Gallery

These are few pictures of pots from recent firings. Click on any picture to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

News

Annual Exhibition: 3rd-4th December 2016

My annual, one weekend only, exhibition in my studio. Stoneware and porcelain from the Anagama kiln plus Ralph Curry’s green-turned wooden bowls and prints, paintings and textiles by Darren Woodhead, Pascale Rentsch, Eileen Munro, Erica Wimbush and Di Simcock

Saturday night

A few images from the most recent firing of the anagama kiln -Friday morning through to Sunday evening. Many thanks to Lili, Anne and Fiona for all their stoking, and to Katie for the pics.

Introduction

Almost forty years on, I remain fascinated by the plastic nature of clay and its transformation into ceramic by heat. What started as a therapeutic antidote to academic research, and the challenge of learning to use a potter’s wheel, remains a crucial part of seeking a balance between head, heart and hands.

Throwing turned out to be just the start of an ongoing process of exploring this exacting and technical craft. I now choose to fire with wood, in a large kiln that I fire just once a year. The slow production cycle and unpredictable results require a level of detachment from concerns with efficiency or productivity. A lot can, and does, go wrong!

It is left to the flames, licking, flashing and depositing fly ash during the three-day firing to leave their mark and decorate the pot surfaces. When the temperature reaches about 1000 oC, the chimney struggles to pull in sufficient air for full and clean combustion each time the firebox is stoked with wood. The mysteries of a ‘reduction’ atmosphere bring out a rich palette of red through orange and browns whilst carbon trapping gives greys and black and melting ash fuses to form a glaze.

How best to stack the pots in the kiln, the firing schedule and the composition of the clay body are subject to ongoing (albeit slow) experimentation. To prevent the pots from fusing together with melted ash, the pots must all be separated from the kiln shelves, and from each other, with refractory wadding (made from fireclay and sawdust) or with seashells. The stacking is a slow process, a three dimensional puzzle to maximise use of space in the kiln whilst leaving suitable paths for the flames to find a way through all parts, top and bottom, from the firebox through to the chimney. Many pots are fired on their side. Bowls are often fired upside down, stacked on top of each other, to encourage the flames to lick across and flash the inside surfaces. Simple wood-ash or shino glazes are sometimes also used.

My current kiln was built in 2010 and is fired for three days and two nights with the support of an enthusiastic team of helpers. The top temperature of around 1340 oC is reached on the second day and is held for around 24 hours before the kiln is reduction cooled and sealed. The pots can be unloaded, cleaned and sorted a week later.

About

My studio is in the basement of 27 High Street, Dunbar. I have an ‘Anagama’ style woodfired kiln at Phantassie, near East Linton.

 

sidestoking

As a largely self-taught potter, I find the attempt to master the many facets of this exacting and technical craft to be an ongoing challenge -which is what keeps me at it. Apart from the physical challenge of throwing and manipulating clay, there is also the need to develop an appreciation of form, to understand the raw materials that can make up a clay body or create a glaze, to experience how these materials interact and are transformed by fire, the challenge of designing, building, loading and firing a kiln. Above all, there is the challenge of coping with, and learning from, the ups and downs, the successes and failures -and then there is the challenge of educating the public to understand and appreciate hand skills and craftsmanship, and of creating a market.

in the firebox whilst unloadingI originally studied engineering, developing a particular interest in renewable energy, ‘appropriate technology’ and environmental issues -much influenced by E.F Schumacher’s book ‘Small is Beautiful’ and other writers of the 1970’s. This led me to research at Warwick University where I happened upon David Jones’s pottery studio which he then ran in some outbuildings on the edge of campus. Intrigued by the process of throwing, I enrolled for evening classes and found working with clay to be an intensely therapeutic antidote to academic research.

Returning from spending several years working with groups of peasant farmers in newly independent Zimbabwe, I set up my first workshop whilst working at the Centre for Alternative Technology in mid-Wales. In 1990 I moved to Dunbar and set up my current studio on Dunbar High Street. Apart from making pots, I have remained involved with various environmental projects over the years, including running courses and activities which use clay as a route into environmental education and awareness. I currently work part-time for our local ‘transition’ initiative and Development Trust, Sustaining Dunbar which I helped to set up in 2007 and am closely involved with the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network .

Because of these other commitments, I am currently a very part-time potter and only fire the kiln once a year. My main sales are through my annual pre-Christmas exhibition in my studio although my showroom is open by arrangement any time.

Contact

My studio is in the basement of 27 High Street, Dunbar, EH42 1EN, along with a small showroom.

Visitors are welcome by appointment -please phone (01368 863211) or email: philip