My studio is in the basement of 27 High Street, Dunbar. I have an ‘Anagama’ style woodfired kiln a few miles away near East Linton.
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.
I 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 and community development projects over the years, including running courses and activities which use clay as a route into environmental education and awareness. I am currently a freelance researcher and consultant as well as being a volunteer for our local ‘transition’ initiative and Development Trust, Sustaining Dunbar which I helped to set up in 2007. I am also closely involved with the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, the Scottish Community Alliance and Community Energy Scotland.
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.