Somewhere in this blackened sagger is a little burnt offering in need of wire wool & wax tlc!
Somewhere in this blackened sagger is a little burnt offering in need of wire wool & wax tlc!
I love making these!!! – so much fun to produce! 🤗🧡
They start life on the potters wheel as thin, solid cones. Texture is added whilst the clay spins and each one finally curled from the tip down.
They’re insect antennae, added to the bodies of sculptural bees, bugs and snails. 🐝 🐜 🐌
That said, I reckon they hold their own as mini-sculptures reminiscent of unfurling ferns or organic iron work.
The unscheduled break from all the social engagement and classes has provided a golden opportunity to develop my ceramic work. In fact, the lockdown hush fondly reminds me of the time Sarah and myself moved to Eastnor – 26 years ago. At that point in our careers all we did was eat, sleep and make pottery!
Since then our creative practice has blossomed and diversified in ways unimaginable at the time. A major part of our income drives from running courses and classes from our idyllic Herefordshire studio.
Here’s a recent article I penned for the Ledbury Focus. It’s written in the third person and describes the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on our courses and classes.
Eastnor Pottery and the Flying Potter has been offering unique and memorable pottery experiences from its idyllic studio on the Eastnor Castle Estate for the past 27 years.
Although the Pottery is temporarily closed during lockdown, proprietors Jon Williams and Sarah Monk are more than optimistic about the time when they can start welcoming guests back to the wheels.
The couple’s positive outlook is part inspired by the experience of emerging from the first Lockdown.
When the Pottery reopened on the 4th of July 2020, business did not look very encouraging. You could count all the bookings for July and August on one hand. However, the British public were desperate to go places and do things. International travel restrictions meant holidaying abroad was not an option. Instead, people looked to spend their annual break here in the UK. The staycation had come of age and the tranquil lure of the countryside made Herefordshire an attractive destination. Fair to say Eastnor Pottery was inundated with individuals, couples and families looking for a meaningful and fun holiday experience.
As with most tourism and retail businesses, a large chunk of lockdown was spent planning and implementing the covid-19 rules and regulations, designed to limit the spread of the virus. If Eastnor Pottery was to safely reopen, it had to convince visitors everything would be done to make their visit as safe as possible. Face masks were mandatory, customers washed their hands on arrival and the two metre social distancing guidelines were strictly adhered to. Class sizes were stripped back to a minimum with plenty of time in between sessions for deep cleaning.
Before they reopened in July, the Pottery was awarded a ‘Good to Go’ seal from Visit England. Customers could rest in the knowledge that risk assessments had been carried out and strict protocols put in place.
The glorious weather helped too. Most classes over the Summer and early Autumn took place either on the Pottery lawn or in the Potting Tent marquee. Alfresco pottery ensured plenty of fresh air and minimised the chance of infection.
With all the rules and guidelines, Jon and Sarah had to alter the content of their courses. Far from a reductive process, the operation at Eastnor Pottery has become much more streamlined and efficient.
Customers no longer sit at tables and paint their freshly thrown pots – historically, a key element to the 1.5 hr Introduction to the Potter’s Wheel Class. Instead, visitors get longer on the wheel making two pots instead of one. The couple were initially worried, but participant reviews have exceeded all expectations.
Jon and Sarah have also had to cut down on the frequency of classes and limit the capacity for the classes they do run. A typical Saturday pre-COVID-19 would have seen up to 40 people walking through the Pottery’s doors, but now it’s a maximum of 12.
Limited capacity has naturally resulted in a decline in turnover. But on the positive, customers get an intimate and amazing one to one experience. Jon and Sarah really feel they get to know their students and enjoy hearing their stories. Their classes were brilliant before, but due to COVID-19, now they’re extra special – not only for the customer but for the hosts too.
The circumstances of this awful pandemic have forced Jon and Sarah to reflect and have ultimately allowed them to reshape their business for the better. The couple look forward to welcoming customers back to the Pottery when it is safe to do so.
As a child I loved drawing and messing about with mud. We lived on the edge of a large housing estate and a planning dispute over freshly dug foundations on an empty plot next door, meant the deep trenches remained void of concrete for several years. What a fabulous landscape for myself, brother, and our mates to roam and explore. The walls of the foundations exposed seams of soft yellow clay, perfect for poking fingers and sticks. We dug old bottles, (there must have been a Victorian rubbish dump) squashed balls of clay onto the ends of sticks and hurled them at brick walls (and each other!) to see how long the clay stayed there. They always landed with a satisfying, heavy thud which over time, must have annoyed the hell out of the neighbours as the activity came to an abrupt halt with a proper telling off! Even though the forest of sticks and clay have long since dropped off the wall, the activity has informed and inspired my approach to ceramic practice and my educational/community engagement work.
