ON BEING A POTTER
My path to being a potter may be seen by some to be typical or by others to be unorthodox and under such differing circumstances and reactions, it may be wise to simply describe how it happened and let your reactions develop organically.
When I turned 40, my partner gave me a textbook for a present, it was Susan Peterson’s Art and Craft of Clay. This gift was the culmination of years of encouragement and not-so-subtle hinting on his part that I would find pottery a craft I’d do well at. The book was a cleverly thought out ploy that worked, I couldn’t put the book down and it wasn’t long before the need to convert theoretical knowledge into practical experience became too great to ignore.I was, at the time, a management consultant with a rather well known firm and was working hard to bring about positive change in various businesses and global corporations. Then the excesses of the last two decades began to mount as companies continued to buy one another at great cost, shedding the acquired staff after the TUPE-determined 2 years had lapsed before starting the whole process again with a fresh acquisition. During this time, I was being pushed from job to job, role to role and location to location. Somewhere in all this movement, I took the time to attend an evening course in ceramics in an effort to create Norman Time amidst it all.
From the very start, I was drawn to the wheel and began to explore and understand the craft of throwing. The classes became oxygen and I couldn’t wait for the weekly fix of clay and wheel. After the 10 weeks were up, I knew I had to have access to the materials in order to control how and when I could manage my own development. So this rookie potter applied for and managed to share a studio with a wonderful potter, Georgina Dunkley. George was what every budding potter could wish for in a studio partner. Discreet, direct, helpful, critical and of course, we had lots of lovely fun times and laughs together. I also met and learnt discreetly from the potters of great renown working in the same complex. Pottery is a social craft, the exchange of ideas and techniques, results and trials are quite rightly the subject of much animated debate, all of which enriches the collective knowledge base that we are the guardians of.
And yet the journey continues with turns when they are least expected. Following an invitation to do some sculptural pieces by a gallery, I started developing this body, culminating in a launch of my sculptures at Kew in 2017. There, in a glass pavilion lit only be natural light, my porcelain pieces began to glow as beams of autumn sunlight fell upon them. The stoneware towers I had made also caught the light which made their matte black surfaces come alive with texture and movement. I couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying way to launch a new body of work and the feedback I’ve received since has convinced me to develop this further.
In 2018, my partner and I embark on a personal project and so I’ll be taking a break from the making. However the need to draw, design and plan remains an urgent and irrepressible force so the sketchbook will not be far and a comeback is equally inevitable.