Dreaming of death

And for those interested in the psychological impact of all this change, I had a very striking dream the night before moving into the studio. I dreamt that my old boss telephoned me in the middle of the night to tell me that one of our colleages had died. It turned out to be someone I didn't actually know from another team that he also manages and in my befuddled state it took a while to work out what he was telling me and why.

The scene then changed and I was in my car on Shoreditch High St trying to pull over so that I could talk to him safely, whilst still listening and de-befuddling, I was also finding that the brakes were not working properly and the car was continuing to roll slowly down the hill as I tried to steer it into the curb to stop it.

As K diagnosed the next day - a classic transitional dream! She considered it particularly interesting that the person that had died was unknown to me, as she interpreted the dead person as a part of myself - and thus a part that was not really me. That's certainly how I always felt about the person I was at work...

Moving day

Hooray! I moved into the studio yesterday - very exciting! I picked up the keys on Wednesday evening from Mizuyo  while she was covering her friend's lovely shop Momosan in Shoreditch.

Thursday morning was a mad rush to take my bike in to be re-wired then back home to collect my boxes of tools & buckets/sponges etc, wait for a wab and then off to the studio to await deliveries.

I cunningly left my phone at Mr H's so was uncontactable on the day - so had to spend most of the day hovering on the walk way watching every van that came in to see if it was for me. Top planning there!

Anyway, the wheel arrived safely on my very own pallet, and provided lots of lovely cardboard and packing peanuts etc that I'm sure will come in handy one day. It felt good to unpack, move a few things around in the space and start making it my own.

Sadly, because I was uncontactable the second big delivery did not set out for me, so I will have to wait til tuesday for the clay now. My own fault.

Luckily there was a workbench and a desk and a swanky leather reclining office chair and some shelves and sone drawers left in the space so there's enough to be starting out, but I am already pondering additional lighting, some more shelves, and either a new higher table or a way of raising the height of the workbench as it's much to low for me... which could be tricky as the partition is screwed into it... Lots to ponder over the coming months.

Also met some more of others who have spaces in the studio, including Buddug and one of the guys from Parasite ceramics. I look forward to getting to know them better.


As well as dreaming of making pots I have also been pondering how on earth to sell them. Mr H is clear that he thinks a market stall is a good way forward and I can see advantages in selling directly - getting a chance to see how people respond to the work and what they like/dislike as well as not having to give other retailers a cut. Mind you, I dont have a car so I'd have to either do it all by bike/trailer, or find a way of getting a car share either with a friend or through something like zipcar. Logistic concerns aside I got news last week of 2 specialist markets so after a busy morning learning how to roller-skate I stopped by to check them out.

First off was a rumoured new 'designer-makers' market on one saturday a month at Spitalfields. I've been going to the sunday market for a decade and have long been a fan - despite being a bit sad out all the changes as the area is increasinlgy gentrified. Anyway, apparently there were new opportunities for makers so it had to be worth a look. It turned out to have a lot of familiar faces/stalls, but perhaps 2/5 were different to the regular Sunday offering, with a range of hand-made items; lots of jewellery and clothes etc. I found them in the last corner and dont now have a very clear memory all of 3 days later. (telling???). There were lots of tourists around, but it was a lot quieter than the Sunday crush. Still I imagine the regulars think it's worth the effort if they are tunring out?

Next stop was the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, venue for the second annual Renegade craft fair. This was a bit tucked away upstairs, but there was a reasonable Brick Lane crowd milling about and finding their way up. The organisers seemed like a friendly bunch, there were lots of activities to join in with, and they were advertising in Time Out as well which cant hurt. There was a lot of print and textile-based stuff that people could do at home (which fits with their renegade/outsider/diy line), but also some nice ceramics.

These included chunky jewellery and small porcelain cups with a great turquoise glaze by me me me, charming pots for succulent plants by Atelier Stella, a company called Ham (which rather perturbed my vegetarian sensibilities) but had a good strong graphic style they were producing on a range of wares and an entirely ceramic range by Laura Lee in a completely different and very colourful style.