My art teachers at school were encouraging and although it was a subject in which I excelled; I had no idea about careers in the creative industries. It wasn’t until the age of 15 I encountered the head of my local art-school and in a blinding revelation, realised that ‘art’ could be a job! I studied in Swindon & then Bath, my experience culminating in a 1st class degree in ceramics and 3d design. Whilst at Art School I met my future wife and fellow potter Sarah Monk and in 1994 we moved to Herefordshire, founded Eastnor Pottery and started a family.
I have a collection of bee and bug shakers for sale at Contemporary Ceramics in London
The gallery is the shop window for the Craft Potters Association of Great Britain (CPA) and exhibits the greatest collectible names in British ceramics alongside the most up and coming artists of today.
I’ve been a professional member of the CPA ever since the start of my career as a maker, but this is the first time I have exhibited in their bi-monthly Rotation programme.
Although the gallery is currently closed during Lockdown, they have developed an amazing and comprehensive online shop featuring the work of 80 makers for sale at any one time.
Amazing photos by beyondthebeatenpath
Although I’m a thrower, I do enjoy the challenge of working with other pottery techniques.
These slabbed constructions are ceramic bases, designed to support a sculpture on a metal rod. That said, I reckon they look pretty cool as stand alone pieces. I particularly enjoy the potential for geometric pattern making when the bases are lined up in groups.
I recently made a selection of high fired bee and bug shakers for a gallery in London. The high temperature makes for a satisfying ‘ring’ when the rattle is shaken.
As I was lowering the last beastie into the kiln, I decided on a whim to save it from the firing and give it a lower temperature bisque instead. My intention, to incorporate it into my smoke firing experiments as up until that point all the test pieces had been vessels.
So glad I did!
I’m really pleased with the colours. Deep blacks, a hint of terracotta and the odd flash of white – perfect!…and although the rattle sounds slightly different its still an interesting sonic.
Unfortunately, this discovery came too late for the critters heading to London, but if I could have my time with them again….
It’s amazing how a terracotta pot can survive outside in the garden for decades. Season after season it is resilient against the very worst the British Winter can hurl at it. And then, all of a sudden, it quite literally falls to pieces.
Frost damage occurs when water, absorbed into the ceramic wall freezes and expands. The force is strong enough to ‘spit out’ little chunks leaving the surface pot marked. Sometimes the force is strong enough to crack the vessel in two!
This button planter made by myself in the 1990’s with all it’s applied half spheres, lived happily and in tact, in the garden here at Eastnor pottery. Then out of the blue, quite recently, after a particularly wet and cold period, the planter shed all it’s buttons.
I can only deduce that the days of persistent rain had penetrated and saturated the pot. Under normal circumstances the pot would dry naturally, minimising the effect of the freezing water. On this occasion the sudden, plunging temperatures shortly after the deluge was sufficient to reek havoc. The conditions were spot on – a perfect storm!
I like the effect though – The area beneath the buttons resisted the lichen patina. When the buttons popped off, they left a satisfying terracotta polka dot pattern. Nature is the best artist!
A Bilston Craft Gallery Touring Exhibition 2011 – 2015
Sensational Clay was my solo show and a culmination of many months of work, exploring ideas of invention, interaction and participation with clay.
All the works in the exhibition were inspired by the five senses: touch, taste, sound, smell and sight. Every item encouraged visitors to interact and explore, inviting them to experience the objects in a very different way than in a typical gallery setting.
A short film accompanied the exhibition which gave further insight into my practice and the processes used:
Included in the exhibition were:
Giant bowls of sand that visitors can delve into to discover hidden treasures
Tables filled with food inspired ceramics, such as giant teacups and biscuits
Interactive musical pots and rattle pots
Scented ceramic forms, reminiscent of pineapples, coconuts and bananas
Textured ‘clay doodle’ plates
The exhibition toured a further four UK art galleries and was experienced by approximately 12000 visitors. The other venues were:
Our studio Eastnor Pottery looking beautiful in the January snow.
I share the space with my wife and fellow potter Sarah Monk. When we’re not working on our own designs, we entertain thousands of aspiring potters on our short classes and weekend courses.You can do an hour and a half, full day or weekend on the potter’s wheel – we have something for everyone and the rural tranquility of Eastnor makes for the perfect creative break.
Although we are currently closed during lockdown, you can book a Spring or Summer pottery experience online. Just visit our website and click on one of the orange buttons.