Homing in on creative ideas

I got a chance to follow-up on my wild photography experiences, this time back at Pett Level beach. I roamed the beach as the tide went out, exploring the shingles and rocks and sands and rockpools and waters edge. Looking closely to see what was there and hoping that one particular place might call to me.

As I wandered it struck me that the whole beach was really the soft sandstone cliff in the process of dying. Below the cliff huge boulders with sharp edges show that they have recently 'calved' from the rockface. The edges get smoothed and shaped by the sea in the next band of coastline and then right out at the low tide line are the abraded sands. Below it all, and only visible at the point of low tide is a layer of grey clay - great for me - but quite possible cause of much of the instability in the rocky headland?

After my wowzer moment at Rock-a-nore seeing the amazing boulders there I had come to Pett Level looking for a less populated version of the same thing, and so my early visits to Pett Level I focussed very much on the rocks.

However, assessing my recent maquettes I realised that the one that interested me most was actually born more from the sands.

When I stopped being blinkered by my expectations, of what a beach should be, of what I was interested in, and attended to what was actually there, what was the character of that place & what about it drew me - I was surprised to discover that it was not the rocks.

The place that drew me was a small patch of sand about 15" across nestled against a rib of projecting rocks and slowly being revealed by the outgoing tide. It might not sound major to go to a beach and be called by the sand, but for me it's a bit of a revelation. My family are very rocky and I'd grown up being a bit sniffy about sandy beaches, dismissing them as boring. But it seems that there is something appealing to me about the transitory nature of the sands, shifting and sifting as the tides take them, bearing within them the grain of the cliffs above, revealed as the waters drop while I wait & watch.

The process of finding this interest within myself was also significant and told me that my unexpected choice of the sand-ripple forms as the point of departure for my next round of creative experimentations was a good one.

Pick of Coastal Currents Arts Festival 2017

Coastal Currents is Hastings' own arts festival. I saw a little bit of it last year but am excited to see more - and to participate - this year.

The festival has a big open studios strand, and my space will be open for the weekends of 2/3 & 9/10 Sept from 11-6. Guest artist Jemma Wyllie will be joining me to show her work too.

In the run-up to the festival here's my personal selection of things to look out for.



New maquettes

As I mentioned in a previous post I have been playing with some new coastally-inspired ideas recently. The initial maquettes were a way to try out some of these ideas, some new clays and also some different firing techniques.

Once they were all completed I was faced with deciding how to proceed. This sort of decision making process is often a trigger for self-doubt and over-thinking.

This time I tried not to think too hard about it- instead I looked at everything, handled it & just went with my gut response of whether or not I felt it was interesting/appealing to me right now.

Not interesting/appealing right now

Not interesting/appealing right now


Still some whittling down to do, but starting to get somewhere...

'Dish of the Day' exhibition opens today

I'm very pleased to announce that a selection of my work will be on show at the wonderful Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool as part of their contemporary tableware exhibition 'Dish of the Day'. The preview is tonight so do go along if you are in the area.

Sadly I don't think I'll be able to get up there to see it in person but I look forward to seeing some photographs. Having been there in the past I'm confident that all those that do get to visit will have a great time!

Dish of the Day / Saturday 22nd July 2017 - Saturday 26th August 2017

This exhibition will highlight the contemporary ranges of beautiful handmade functional tableware that is being produced by potters across the UK.

Our dining table will also include ranges of complementary table linen and utensils in wood and metal with furniture by leading makers.

Confirmed makers include Clod & Pebble, Emily Doran, Dove Street Pottery, Helen Faulkner, Teresa Green, Miriam Jones, Lindean Mill Glass, Hugh Miller, Marged Owain, Pottery West, Jane Sarre, Charlotte Storrs, Kaori Tatebayashi, Michael Taylor, Christine Toh & Sarah Went.

Breaking rules, making brushes and marks

As part of my new emphasis on more creative work I have been forced up against lots of head-stuff; unspoken rules, shoulds, inner criticalness, perfectionism etc etc etc. Bleurgh!

I am trying to focus as much as I can on the things that inspire me and to listen to them and the creative decisions that happen in the moment of making. I have also decided that the only rule here is that there are no rules.

One old rule that got stuck in my head was that pots with 'decorations' were not for me - a valid response to growing up in the 80s when everything had some horrible random motif printed on it (toaster with wheatsheafs I'm looking at you!). But as a result lots of potential for mark-making and interesting surfaces got thrown overboard.

I came across a brush-making workshop that australian artist Lorna Crane was offering and felt a whisker-twitching itch to participate. Sadly the funds did not permit such long distance travel, but the idea was planted and I decided to have a go at home, using only materials I had picked up on the beach.

None of the materials were collected with this in mind so interesting to see what could be made with whatever was on hand, in my stash of previously scavenged bits and pieces some natural some not. Here's some first results using ink to draw with my new brushes, some of them were quite surprising.

Inspirations for some new creative work...

Since moving to Hastings I have loved exploring my new surroundings. Drinking it all in - and having a bit more space and time to think - has lead to some surprising developments. It has inspired me to start playing with some new creative ideas. I don't know where they will take me yet as it's very early days so far but it feels very rewarding to be able to focus on my art and inspirations and the early creative play that seems to be necessary before new finished pieces can be born.

