Previous Speakers


John Pollex and AGM (8 November 2017)

Annual General Meeting at 7pm followed by John’s talk at 7:45pm

Wednesday 8 November 2017 at Polehampton Junior School

John has carved out a unique niche in the world of studio pottery. During the 70s and early 80s he established himself as a respected maker of traditional Slipware, before his work took a dramatic turn. In 1981 he was invited to take part in a lecture tour of New Zealand with the contemporary American ceramist Don Reitz. The bold use of colour in the work of Reitz was exciting compared to the muted tones of celadons, tenmokus and honey glazes back in Britain; consequently he became more interested in the colourful work being produced by potters in the USA.

In 1984 John decided to change direction, he used his knowledge and understanding of the application of slips to develop a completely different style of working. He dispensed with slip trailers in favour of paintbrushes and sponges and more recently plastic spatulas, intensely coloured earthenware slips are applied in a free and painterly abstract manner. The change seems to have been clean and dramatic and appears to owe nothing to the slipware of before.

John is often asked why he never paints in the conventional manner. He says that he has always been a potter who enjoys what he does and he still feels there is much more to discover in the world of ceramics.

John studied at Sir John Cass in Whitechapel from 1966-68; he then went on to become Technician at Harrow College of Art during 1968-70. After Harrow he became assistant to Colin Pearson until 1971. He moved to Plymouth in the autumn of 1971.

For more information visit John’s website www.johnpollex.co.uk


John gave us an amusing talk and slide presentation about his journey with ceramics over his long career, outlining his impressive lineage; Colin Pearson and Ray Finch being just two of his mentors. Starting from a traditional slipware potter he has over the years injected a good deal of his humour into the finish of his slipware chargers (one influence being artist Beryl Cook), he has now moved into a far more abstract and painterly style, blending vibrant colours on the pot and abstracting forms he finds inspiring. Instead of potters for inspiration he has turned to painters; Howard Hodgekin, Mark Rothko and Patrick Heron to name just a few. He likes to play with colours making them move forward and back in the composition of his work. For our practical demonstration he showed us how he decorates his square dishes. His free style and confidence with colours is remarkable.

John uses a white Earthenware Clay, preferring to overlay the white of the clay body with a black slip made from Manganese, red and black iron oxides. He uses the dried trimmings from his throwing/slabbing to make his slip, first crushing them up to a fine powder (note the use of a face mask for this task) before adding the powder to water. He feels his colours vibrate and sing more from the dark although warm background.

To make his square dishes he rolls a slab, places a wooden template on it then cuts around it at a 45 o angle, runs a plastic grout comb down the sides to imprint a double line pattern and then places it on a large flat piece of sponge and presses a wooden box down in the middle until the sides pop up to form the indent.

The colours used on the pots are slips made up from commercially available body stains from CTM and Potterycrafts and they include; Rosso Red, Yellow, 2 x Greens a Sky Blue and a darker blue and Lilac. He mixes the stains into a creamy thick slip; 20g Body Stain to ¼ inch of water then spoons in the white clay body slip until well combined and creamy smooth.

To apply the colours to the ware he uses a range of small soft sponges cut into rectangular blocks, he rarely brushes slip as it can muddy the base slip, however right at the end of the sponge painting he will use a bristle or pastry brush to brush stain over areas leaving a soft ‘flying white’ effect which is his brush mark. Sometimes he uses a harder sponge to work back in to the design, giving a ‘soft sgrafitto’ effect. The sponges are made from a sheet of sponge cut up with and electric breadknife. 

Where he has a specific design he maps it out onto the slipped ware with a soft brush dipped in water, then carefully picking up the colours on the sponge he uses a woodpecker motion, quickly dabbing the colour onto the desired area. He keeps quickly dabbing until the area is saturated with the colour. Should the slips on his palette begin to dry he sprays them with an indoor plant spray. Where the colour is applied thinly the black base shows through, to get an opaque block he puts on 3 coats of stain colour. Sometimes he blends colours directly on the pot, or will blend two colours on his palette. To get a curve he pinches the sponge in the middle. The first layers of colours are quite subtle, when this is complete he then adds neat stain (suspended in water) to his slip mixed colour and goes in again, strengthening the colour. Colours are overlaid and layered up gradually, almost playfully but freely.

Complimented on his handle shapes he showed us how to make them; using two strips of coiled clay flattened, 1 wider than the other he lays one on top of the other and slips them together and fixes them at the top and the bottom of the ware.

Work is fired to a Bisque of 1050oC and a Glost of 1105oC. Transparent glaze used is a lead sesquilliate base to Richard Godway’s recipe.


Jacob Bodilly (11 October 2017)

Jacob studied for a ceramics degree at Cardiff University and has worked for the Leach Pottery and the Boscean Pottery. He now has his own business based in Devon.

Jacob is familiar with the pottery techniques of European slipware, salt glaze and reduction stoneware. He personally produces functional pottery for the kitchen table, ovenware and tea and coffee drinking. He also produces more personal works, such as vases, and one-off pieces.

For more information about Jacob see his facebook page here.

