My pottery is a combination of mostly hand building and painting, as you will see. But politics and world images have become important to me this year, although only one tall pot so far shows some of the images that have impressed me over the last year.
My first feel of pottery came when, more than 15 years ago, I went to The Wedgwood Works near Stoke-on-Trent. I was given a piece of their Wedgwood blue clay to throw, with help, and it felt absolutely beautiful, and I still have the small jar I made. I have always remembered the feel of that soft blue clay.
I have always loved pots and when I first went to Greece in the late 60s I worked on a boat and we stopped at several bays the island of Sifnos, where in those days everyone was a potter, mostly making cooking pots, yuvetsia and yuvetsakia (casseroles and small casseroles). Most were plain terracotta clay glazed on the inside, but some had lids and were colour-glazed inside and out. Inevitably I bought a number of them, and still have one or two.
I eventually lived more than 20 years in Greece, had a family there, and we travelled over much of the country, largely on dirt roads, and we always came back to Athens carrying some ceramics, plaques from Pilion, terracotta with white decoration from Skyros, and so on. Each one told a story. When the war with Turkey nearly happened in 1974 we, with a six-month old Miranda and two and half year old Penelope had been up by the Albanian border and then back to Pilion to relax, only to find that we had to drive back to Athens for my husband to be called up.
Then I came to live here and worked in Oxford and had no time for new hobbies. I brought up the girls, married again and travelled quite a bit with Denis (an academic ecologist), who had worked and lived in Uganda in the past. Unsurprisingly I got interested in Africa. Curiously the African art I collected in a very small way was largely made from beer cans and old oil barrels and woven plastic. There is such wonderful ingenuity and skill all over Africa.
Eventually on retirement I went to live in Zambia with my then partner ¬– who I met in Oxford, but I had first met when we were both in our early 20s. There I helped supervise the building of our house made of home-made bricks dug from a pit in the garden; it was thatched with grass I bought in huge quantities from the central market. Then I made a garden with two ponds, one running down a rockery into the second; I collected white waterlilies from the Zambezi River and blue ones and papyrus plants from the Kafui River. We camped all over the place in the bush and visited all the national parks. I edited the ornithological society of Zambia newsletter.
All those years, first with Denis and then much later in Zambia, were wonderful experiences which shaped my taste and ideas in many ways. Carefully avoiding running over pennant-winged nightjars on the drive at night, a pair of purple starlings nesting in the garden, giraffes, leopards, elephants and hippos, let along crocodiles in their natural environment was unforgettable. Overall, on counting, I have travelled in 12 sub-Saharan African countries.
Back to Long Wittenham and retirement in Oxfordshire; children getting on with their own lives. What to do? So, I spent that summer going to Oxfordshire Artweeks studios, looking at possibilities. I signed up at the college in central Oxford, now City of Oxford College, to do pottery with Jane Hanson and Graham Hudson, and at Jasso in Abingdon to do jewellery-making with precious metal clay. I loved both, but the cost of silver went up a lot, so after a while I gave that up. And now I do pottery with Jane Hanson.
I have a pottery in the garden, a small electric kiln and a large gas kiln, which I am still rather afraid of, but fire occasionally. I have to admit that I found it difficult to motivate myself last year during lockdown, particularly as the weather was good and the garden called. Like everybody else I grew lots of vegetables, not always successfully. All last year I read a lot, and cut things out of the paper, and have now made a few ceramics using transfers showing a little of the story of last year. I think I was a little over-ambitious, but it is fun. Come and have a look!