In July 2006 I gave up full-time employment as a software engineer to concentrate more on ceramics. I now teach ceramics in an adult education evening class at Hills Road Sixth Form College. I am an active member of Anglian Potters. I have regularly exhibited with them and was elected to their Selected Membership in 2007.
Ceramics has always been calling to me somehow. I started my ceramics career at primary school with a burnished model of a house sawdust fired to a rich shiny black. Although I did try my hand at making a slab built pencil pot, secondary school offered scant opportunities to work with clay, set as I was down the sciences route through education.
I went on to study Engineering at Cambridge but an opportunity to touch clay again didn't present itself until some years later when I enrolled in evening classes. Immediately I wanted to work on the wheel. At first it was frustrating, as anyone who has tried it will tell you, but I persevered.
I gained slowly in skill and confidence but the first big step change came when I went on a two week throwing and decoration course in Italy with John Colbeck at Pietro Elia Maddelena's workshops in Tuscany. Inspired, enthused and equipped with much improved skills, it wasn't long before I wanted more control over the making process than evening classes could provide. I needed my own studio.
Taking delivery of my new wheel and kiln was the start of another big step change. I had to teach myself glaze technology. How to fire a kiln. How to recycle clay and so on. There is no substitute for practice however and this is what having my own studio gave me.
Although my science background helped enormously with glaze technology, I needed help to develop my work artistically. To this end I enrolled on a City and Guilds course at Cambridge CRC. In these classes, taught by Rebecca Harvey, Paul McAllister and Lizzy McCaughan, I learned to develop work from external sources of visual inspiration. Indeed, many of the themes I explored during that time continue in my work today.
Thus far my work had always been fired in an electric kiln but despite trying to layer clay and glaze for more depth of interest my heart has always been with fuel fired kilns, and especially with wood firings. I have always been more interested in form than in decoration and the possibilities offered by wood and salt firings seem to compliment these preferences better than electric firings. So began the most recent learning phase in my work. How to design, build and fire a wood kiln.
My first wood firing was a raku firing during which most of the pots exploded as I hid from the flying shrapnel. Then came stoneware and earthenware firings in an Olsen style fast fire kiln. I realise now how little I knew then about wood firing but armed with what knowledge I had, I built a combined wood/gas fired kiln for soda firing. It took me a year to build up the courage to fire it but the results were encouraging. Next I built a train kiln and had a successful 24 hour firing from that. This kiln gave me a glimpse of how wood firing should be but I still had so much to learn. However, firing it led me to visit Ben Brierley at Loughborough and to see him fire an anagama kiln. Walking in on the third day of a firing expecting to see frantic activity and instead being offered fried bacon was the clue I needed that I had yet to fire a wood kiln properly.
The latest firings of my soda kiln are with wood only, using local willow split down from logs. And it just isn't frantic any more.
Shows and Exhibitions
I have participated regularly in Anglian Potters open exhibitions since 2002 and in Selected Member exhibitions since being elected in April 2007.
I have sold work through the gift shop at Pakenham Watermill.
I have demonstrated and sold work at various craft fairs: Newmarket Art, Craft and Design (2007), Ickworth Park Wood Sale and Fair (2007) and events at Pakenham Water Mill (2006 & 2007).
My work has also been taken by Imagine Gallery in Long Melford and Haddenham Galleries in Haddenham.
I have also undertaken selected commissions.
- Svend Bayer large pot throwing course, Aberystwyth Arts Centre Easter 2007.
- Demonstrations by leading makers organised by Anglian Potters (3 or 4 per year since 2002).
- City & Guilds ceramics at Cambridge Regional College (not entered for examination).
- John Colbeck Throwing and Decoration course, summer 2000.
- Evening classes 1997 - 2001.
- Engineering Degree, Clare College Cambridge 1988-1991.