The Pottery Story

Trevor W new

by Trevor Withers, potter

Gill and I became friends working together in a little office for a charity which serves churches with training and resources for small groups. Gill regularly stayed after office hours to do her work as she had spent much of her day in conversation with others in the building. The atmosphere changed through Gill being there and the sense of community that she helped develop was very noticeable.

In one of our many conversations over a cuppa whilst taking a break from the computer, we discovered that we both had a love of pottery or ‘ceramics’ as Gill called it! I had enjoyed throwing pots at school as part of my art timetable. In fact, I threw them as part of my language learning timetable as I convinced the French teacher to let me do European studies and then negotiated with the European studies student teacher to let me go and do pottery. As a result, my French is practically non-existent and I know very little about Europe. I can however throw a pot! Gill it turned out had done a couple of courses and loved all the history associated with the development of potteries in the UK.

Neither of us had followed this up for many years and we both thought it would be good to rekindle our interest. We looked online and found a kick wheel and with the help of a friend managed to purchase it. We very excitedly went to pick it up thinking this would be the beginning of our adventures into pottery. Despite our enthusiasm the wheel sat in the back of my garage largely untouched. Other things always took priority over getting together with Gill to throw a pot or two. This it seems is often the case with creative endeavours.

A surprise discovery one summer stirred our interest once again as Gill announced that she had remembered she had a kiln in her shed. Sure enough this proved to be the case. A friend had brought it for her daughter who had lost interest and it had been given to Gill a while ago. Well there was nothing to stop us now! Or so you might think, but still we didn’t seem to get around to doing anything and this creative project lived only in our minds. The kiln was rescued from the shed and stood next to the wheel in the back of my garage and there they sat dormant keeping each other company just waiting.

A combination of events occurred to unlock our stalemate situation. The first was realising that we needed a designated space to work in. We found, through another friend, a spare room in an old factory building which with a clearout and a coat of paint could be used as our pottery. The second breakthrough came when we did something so simple I am rather embarrassed that we didn’t think of it before. Gill suggested that we found a time in our diaries where we could agree to meet in the pottery once a week. We settled on Wednesdays at 4pm, and although not rocket science, having a regular time for the pottery made a huge difference. Once it went in the diary it happened and the fact that I was expecting Gill to be there and she was expecting me, meant that we honoured our commitment. SoSo, for several years now, unless something very major happens, you can find Gill and I in the pottery at 4pm on a Wednesday!

Things gradually took shape. For the first year we didn’t have running water, which was clearly not ideal for a pottery. This changed when I fitted a sink and we had cold water at least. Then luxury arrived as a new tank was put in and hot water was available. Something else happened sort of by accident really, when we began to invite people to join us. We would have conversations and mention informally to people that we had a pottery, and we saw people become energised as they shared stories of how much they enjoyed making things as a child but hadn’t done so for ages. They talked fondly of the dinosaur they made as a six-year-old, or the pinch pot they had proudly taken home from infants school. As a result, we have since had a steady stream of people through the door and our little room is often buzzing with conversations as people sit and paint spots on a mug or have a go on the wheel with squeals of delight as something takes shape or, more often than not, spins off, followed by much laughter.

Why not join us, we're open between 4 and 6pm most Wednesdays.