Before I set out I had been having the fear - that my work would not be good enough, that I would not be good enough - you know the drill. But oddly, seeing other people's work made it seem much more possible. Each was of good quality in its own way so it's not that the standards were in any way low, but I guess reality is much more achievable than the impossible standards that my head seems to set for me sometimes!

It would be interesting to hear how other makers approach the issue of how to sell their work - and how they combat the fear...

Simple pleasures

I've had a pair of these lizard sconces for 20 years, and they've been in the same spot on the bedroom wall for at least 9, but yesterday morning they surprised me with these lovely shadows. I guess it must have been the angle of the autumn light and a gap in the recently lopped plane tree outside, but whatever the reason the point is that it was lovely.

Wheel-ly big day

Yesterday was a big day - and an expensive one, I bought my wheel. After searching in vain for suppliers in London I decided to go up to Stoke to visit Potterycrafts, as they had the biggest range I could find. I'd looked at the options beforehand online, but didnt feel able to make a final choice without seeing them all in the flesh.

I'm left-handed so one that went on both directions was essential, and I'm also tall and didnt want to spend my days hunched over a tiny machine, so some height was important too.

After some discussions over the phone we shortlisted the Shimpo Whisper, the Roderveld Max red and the Brent C. All these were waiting for me in the show room when I arrived, plus a Cowley hush.

They were all quiet - which I had been hoping for after the monster I'd used in class that rattled even when stationary and truly grated on my nerves. They all had 1/h hp as well so there was nothing to compare there. Some were belt driven and some had direct drives, but I'm not technical enough to know which is supposed to be better.

The Brent and the Cowley didnt have extending legs and so were the least tall so I crossed those out.

A random visitor to the show room (who seemed to have taught throwing at Harrow) said the Shimpos were very popular - more so than the Alsagers, and later that he had never used a Roderverld but knew they were supposed to be good. He also helped us extend some of the legs and mentioned that they could safely be stood on breezeblocks for extra height (and that you can stand on the tray of a Shimpo if throwing something huge!).

I was pulled towards the Roderveld. It was such a nice thing with it's red body and wooden shelf and sturdy metal tray. My colours and no nasty plastic bits here.

However, I also wanted a lotus style head so that I could move newly thrown pots around still on their batts and no such thing was available for the Rodervelds so I had a nasty decision to make...

In the end I went for the Shimpo with its fancy head and not quite such long legs. I can't say I'm in love with the way it looks, but it is soooo quiet it's amazing!

Roll on next Thursday when it gets delivered.

While I was in Stoke I also went to check out the ceramics gallery in the Potteries Museum, but that's another story...

To do... or not to do...

This morning I had 37 things on my to do list and the sun was shining. What did I do? I got on my bike. I finished my old job last friday, and get the keys to the studio on the 20th, so i'm in a funny transitional gap / set up period / holiday at the moment.

The list has some pretty big stuff, like buying a wheel, choosing glazes and buying clay etc as well as preparing for a last chance saloon event at my current photography exhibition.

However, since doing the Artist's way I have been trying to make an effort to do what she calls 'artist dates' reasonably regularly as they are an excellent way of focussing on what you actually enjoy. I've discovered that I like to get out and get active and exploring is always good, as is anything involving water.

So today, I rode down the greenway to Beckton, got lost, found the river, went across on the excellent Woolwich ferry.

Got lost again where the path was detoured, went past the Thames barrier.

Found a funny sculpture made of flotsam and jetsom.

Stopped for an emergency sandwich in the corporate hell of Greenwich peninsula and then road the exciting new cable car back over the river, detoured to my favourite bird reserve.

And then back along cycle superhighway 3 and up home again. Thank wotsits for tea and Gillian's ginger crunch waiting in hte kitchen when i got home.

It always feels good to get out in the sun and get a water-fix. It was good to stretch myself and do a few more miles than usual - not as hard as I thought. And I love the change in perspective of going up high!

Inspirations: treasure!

