Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Only One Way to Throw Pots?

I enjoyed watching this BBC programme last night.....  It involves 6 celebrities working for the day  as Victorian pottery workers at Gladstone Pottery (Museum). While we were ceramics students in the 1970s we visited there, as well as Pearsons of Chesterfield.  The manufacturing techniques still in use at Pearsons at that time were almost identical to Victorian ones. I can still recall one of the master potters telling us in his blunt accent that, "There's only one way to throw pots....... and that's the way we do it here." With that, he slammed a lump of very wet clay onto the wheelhead, opened it out,  pulled it up to the right height, then rammed a wooden template against the entire side of the revolving clay to create the desired profile. All in a matter of seconds, the pot was formed. Impressively fast, definitely efficient, but totally soulless-  he worked like a human machine.   It was plain that he had no time for students and their fancy, newfangled ideas! 

When I think of the beautiful, joyful studio pots I've seen, handled, used, sold and coveted over the years I know that he was entirely wrong to assume that there was one one way to throw. But perhaps one HAS to have that mindset to be able to churn out hundreds of identical pieces hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year? 
Replica Wassail Cup by Graham Taylor

Replica Greek Douris Cooler By Graham Taylor, decorated by me

Planter by Graham Taylor, remodelled by me.

Handled bowls by Hugh Mactavish of Argyll Pottery 

Do watch this programme if you have any interest in crafts, manufacturing or social history! Perhaps it will also give you a little more appreciation for the work of craft potters, who still work in a similar way- using mind and muscle in harmony to create their wares.

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