jar, celadon glaze over red slip banding and scrafitto marks.
Vase, celadon glaze over red slip banding.
Two part vase, tenmoku glaze over red slip decoration.
Tumblers, tenmoku on the left, shino on the right
Barrel mugs, celadon glaze over red and white slip decorations.
Small bud vase, tenmoku glaze.
Shot glasses/shooters, celadon glaze with red slip dots under.
Large casserole dish, celadon glaze over red slip dots and lines.
Large three handled casserole with fish decoration, tenmoku glaze.
Small casserole dish, albany slip over red slip decoration.

Firing Kay, Mark Hewitt Pottery, Spring 2016

It was chilly when Evan, Stillman and I got down to the kiln at 5:40am. Adrian, Dustin and Sam were moving like a well-oiled machine whilst we brushed sleep out of our eyes. The temp was right up there at 2400 in the front chamber. Cone 12 was over in the first two stacks and bending in the back. A fine effort from the night crew had put us in a good position. The key had been small regular stokes. We took over and had the front chamber finished sharpish, moving on to the second chamber and opening the first to rapidly cool it. Firing this kiln is unusual as you fire each chamber in turn and cool it as soon as its done. Slow cooling can lead to sugary matte surfaces on the pots rather than glossy ones. The second chamber raced up and only took us a couple of hours to get cone 12 flat. As the sun rose we saw a large heron fly over the kiln shed, high above us; this is always a good omen--Michael Cardew watching our progress.

By 9am we were concentrating on the third chamber. Mark manned the ship, slowly transitioning our stoking pattern from feeding both chambers two and three to just three. Adding a little extra air by keeping the fire box doors slightly ajar helped the burn. By 12:30pm we were done, much to everyone's surprise. We had planned on going until midnight if necessary, and had cut enough wood to do so.

The relief of being done early had us all in high spirits and we enjoyed some cold beverages, a few loop-de-loops on the rope swing, and some marvelous coconut crust quiche that Carol had made. Mark sprayed down the rafters of the kiln to cool them off, we clammed her up and slid in the damper. A glorious collection of bees made their hive in the red clay earth near the kiln, seemingly unaware of all the activity around them. All in all the firing was a very smooth affair. We got the kiln hot, really hot, all over--in the front of the third chamber the cones were obliterated. The test rings we pulled out looked good too.

Adrian checking the cones in the back of the first chamber.
Adrian and Dustin stoking the firebox.
Exactly where we want to be.
Before we started stoking this chamber.

Evan was down visiting me from Burlington, VT. I roped him into helping out with the firing.
Stoking the firebox of chamber 2.

View of the kiln from the side.
Firebox door.
You can see the reflection on the bellies of the pots in there.
Test rings. Glazes looking good. Clay nicely cooked.
More test rings.
Stillman stoking into the middle of chamber 2.
This little guy was hanging out on the wood stack.
Mark, Adrian and I all incised quite a few lizards on our pots this time. There are so many lizards around the Hewitt pottery!
The kiln from afar.
Mark and Evan clamming up the main fireboxes.
Working hard.
Evan stoking chamber 3 firebox.
These look like ant excavations but are actually made by small bees.
Bee art.
The firing squad enjoying a beverage after the kiln was done. From top left: Sam Thompson, Me, Mark Hewitt, Dustin Fowler, Adrian King. Bottom row from left: John Svara, Evan Weiss and Stillman Browning-Howe.

Stoking the very back of the kiln; heavy reduction going on!

You can just see some fat bellies here.

During the cool down the color of the pots goes from bright orange to red.
In the time it's taken me to post this, we have been through the grueling week of waiting to crack her open and have now unloaded. The results were excellent and many of our experimental glazes came out very nicely. Soon I will post with pics of the pots!

Springtime Kiln Loading. Hewitt Pottery 2016.

Spring has sprung here in the South. We had our last freeze of the year last week (fingers crossed) and the trees are starting to bloom again. Great waves of pollen are falling all around usits like orange snow on your car windscreen. I've never been anywhere with so much pollen. The ants and flies seem to have noticed the warm weather and are flooding back into our house. We put up the first sticky fly tape of the year and Jasper (one of our cats) managed to tear one down and get himself tangled up in it last night. The point of this tape is that it's so sticky that flies land on it, get stuck, and die: it's extremely nasty stuff. So we had to take him to the vet for a haircut.

But enough of our springtime woes; I have lots of pictures to put up of our recent kiln loading. This week we are firing Mark's new kiln (built in 2009). It is the 11th time: the firings are stamped alphabetically so we're up to firing 'Kay.' We had a lot of bisque-ware to glaze due to all the experimental glazes we have formulated, so glazing took us a few days, but then the loading went pretty fast. Having an extra pair of hands has really helped. Stillman Browning-Howe has been working with us for the last few months, mostly laboring, as he will replace Adrian as a full-on apprentice when he leaves in a few weeks. So it's been like having three apprentices rather than two. He has helped a great deal with all of the laborious tasks needed to get ready to fire, like cutting wood, grinding kiln shelves, moving wood, mixing clamming, and rolling wads.

We stacked the kiln quicker than anticipated so now have extra time to fire. I am on the night shift tonight which will be a pretty slow easy rise in temp, then we'll take turns tomorrow bringing it up to top temp by midnight. Saturday is when we really fire it off and work the temperature back through the second and third chambers. Here are some loading snaps:


Fat jars and two part vases

More of Mark's pots

Some of our glazes

One of Adrian's platters. Love this decoration.

Some of my casserole dishes. I was pretty pleased with how these took shape and am excited to see them fired.

Casserole from above


All lined up and ready to go

The kiln. Expectant.

First row of shelves in the back chamber

We raise them off the floor to allow for ash and ember build up

Cones! These bend at specific temperatures to show you how the firing is going. We fire to cone 12 which is over 2400 degrees F.

Mark's pots ready for wadding

What next?

Starting the back stack. This is much more awkward.

Back chamber of the kiln done. The path down the middle is for stoking thin strips of wood.

This is where Adrian and I spent several days glazing all of our pots.

Stillman; master wad and coil roller!

Mark and Adrian carrying precious cargo.

Big ribbon pot by Mark Hewitt.

Stillman squeezing through a tiny gap to help pull the last big pot into the kiln.

Its in! Relieved faceswe didn't chip or break any big pots despite the tight squeeze.

Ready to be bricked in

Side view of the second and third chambers

One of Mark's medieval pitchers from the salt kiln. We were using this as a water jug during loadingslightly excessive as it holds about two gallons!

The beginning of stacking the front chamber

Pitchers, jars and small pots ready to be put in

Carrying boards into the kiln

Starting on the front stack of the front chamber
One of the final shelves goes on

Almost done!

We have a good amount of wood ready

Firebox door

We decided to build a bag wall to prevent the flame rushing under the shelves straight into the second chamber.

Bricking up the third chamber

View of the kiln all clammed up and ready

The kiln gods are watching

Firing Kay

The kiln is lit: we start with gas up to 600 degrees F.

The beast awakens!