My first introduction to ceramics was on an art foundation course at Bournemouth collage. At that time there was a basement pottery studio run by Peter Stoodley opposite the main college, where rows of geared kick wheels sat on dusty wooden floors. Something about the combination of practical skills with creativity was appealing; I was seduced away from the clean world of design and enrolled in a course in environmental ceramics. I spent a valuable year at Bournemouth, initially making coiled and slab pots. The students were introduced to early hand built European and Pre-Columbian pots and taught the basics of coiling and slab building, the slow making process and observation of historical pieces was a great encouragement to focus on form. Mastering those giant kick wheels proved a challenge but a visit to the Craft Potters Association shop in London was an inspiration. This was the late seventies; CPA members had several shelves each, piled up with rows of thrown domestic pots.
At the end of the first year at Bournemouth the course closed down, what seemed a disaster at the time proved an unexpected opportunity as I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Studio pottery course at Harrow. At that time Harrow was primarily focused on domestic pottery and throwing, the course had been set up to provide a sound foundation for self employment. Looking back it was a good time to be a student there, as although there was a strong focus on skills training the world of ceramics was becoming broader, we were exposed to a wide range of influences through visiting lecturers, were introduced to slip casting and mould making and the idea that ceramics could be art, or sculpture or a means of exploring ideas.
In the seventies stoneware glazes were mostly muted tones of oatmeal or brown but I wanted colour in my pots and was drawn to the brighter stronger colours of earthenware. After collage I went to work for the slipware potter Mary Wondrausch in Compton Surrey. Here I continued to develop my skills in production throwing and slipware decoration. Mary was an artist as well as a potter and best known for commemorative pots in a style that was an individual take on traditional English slipware. I was inspired by her free use of decoration but never really took to slip trailing, I was after a crisper more contemporary look. When I first became a self employed potter I worked with red earthenware and coloured slips. As my workshop was a garden shed, cold in winter and hot in summer, it was a struggle to work with slips, the pots were often too damp or too dry. Wanting more control I moved onto using white earthenware and under glazes. I loved the infinite colour palette of under glazes but the decorating processes were slow and surfaces somewhat flat.
In 1999 I had the opportunity to become an apprentice at Dartington pottery. After years of working alone in a shed being part of a larger workshop and an international community of potters was an invigorating experience. Part of the appeal was learning more about reduction stoneware; Dartington was famous for colourfully decorated stoneware and under the influence of designers like Janice Tchalenko had reinvigorated studio pottery with more contemporary glazes and designs. After completing the apprenticeship I continued to work at Dartington for another two years, before setting up again as a self employed potter in Devon. As I did not have access to a gas kiln I experimented with electric fired stoneware glazes and found that in fact, far from being a limitation, oxidised stoneware suited my expressive style of decorating, as the texture and variation of stoneware glazes gave the surfaces depth whilst preserving crispness of the decoration.
In 2002 I set up the workshop at Coombe Park near Totnes. In 2016 I moved to the larger unit 7, it had more room than we needed so we provided space for other makers, and created the Unit 7 Arts Collective. This worked well until the lockdowns made it hard to continue the collective, it was time for a change. As so often what seemed a series of problems became the seed of new opportunity.
In 2021 we moved out of Coombe Park and in March 2022 I opened The Happy Crab Gallery in Gloucester St, Weymouth, a lovely light and bright space in the centre of town two minutes walk from the beach. The Happy Crab is both my workshop and retail outlet, a very different environment to the rural business centre in Devon it is exciting to see what the future holds.
In addition to the ceramics I am continuing to develop my long standing interest in pattern and colour through the medium of print making and drawing.