Sunday, 27 November 2016


Hi there! Its almost Christmas and production at The Marches Pottery has upped accordingly. Here at the workshop in Ludlow, we have a gallery/shop in front of the studio and everything we make gets sold through it. It's quite an unusual set-up for a pottery, with pieces very rarely going out to (mainly local) galleries and no outside stockist of the standard ware. The whole system works well though, with the shop being filled by roughly a kiln's load of work, and it taking around 2-3months for the shelves to start thinning, and for us to make another load.

I am responsible for making the majority of the standard-ware now and am trying my hardest to increase my production pace. I am a careful thrower and often take longer than I'd like on repetition pieces. If I am to ever run my own studio, its important that I'm able to manage my time and work quickly and efficiently. 

Andrew is currently very pleased with the quality of my smaller pieces, but is concerned about my ability to throw larger bits of clay. He's encouraging me to throw flower pots and tall jugs as practice -I cut them in half at the end of the day to check my throwing, and only keep the best to turn and glaze. I did my usual thing of getting initially way too stuck-in, and ended up with some seriously aching arms! Throwing bigger lumps of clay (I'm talking 4-8lbs) requires different techniques to smaller pieces. There a lot to learn in terms of using my bodyweight and different parts of my hands to centre and control the clay.  It an exciting time though, and I really want to get there so that I can throw at a scale that will take me out of my current realm of small tableware. Below is a picture of some 3lb jugs.

Towards the end of summer a friend of Andrew's started on building a small gas kiln in the yard. Its a Joe Finch designed gas-kiln that Andrew's had in pieces, waiting to be assembled for a couple of years now. It been really interesting to build a kiln from scratch and has got me much more clued-up about the firing process. I've never fired with gas, so I'm looking forward to see what it produces too. Below is a picture of the very satisfyingly flat concrete floor we laid ready to start building on top.  

I took sometime in October to focus on developing my own work. I had been part of a small group show in Essex earlier in the month and had wanted to get some new work through the kiln but fell short of time after Andrew sadly put his back out. It was still a great impetus to think about my own style and what I want to make for myself. I have been looking at West and Central African art and ceramics a lot recently and I believe its coming through in the work I'm making. Its a really great feeling to have reached a point in my skill that I can begin to successful express something of myself. Below is a picture of some vases that I'm particularly proud of that demonstrate the influences of more african forms that I will look to pursue in the future. 

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A day in the life of The Marches Pottery

Hello again! I thought for this blog post I would share with you a typical day for me at the pottery. I have been with Andrew as his apprentice for a little over two years now, and, although every day is different, there is always some sense of rhythm and strategy to what we do.

The kiln at the pottery is relatively large, with about 9 cubic ft of packing space. It takes 250-300 pots (including small ones) to fill, and usually 2-3 months is needed to create the volume and variety of pots required for a glaze firing. A variety of shapes and sizes is important, both to get a ‘good pack’ that will force the flames to work their way around the kiln, and to ensure we have a good selection of pots to put in the shop in the end. 

I am responsible for making the smaller items; espresso cups, mugs, bowls, little vases, etc. Andrew was keen that I learn all parts of the process, so I throw, turn, bisque fire and glaze all of the work I do. Any work I make for the pottery gets marked with the pottery stamp, Andrew’s work is marked with his own and I have a stamp my personal work too.

The day usually begins for me at 9am, and usually ends around 6 or 7pm.  There is coffee at 11am, lunch at 1:30, tea at 4pm - cake, always.  On this day, I began with turning some espresso-cup saucers. We don’t usually make these but somebody had asked especially for them, and it became a good opportunity for me to learn a new trick or two.

Pictured below is one of the saucers in a shallow inverse chuck (support) that enabled me to turn away the foot rings quickly and without damaging the rim. Andrew had suggested that I also make a regular chuck for cutting away the cup indent. I forgot to do this but managed to use the first chuck again successfully, with just a little soft clay to support it. Andrew saw this and said nothing - which usually means he doesn’t entirely approve, but is willing to let me go ahead, and if I mess it up I wont forget the lesson. Learning from your own mistakes is very important!

 Foot ring ready to turn in the chuck

 Finished foot ring

Cutting away the cup seat in the same chuck

After coffee and before lunch there was time to make a quick dash to see Mark Griffiths who has a pottery a few miles away in Culmington. He was firing his new wood kiln and had invited us over to see it in action. I had never seen a wood firing and was very impressed and intrigued, I would really like to fire with wood in the future and have been reading up about it recently.

Mark's wood kiln

After lunch, it was glazing time. I left the saucers to dry in the shade (of which there is plenty in the beautiful garden), and headed to the kiln shed to make up some of my first ever glaze tests. I have focused on making, and learning about form and throwing until now, and have only really just felt ready to start looking at coming up with my own direction for colour and glazes. It was a very timid start, but a start at least!
Saucers and vases drying in the shade.

My first glaze test at The Marches Pottery

Tea was had at 4, and then I set about the final task for the day; making sense of the great number of bisque fired pots that were waiting to be glazed. I needed to sort out which of my pots needed to take which of the 10 or so glazes we use, and make sure each of those glazes were made up and of the right consistency to use.  