I will share some of the processes I am exploring with you, and some of the results when we get that far...

For now, here's some views of the coast at nearby Pett which is inspiring the current developments. I have been looking particularly at organic forms, surfaces and the ways in which forms and voids relate.

South East Open Studios ends this weekend

I am opening up my new studio again this weekend, as part of SEOS, along with guest artist Celia David.

Here's a snapshot of what's available...


Details are on the Events page if you'd like to come along in person to say hello, snap up a bargain or just have a look-see at the new space.

Congratulations to P.Franco!

Congratulations today to one of my clients; the creative, talented and hard working team at P.Franco for their place in the Top 100 UK restaurants according to the National Restaurant Awards. They are serious about the wine and food pairing and turn out amazing dishes from a tiny kitchen so it's great to see their work being rewarded and to play my small part in supporting their endeavours. Bravo!

All photos by P.Franco.

Garden design by Burle Marx

As spring progresses we have become more aware of the state of our new back garden and how much better it could be. A chance sighting of Brazilian designer Burle Marx's work on tv has been inspiring. Initially an artist he brought an artistic vision to his work as well as a committment to the place he was working, using native flora and style rather than harking back to a European tradition. What I particularly relished was his use of structure - in a way that was not formal ( a big eye-opener that has set my mind whirring!), rhythm, repetition and block planting to draw attention to the characteristics of one plant. I also enjoyed his focus on the character of a plant as a whole rather then being tightly focussed on flowers as so often happens in English gardens to rather ditzy effect.

Here are some pictures of his own garden that I found on the internet...

Woman plans, gods laugh

As regular blog readers will have noticed I had planned a busy summer for myself and the pots, including a stand at the forthcoming West Dean Arts & Craft Festival. Unfortunatly the universe / the gods / pure dumb luck / whoever had other ideas.

Last weekend, whilst watering the allotment, I managed to fall down a hole hidden by long grass and sprain my ankle. This has caused a level of pain and immobility I would never have imagined possible from the term 'sprain'! (I'll save you from an image of the ankle itself in all its puffy purple splendour).

As a result I have been forced to slow right down, spend huge amounts of time resting, and accept being confined to the first floor. I have also had to accept that I will not be able to spend the whole summer rushing about as intended and have had to revise my plans. This has been a hard lesson to learn for someone as inveterately busy as myself, but perhaps it's for the best in the long run. Instead I shall be concentrating on getting the new studio properly set up and doing a smaller number of events in a less frenzied and more prepared fashion.

I will now not be appearing at West Dean, or taking part in the Southern Ceramic Group Show. The summer workshop series are also being re-scheduled for later in the year. My apologies to any of you who may have plans effected by these changes.

My next event, for 3 weekends in June will be South East Open Studios starting on Friday 9th. I'll be posting some more details on the blog & social media etc between now and then and look forward to welcoming you to me new 'shedquarters'!

5 to see at West Dean Arts & Craft Festival featuring Made

It's a long show name and a long roster of inspiring makers for this marquee show in the West Dean gardens. This will be my first time showing there and I am really excited to see the work on show there. Some are old favourites I always like to check in with, others are new to me so I'll have plenty to explore.

 Elaine Bolt ceramics

 Elaine Bolt ceramics

James Dougall silversmith

James Dougall silversmith

Linzi Jones knitwear

Linzi Jones knitwear

Sarah Drew jewellery

Sarah Drew jewellery

For more details and ticket bookings etc see the website.

Do something creative this summer

If you'd like to turn off the screens and go and do something different instead (as the tv show of my childhood suggested) why not enjoy a weekend at the seaside doing a pottery workshop?

I have a programme of 3 courses coming up:

Make your own geometric vases and ceramic boxes, August 26-28 2017
from 199.00
Booking type:
Book now

Each workshop is designed to work for both beginners and intermediates, so I will start right at the beginning demonstrating some of the basic techniques for working with clay and suggesting forms that you might like to make. Intermediates can stretch themselves with more complex designs and I'm happy to discuss ideas and provides tips for improving the work.

Lunch and snacks are provided. Groups will be no more than 8 participants so it will be sociable and friendly but not so busy you can't get your questions answered! There will be free time at the beginning and end of the day for you to make the most of our seaside location to relax and get creative.

After the workshop ends your work will be fired and glazed and then posted back to you.

Limited early bird tickets are still available so do book soon to get a good deal.

See the full details here.

If you have any questions do get in touch.

New work: Limited edition designs

I am at my happiest exploring new creative ideas so this is a big treat for me. In fact, in order to give myself more of this I've decided to start an occasional series of 'limited edition' pieces. These are functional pieces designed to compliment the main Feast and Simple pleasure collections, but can also stand alone. They are a space to try out new techniques and approaches etc and I look forward to seeing how people respond to them at upcoming shows.

The first two are a butterdish with a freestyle hand-cut rim and a cheeseboard with water-etched handles.

The detailing on each piece is done differently each time so that each one is individually distinct.

A maximum of 25 of each design will be made.