In 2020 I quit my job in science e-learning to take a bit of space. Queue Lockdown with a toddler. Ah well. What it did mean is that I ended up turning my pottery hobby into something more.
I now make ceramics from my Bristol garden, with a focus on sustainability and functionality.
From the rest of this site you’ll gather I’m against throw away consumerism. Not a great position from which to set up a selling business! I do however think it’s fine to have useful things designed to last. And we all know, from the Romans, that pottery can last.
Pottery is made of clay, which is essentially a type of earth. It is usually glazed, for decorative purposes, to give it a smooth hygenic surface and, depending on the clay and glaze, help it to hold liquid.
My mission is to reduce my impact as much as I can. This is what I’m doing so far in terms of pottery:
- With the help of some kind friends, I repurposed bits of an old conservatory and scrap wood from the Bristol wood recycling project to make a studio in my garden. It’s insulated with wool although is still a bit of a work in progress, I definitely need to make it warmer for next winter.
- I throw my pots on a kick wheel so just leg power involved in that! It’s probably good for me too.
- I use water collected from my studio roof and my waste goes into my raised bed.
- Firing is the big power eater in pottery. Alas air pollution in Bristol is awful so my kiln is powered by electricity not wood. It is very efficient though and the insulation is amazing. It takes over 24 hours to cool down after firing!
- I’m working on single fire ceramics to save energy (and my short attention span). Clay needs to get to around 1000 degrees to turn into pottery. Since the industrial revolution most pots have been fired twice, once to turn to pot (bisque firing) then once more slightly hotter to glaze. In single fire you just fire once to turn the clay into glazed pottery. Before the industrialisation of pottery this was standard practice but nowadays its considered a bit odd ball and is a bit more fiddly.
I learnt pottery whilst dressed as a Tudor at Kentwell Hall historical reenactments. The conditions were adverse. The kick wheel was wonky, the clay in short supply, the shed was falling down and we learnt as we went. But we figured it out. We made terracota pots and fired them in a wood kiln. They were glazed with lead free honey glazes, along with blood, sweat and gin. There are few places I’d rather be than tired and aching and staring into the flames of that kiln.
In the real world, I have taken many different classes. The best have been at Bristol Folk House where I’ve been taught by Margaret Crump, Bill Moore and Sam Hallett. I really recommend all three of teachers and the studio if you want pottery classes in Bristol.