Bisque fired pots, ready to be sorted and glazed.

With that job completed, I had just enough energy left to climb out of my overalls, and another day was done :).

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A good firing at The Marches Pottery.

Hello! My name is Isatu, I am this year’s apprentice for the Adopt a Potter scheme. I have been apprenticed to Andrew Crouch at The Marches Pottery for almost 2 years now, and am very grateful to have the opportunity to get stuck in to my 3rd year full-time, thanks to AAP support.

On the 11th March we did our first firing of the year. It usually takes about 2-3 months to make and glaze enough pots to fill the kiln here, and we’d been in no great hurry after a busy Christmas.

The kiln at The Marches Pottery was built by Andrew and his brother, Keith, when they first set up the pottery in the early 80s. It is oil-fired and is only used for gloss firing, which we always reduce to get Andrew’s subtle range of celadons, tenmokus and rusts. It has taken me a long time to get used to the kiln, because it is big and noisy and ferocious.  For a long time I just watched Andrew tend it (‘tether it’ as one friend described it), but over time I have built my confidence and understanding of it, and am now able to comment, occasionally intelligently, on its progress, and take part in some of the tasks involved in seeing it through its 16-18 hour cycle.

This firing was particularly good. It felt like it was the first sunny day of the year, and there wasn’t a breath of wind. The whole schedule ran very smoothly; the day was calm and a little quieter than usual, thanks partly to the well-behaviour right burner that Andrew had managed to successfully adjust after some spluttering and buffeting in previous firings. Andrew and I both refrained from saying anything, eager not jinx it, and just enjoyed the day, knowing full well that actually it could very well be going terribly wrong inside.

Luckily it didn’t. It was a very even firing with no patches of oxidization or under or over-firing. The celadons were crisp, the tenmoku black, and the white was gleaming and unctuous (a favoured word at the pottery). I had put through the usual pieces of standard ware that I make for the shop; espresso cups, mugs, jugs and bowls, and also some of my own work. I was particularly pleased with my mugs, as I had managed to achieve a successful proportion and rim, and my handles really are ALMOST there. Andrew was very pleased with my glazing, and said so, which was nice (yes, that is a gross understatement of my emotions).

It is April now and we are only a week away from another firing. I hope this one goes as well as the last, and I hope, as always, that my pots are better this time. 

Packing the kiln

Bricking up the door

Clamming up the door


Oil-burner in action

Checking the reduction - looking at the flame

Checking the cones for even heat absorption 

Burners off

Breaking down the door after a two-day cool down


Some of my standard ware for Andrew

Some of Andrews work

Some of my own work

Until next time Xx

Sunday, 6 March 2016


February 2016

I haven't posted in a long time, as my apprenticeship finished in June 2015.
I decided to let people know what I have been up to since then.

I continued to work full time at the Leach Pottery as part of the production team.
This was a great opportunity for me to continue learning. Lots of different things happened
during my extra time there. We gained a new SeaSalt Apprentice, Matt Foster, as well as another volunteer apprentice from Canada, Jordan Scott. Matt has no previous pottery experience and Jordan studied ceramics at University in Canada.

We had a resident artist from Japan, Shinichi Miyagawa. He is from a long line of potters and will soon take over the family business. His plan was to visit the Leach to gain inspiration and to decide what direction to take his work in.

Whilst Shinichi was with us he performed a tea
ceremony in the studio and gave us traditional
Japanese sweets. The were all served using
pots that he made at the Leach Pottery
during his stay.

I decided to leave St Ives and move to Kent,
where I can set up my own studio and begin to offer lessons to people wanting to learn
throwing skills. This decision was made just before Christmas, with a view to leave in
February. This gave me time to make plans and source equipment etc. I also spent a lot of time making my own work, so that I would have enough to leave some at the Leach to sell in the shop, as well as taking some with me to Kent to sell in the shop in Rochester that belongs to the Nucleus Arts Centre. These were some of my favourite pieces.

I am now in Kent, I am in the process of setting up a studio at Nucleus Arts Centre in Chatham.
This is the website:

The studios seem pretty active, we will be organising open studios soon, as well as exhibitions
in the on site gallery space. There is a cafe for members of the public to come and relax.
This has all been made possible by the training I recieved as a result of my Adopt a Potter funding.
The Leach Pottery held a fundraising day for me, to help me raise the money to buy the equipment needed to set up. Lots of people have contributed to my new venture, so thank you to all of them!
I will be putting everything in to making it a success. Here are a couple of images of the studio.

This is the courtyard outside the studios, where
the cafe is. On sunny days, it will be a nice place to sit out and have a coffee! But in the winter, the inside is very cosy.

And here's my studio! I hav got another big
wheel coming soon, they just need new drive
belts, but I am in the process of sorting that.

Here's all the shelving! I just need glaze ingredients, I have bought the shleving to put them on, figuring out what to order and how much to order will be a big task!

So it's all exciting at the moment. I have got a few shows booked this year, so I already have something to aim for. And soon I shall put together adverts for throwing lessons. Fingers crossed it will all go well.