I spent last Monday morning beach-combing on the Thames foreshore in Wapping. It's something I've been meaning to check out for ages and finally got around to it. Hooray! I love water, and in the absence of the sea, the Thames is pretty good. There are even waves when boats go by.

It was hot and sunny, there was sand and stones and all kinds of random bits & bobs to investigate, plus a seagull to keep an eye on me.

Here's the treasure i brought home, including square nails maybe from a boat, a cleat, some bits of worn ceramics including pipestems, bones of varying ages and sizes, a stone with a hole in, a 'pebble' made of London clay (Which i am trying and failing to track down for my work and so am rather obsessed with) and even a shell or two.Not sure what I'm going to do with them yet, but something will come to mind...

Artists' circle 2

Like many people I have been working my way through Julia Cameron's "Artist's Way" this year. Unlike most people (apparently) I got to the end in July. One of the things she reccomends is setting up an artists' circle to support you moving forward. I am fortunate to know several likely candidates, and we have got together and met twice now.

Last sunday we met in the garden because we all live together and nobody could be bothered to go out and spend money. It was nice, but slightly odd as others from the community meandered by.

We started with a go-round. Pretty much everyone was tired and not in the mood, but we did it anyway.

We shared our most recent work. I had the stamps for my business cards and some newly printed photographs and got some feedback on what to give away and what to sell at a forthcoming exhibition event, K had an excerpt from her book and P had a poem about crows - plus a great kids book about a baby crow doing beak stands.

We made collages on a rather randomly selected topic of "bright light". Here's mine. There was also a geeky discussion about collaging techniques, I focussed more on overall structure, P worked on aligning elements within adjacent images.That all took at least 2 hours, so we ended with a quick go round of inspirational quotes. Mine was:

"Curiosity is the greatest form of insubordination"

(That's from Nietzche via the internet)

Then we set the date for the next circle, in c. 6 weeks time. We all felt much better at the end!

Business cards for the creative with no work pictures

So, people at work have been asking me if I have business cards - which I take as a good sign. But it created a bit of a quandary - pretty much all of the cards for creative people I have ever seen have photographs of their work on. I dont have any work I am that happy with yet, but I need the cards now.

Lying on bed on sunday morning I realised that I could make my own with block prints. And here they are.

I made some little blocks of some of the motifs I have been thinking about anyway and used these as background patterns in white and red, and then made blocks of some generic pot shapes that I printed over the top in black. For bonus diy points everything I used was in the house anyway. Fret not, they do have contact details on:


Last minute jitters

Yikes! Woke up feeling worried yesterday, guess it's the jitters. Am I doing the right thing? All these people I respect telling me i'm good, that "museums NEED people like me" - am I giving up too soon, abandoning something i've proved i'm good at for a crazy hare-brained scheme? What if i'm no good at doing ceramics? What if nobody buys anything? How will I cope with embarressment of rocking up to the studio and having no clue what to do... Partly fear of the unknown.

Partly feeling the pressure of what other people want me to do and my old habit of giving them what they want.

But that approach is what got me into the doldrums of work that doesnt satisfy the basic truth of who I really am and what I find fulfilling, and as Ms P points out the ultimate foolishness is to carry on repeating the same actions whilst hoping for a different result.

So i'm sticking to my guns, feeling the collywobbles and doing it anyway.

On resignation

After many months of soul searching and battling with my inner sensibilist I finally decided that I definately wanted to change direction and do ceramics full time- hooray. Then I had to actually tell the world- scary. I made a bargain with myself that as soon as i had actually found a studio i could leave my job. I found a studio 2-3 months ago, but wont be moving in for another month. That gave me a timescale for leaving my job. I have been working at a great museum, the team are lovely and I didnt want to make things difficult so i decided to stay until the end of the Olympics. The service is in the process of being rescturctured and my job will definately be going, and i have known this for some time. It's one of the things that encouraged me to take stock of what my real purpose in life is. It's also been extremely stressful and difficult to deal with as the timescale and outcomes have been very uncertain and as a manager i didnt feel it was appropriate to show my distress at the situation too openly when the team (i felt) needed me to hold it and the team together. So, challenging times. Plus there was the redundancy payment to consider. I've been working in local govt for 14 years, so it's potentially a decent chunk of money. I dithered a lot about the sensible thing being to stay and get hte payout versus the humane thing of not going through the torture and getting on with what i really want to do.

