My first feeling for pottery came when, many years ago, I went to The Wedgwood Works. There I was given a piece of their blue clay to throw, with help, and it felt lovely. I still have the small jar I made. But I have always loved pottery. When I first went to Greece in the 1960s I worked on a boat and we stopped at several inlets on the island of Sifnos, where in those days everyone was a potter, making mostly cooking pots. Most were plain locally dug terracotta clay glazed on the inside. I bought some, and still have one or two. I lived for more than 20 years in Greece. We explored the country, largely on dirt roads, and always came home carrying ceramics. Each one told a story.
In the 1980s I came to live here and worked in Oxford; I had no time for 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. Interestingly the African art I still collect in a very small way is largely made from beer cans, old oil barrels. There is a wonderful ingenuity about them.
Eventually on retirement I went to live in Zambia with my then partner ¬– we had first met when we were in our 20s. I helped supervise the building of our house made of home-made bricks dug from a pit and fired in the garden; it was thatched with grass I bought in huge quantities from the central market. I made a garden with two ponds, for which I collected white and blue waterlilies from the Zambezi and Kafui Rivers. I edited the Ornithological Society of Zambia newsletter. Those wonderful experiences shaped my taste in many ways. Avoiding running over pennant-winged nightjars at night, purple starlings nesting in the garden, giraffes, leopards, elephants and hippos, let alone crocodiles was unforgettable. Overall I have travelled in 12 sub-Saharan African countries.
Back to Long Wittenham and retirement; children getting on with their own lives. I signed up at the 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, so I gave that up. Now I do pottery with Jane Hanson.
I have a pottery in the garden, a small electric kiln and a large gas kiln. During lockdown it was difficult to motivate myself, but I have now got going again, and additional to some interesting plates I have made several pots with images of 2020 as history. Come and have a look!
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