 

 

 


Jacob gave us a most enjoyable and refreshing talk about what inspires him and his journey from carpentry back to college, University, apprenticeship at the Leach pottery and the Boscean Pottery at St Just.  His love of very old Tenmoku pots is evident, and he makes his own Tenmoku from very basic ingredients; wood ash, Stone and clay, as in the old Chinese recipe. Different woods give different results, Beech, Chestnut, Ash and Willow are favourites but he warns us to stay clear of Oak and to always wear protective gloves when washing Ash as it can become caustic.  The phosphorus in Beech gives a good chun. The older the pot usually the more saturated the glaze becomes, giving differing texture across the pot surface, hard to replicate in today’s world of fast often aggressive firing times and temperatures to reach maturity rather than the long slow burn favoured in the early days of glazing. Needless to say with a passion for the shape of Mycean pottery and the heavy black Tenmoku glazes one of his most inspirational potters was Shoji Hamada.

Today Jacob throws on an electric wheel. Having spent many years using a kick wheel, he prefers an electric wheel as he feels he was able to see the clunk clunk of the kick wheel in his pots! He uses his own 3 clay recipe adding a terracotta to two whiter clays as he prefers a slightly darker clay. If throwing with Porcelain he recommends leaving the bag open overnight before completely re wedging the whole bag, this helps the clay to perform better in throwing, although it is quite hard being dryer.

 

Prior to throwing his stoneware mix he always uses the spiral wedge technique, this reduces tension in the clay and is a quick method producing an egg shape to put on the wheel rather than a ball. The act of preparation and throwing being  carefully considered; starting with an egg shape and placing it in the centre of the wheel all helps to create Zen, resulting in a calm well thrown balanced pot, after all when you’ve 100 or so to throw why make it hard on yourself, always try to conserve energy!

Once the clay is pressed down onto the batt the next task is to centre it; for this Jacob uses a leaning in and pushing forward approach, see photos and video clip alongside these notes. He uses tools on both the inside and outside to form his moon jars, the tools must be the right shape and should always be metal or wood, never plastic! Jacob threw an impressive moon jar, a jug and two tea bowls off the hump.

To wire off from the hump he used Button Thread, holding it on his right hand side of the pot, the wheel does a single rotation and the thread slips through cutting off the pot from the hump evenly.


Paul Jessop (13 September 2017)

With his workshop situated in the grounds of Barrington Court in Somerset, Paul specialises in simple, elegant and practical slipware pottery.

Paul loves the plain and simple country styles of the west country. He expects his pots to be used on a daily basis, and to enrich the lives of those who use them.

For more information visit Paul’s website here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mary Kembery (14 June 2017)

Somerset Countryware is a range of stoneware pottery made and decorated by Mary Kembery in her studio at Drayton, where she has lived since 1985.

Apart from the Somerset landscape, she also draws inspiration from fish, fruit and flowers. Coloured slips and underglaze colours with a combination of decorating techniques, including waxing, stencilling and scraffitto, may be used on a single piece to achieve the desired effect. The work is fired  to stoneware temperature around 1235c in an electric kiln.


Annual Exhibition (29 April – 1 May 2017)

Our annual exhibition is taking place over the May Day bank holiday weekend, as part of the Henley Arts Trail. Members will be exhibiting and selling their work and there is an opportunity to vote for the best in show. Refreshments are on sale with delicious cakes and a chance to take a breather from the trail and admire a great variety of work both functional and decorative.

 

Please come and visit us at Venue 30, Neville Hall, Waltham St Lawrence, RG10 0JP. We are open between 10am and 5pm Saturday 29 April 2017 to Monday 1 May 2017.


Sue Mundy (Feb 2017)

Sue draws inspiration from visits to Cornwall, the moon and “everything in between”. Artists who have particularly influenced her are Naum Garbo, Martin Creed and Agnes Martin.

Inspiration for her shapes comes from lots of found objects from the fields surrounding her studios; skeletons, bone fragments, stones, and from the seaside, shells. Even though she has produced many objects in her moon series she doesn’t work from templates, each piece is made from scratch and evolves through the making process maintaining spontaneity. She draws directly onto a slab freestyle using a potter’s pin then cuts out the shapes and joins using score and slip. If she makes a large moon she uses coils to upsize. She always works with the piece upright rather than flat, the top piece going in last as it needs to be wetter than the body to get the bend in the clay and avoid it cracking, she uses lots of slip so the join is secure. She then goes around all the joins with a simple surform blade to refine the edges and shape. She is careful to avoid symmetry and strives to create shadow and light on the surfaces, making the pieces more interactive with their surroundings. Once the form is complete she uses a serrated kidney to add texture, once complete the whole piece is painted with black slip, which is left to semi-dry before the slip is scraped back with a flat kidney leaving behind black lines where the slip has inlaid into the textured pattern. Good judgement is required to get this process right – the slip has to be in just the right condition for this to work, too wet and all the slip smudges or is scraped right off. Various slips are used to create colour, underglaze colours as well as oxides are also added to enhance the colour and texture, manganese produces a shine when applied more thickly. The piece is then fire to bisque after which a transparent glaze is added then wiped off with a wooden kidney leaving a slight residue. Clay used for the Moon pieces is a Potclays Smooth White Stoneware to which Sue adds grog.

Her ‘Lignums’ were developed from tree shapes she saw whilst travelling in Australia. These start from a thrown bottle shape base then hand builds on with coils to add height, constructing and deconstructing as they rise until she gets the desired shape. Clay used for the Lignums is a mix of Scarva black with Porcelain inlays, the clays fuse well together.