In the end i told my boss that i was planning to leave. He was surprised and finally actually said that he had had me in mind for a new more senior management post, which was nice to hear - though it would have been nicer 6 months ago. He also explained all the many ins and outs of the redundancy process and tried to encourage me to stay on either in one of hte new jobs or at least until he could could get someone else in and we had done a handover. I dont like letting people down so that was all a bit discombobulating and i didnt feel able to resign in that meeting after all.

I went home and thought about it all: i would have to attend go through the formal consultation process and then an interview with people i knew for a job i didnt want and fail to get it, and then go into a pool and resist the council would try to shuffle me sideways into other jobs for another 3 months and only then actually be able to leave with the money - and only get hte additional bonus if they decide i have played nicely... It was all too much and too wierd and nasty and far far to long. So i decided to just resign and walk away from it all.  Fortunately I have enough savings that this is possible.

I knew exactly what i wanted to do, but had struggled a lot with convincing myself that i was allowed to allow myself to do it. That didnt make actually doing the resignation any easier. Plus i felt a terrible unidentified fear about telling people at work 1 that i was leaving and 2 why. In the end i resigned by email at 5 to 5 on friday afternoon and then went on leave for a week. It meant i didnt have to face the fear too much or get talked out of it again, and it was a big relief. But it was also rather unreal.

I realised afterwards that i was scared that the team would feel i was betraying them, or that they would take my departure from the museum world as some sort of criticism of them for staying in it. It helped to identify the fear, and i pursuaded myself that they wouldnt really respond like that if i told them the truth.

When i go back from my holiday i had a long letter from my boss basically not accepting my resignation, re-explaining all the options to me,  encouraging me to reconsider and asking for a meeting. When i got back to work it turned out he was off sick for days. That was horrible, i knew i was leaving, and soon, but no-one else did so i had to go on pretendeding that everything was normal as i didnt feel i could tell anyone else until the formalities were sorted.

Eventually on the thursday he came back in and we could meet. I finally met with him and explained why i was leaving, why i was doing it now, and why i didnt want to stay and get hte money. He finally accepted my resignation after i re-confirmed it all in writing.

Finally i was free to tell the team. Except that none of htem were in the office. They were in other buildings and working from home and ill and on leave. I was bursting with news and wanted to tell them asap. So instead of telling htem all together as planned, i ended up telling each of them that was in individually. Actually this was good, they were all really lovely in the way they responded and i got to spend the whole afternoon having nice 1:1 discussions with people about the value of doing what you really wanted to in life and the excitement and when they could come and visit, and could see that they were genuinely pleased for me, even inspired - and realise again what lovely people i have been working with.

At hte end of the day i got home and finally felt that it was actually real, i was able to celebrate with one of my housemates and an impromptu bottle of cava. Finally the feelings of fear and dread were swapped for relief and excitement for hte future. A big day!

Holiday report

I've been off for a week having a lovely holiday is Suffolk, relaxing and enjoying the sun. A great time for a breather after actually handing in my notice ant work! Also visited a great place in Southwold called Craft Co. It's a coop originally set up by 10 craftspeople and runs a shop to exhibit and sell their work. They now have premises on the high st, over 100 members and lots of tempting stuff. The exhibition on when we visited included Ian Starsmore's ladders which I found oddly moving.

  I really like the idea of coops generally, and think running a place like this collectively is a great way of getting your work out there. All I need now is 9 other people and a shop. Any takers???

Learning from the pros

After some frustrations with evening classes - and a total nightmare during my foundation class trying to learn to throw left-handed with only the aid of a right-handed tutor who was into hand-building - I decided it was time to crack it. I wanted to be able to throw properly. Everything I had been doing at evening classes was not centred enough and ended up uneven. (And caused a lot of jokes about me needing to be more centred (I live with meditating types)).

