Monday, 20 February 2017

An Introduction from Winchcombe Pottery

Winchcombe Pottery - a view of the workshop from the road. This is looking towards the kiln room and you can see the chimney sticking through the roof. 
Hello, my name is Joseph Fuller and this is my first post for Adopt a Potter about being an apprentice at Winchcombe Pottery. I started here at the end of 2016 and there are so many things I have learnt already and I will use this blog to post about the different aspects involved in working at the pottery. I also want to write posts about my thoughts on pottery in a wider sense and use the blog to chart how they develop as my knowledge and experience increases. First of all, though, I will just introduce myself a little with a bit of background.

Outside the workshop, where we cut and stack the pine before moving it under cover to season for around 6 months. We cut the wood using a saw attached to this beautiful old tractor.

Some years ago now, I studied at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, at the University of Oxford, concentrating mainly on painting and film, and after graduating in 2010 I worked as an artist’s assistant in Brussels for a while and then in Mumbai between 2011 and 2013. I then tried a number of different jobs, including time with Oxfam and as a teaching assistant in a secondary school. After moving back from India, alongside working, I spent a lot of time looking into finding a craft, but nothing ever quite seemed right. I missed working with my hands, which I had not done properly since university, but, importantly, felt that I wanted to find something away from art (I am hoping to write about this move away from art and towards craft, in greater length, at another time.) I really wanted to learn a skill, to be able to get to the end of my life having committed to a craft and attempted to really understanding something.

The glazing room at Winchcombe - this is where the biscuit-fired pots are glazed before being taken through to the kiln room for a firing.

Then, as a Christmas present, my parents paid for me to attend a ceramics evening class at my old sixth form college. I had no expectations at all. I was very fortunate: The course was led by Graham Hudson – a wonderful, patient teacher. About half way through the course we had our first go on the wheel. I was attracted by the difficulty of the process and it felt like a challenge, especially with my initial struggling compared to the grace of Graham’s throwing. More immediately, I was drawn to the directness of the relationship between my hands and the material. I decided there and then that I wanted to work towards acquiring the skill of throwing and to become a potter, and to challenge myself to commit to what would clearly take years and years of serious hard work. After the course, I was fortunate to be able to spend a year at Dove St Pottery with David Worsley in West Yorkshire, for my invaluable first experiences of a pottery workshop.

My wheel at Winchcombe on day 1 - completely clean and spotless, before I have thrown a single pot on it. It is quite different now and one of my favourite feelings in the pottery is the rhythm of shelves filling up and emptying as you move through the making process.

That brings us up to now, and I am very excited to be joining Winchcombe Pottery, which will be an amazing place to develop my skills. There is so much history at Winchcombe, which in truth is quite intimidating for someone at such an early stage in their career, but I see it is as one of the best challenges: to study it, to understand it, to respect it and to then learn to be confident and humble enough to make your small contribution to it all. I am looking forward to experiencing life as a production thrower and to being part of a team at a pottery. I am keen to learn about wood-fired kilns, something I have no experience of, and to explore making slipware alongside the standard range. Up until now, my own work has tended to be quite minimal in design with quiet glazes, but I am going to take this year as an amazing opportunity to experiment and explore and to be open to picking up different techniques and languages within making pots, with no fixed ideas of where my work should go.

So, this is the beginning.

A view from Cleeve Hill, a few miles away from the pottery. I went for a walk up here on the first evening when I moved down to the Cotswolds. It is an amazingly beautiful part of the country and it was a great place to ponder this next stage in my life.

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