So. I booked a week long course with Deborah Baynes, whom I had found whilst googling, or was it more of those small ads in the ceramic review?

Anyway, off I went with my fancy new apron (a long waiters one with a spilt up the front in a fetching red & black spiral pattern).

It was hard to start with, un-learning all those old habits, but by about half way through the week it suddenly started coming together, my coning worked, my lumps of clay were centred, my pots were even. Hooray!

She made us start by trying to make 'cooling towers' that went in before they went out. Centrifugal forces had other ideas and everything went outwards whether I liked it or not.

We worked late into the night in the pottery behind her house. Eventually I got things under control

Each day she demonstrated new shapes; cylinders, jugs, lids, casseroles etc, culminating in the dreaded teapot. I never imagined I would get that far in a week - but dear reader I did! I was so pleased I trumpeted around the pottery using my spout as a trunk! (I was the youngest student there so got away with such behaviours.

She also showed us a nifty trick for making rectangular dishes but slicing through the base and pushing the sides in. Easier done than said as it turns out.

All in all it was a great week, and I'd happily have stayed for more. Deb kindly fires and glazes everything in her one spare minute per month. Cant wait to get the finished results.

Getting a workspace

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I tried doing evening classes. You probably have too. They are just too short to do anything in, particularly with ceramics when you have to spend so long wrapping everything up and cleaning up.

And its not an easy thing to do at home. Particularly if you share a house with others, or live in a crowded city, as I do.

So I decided to look for a workspace of my own.

A lot of the big studio providers were not helpful. They wanted a portfolio before they would think about renting you a space. Total catch 22 as I cant produce a portfolio of work until I have somewhere to produce it.

I did find a useful website you could search to find all the currently available studio spaces in London. You can't search by what you need from a space (like water) but it was helpful in discovering just how many companies and organisations are currently providing spaces.

(When I'm back home I'll dig out the address and add a link in case it's helpful)

Basically I ended up trawling through everything offered by all the providers looking for something that fitted the bill.

I wanted a decent size, daylight, water, power, close to my house, not tooo expensive and preferably other potters in the vicinity.

One place in Bow was very promising, and the people were very helpful - despite my lack of portfolio. Again I'll try and add a link.

But in the end another route came up trumps...

Having subscribed to ceramic review, I was avidly reading the small ads and found one for a shared studio in Hackney. For some reason I didn't follow it up for a month, so when I got in touch that space was gone. BUT. Luckily for me someone else had decided to move out and Igot the next space.

I move in on Sept 20th. Can't wait.

I'll have 1/5 of the space, nice people to share with, communal kilns to use - and amazing views over east london!


I had a sudden recollection of a happy summer when I was about 11. I grew up on the edge of Milton Keynes and spent a lot of time roaming the nearby fields with friends. We climbed trees. We build dens. We named everything. We ate corned beef sandwiches and loved them. And we paddled in the stream and built dams. I particularly remember squelching about in the mud at the edge and the lovely feeling of it squishing up through your toes.

So the title is in memory of childhood fun and the importance of mud.

Starting out

Hi all, I've been reflecting a lot on life recently. I realised that, despite having put in 15 years and a phd, my current career does not fulfil me and I just plain don't enjoy it. Time for a change. But what???

The thing that fires me up most is being creative. I love having new ideas and being inspired and making things. This is what I want to be doing with my life.

I did an art foundation course back in the dark ages after I left school. I loved it. It was like playschool for grown-ups with all those materials and bits of kit to play with. The thing I most loved was ceramics.

Somehow I wasn't brave enough then to study ceramics more, or try and make a go of it. I don't think I appreciate how special it was to love doing something that much.

So. Fast forward 20 years. Now I know what I love, how that compares to the way I have been earning a living. And I've decided to put all my energy into making a go of it now.

Some of the things I experience or learn may only be of interest to me at my most navel-gazing-est, but some of it may be of use/interest to somebody, so I'm planning to record it all here.

Wish me luck!