We visited Middleport pottery in Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent today to see “weeping window” a memorial made of 11,000 ceramic poppies placed on a bottle oven in the pottery. The poppies are some of the ones that were on display previously at the Tower of London and have been travelling around the country for the last couple of years. You are supposed to book a visit but as the number of people going to see the display has reduced we were allowed in without booking. We had to park on a designated car park as the local streets have parking restrictions at the moment and you could get fined.
The poppies commemorate the worth anniversary of the 1st world war,”the war to end all wars” which sadly did not stop humans fighting over and over again as they have since our ancestors first fought many thousands of years ago. Many if the poppies were made in Stoke-on-Trent so its good to see them come home although there was a fight to get them.
The display of poppies cascade down the oven, spreading out on the ground, representing blood and the fallen soldiers that were killed in the war.
I drew the scene but had to slightly shorten the bottle kiln to fit it on the page. I also struggled to represent so many poppies. We then visited the rest of the pottery, including the steam engine although it was not working today. There was quite a crowd so I only sketched it briefly.
On our return to the car park there was a large poster with the poem by John McCrae written in 1915. I decided to draw my own version of a poppy to go along with it.
Middleport pottery is very interesting, there is a museum on site, plus artists and ceramicists with their own studios. The tea shop was very busy but we managed to get a table. There was also a display by students from clay college who are doing a two year full time course to learn the skills of pottery making before they are forgotten.
Although the weeping window display ends in mid September the pottery is well worth a visit. It’s surprising how much goes on round here!
I went to a model train show last year and while my partner was looking at the model trains I decided to draw a Morris Minor that was parked outside. There were a few of them there and I had a chat with one of the owners. It turned out the people were from the Potteries Morris Minor owners club. They love their cars and the Morris I drew was beautifully presented.
I decided to do the sketch before I realised I had not got anything to sketch with, I had a tiny sketch pad but no pencils… so I used what came to hand which was a black biro. The drawing was going well, but the biro ran out. Thats why part of it is blue. I could pretend it was reflected sky, but that is a lucky result if running out of ink!
Morris Minor cars are iconic. Thet are beautiful. They are classic cars, their shape is streamlined in that old fashioned way. They came in different shapes, my favourite is the Morris traveller. It looks different because it has wooden spacers between the metal panels. I wish I knew more about them!
We had a lovely sitter tonight called Debbie McAndrew. She is an author and play write and also sometimes acts. She wrote a brilliant play called “dirty laundry” that was on last year . It was set in the past and was about the history of the potteries.
We had an entertaining session drawing her and discussing all sorts of things, including how she got into the theatre and acting and how the group got into drawing and painting.
I really enjoyed the session and think that I got some relatively accurate portraits from it.
I used pencil, charcoal pencil and black ink to do the drawings. The sketches are in a small sketch book with good thickness cartridge paper.
I like drawing in these books. There is enough room to fit the drawings in, and they are small enough to hold so that it is not a struggle to hold the book. Other people were using A1 or A2 sheets to draw or paint on but I prefer the smaller size. About A5.
Anyway I shall just leave you to decide if you like them…
Things are changing at the old Spode factory site.
Old buildings that don’t have much historical merit are being demolished and older buildings , or more architecturally important ones are being released from their imprisonment in brick, mortar, chip board, steel and concrete.
Like an archaeological dig tipped 90 degrees, new surfaces and entrances are being uncovered. Courtyards with windows newly on view. Stacks of saggars piled on shelves up at those windows, small or large, flat or square ….the weight of the saggars must be tremendous. I wondered if the shelves are rotting and if they could collapse .
I remember seeing a film called “solarus” or “solaris” once years ago. By Tarcovski? A Russian film maker. The character’s moved through a post industrial nightmare, and I can’t help thinking Spode uncovered would make a brilliant film set.
A recent film called “jawbone” was filmed at Spode. They recreated a boxing gym in the China halls there. So many new views. ….
walking along the new pathway to the studios there, I wonder at the air we are breathing in, dust everywhere…how do we know there is no asbestos or other contaminants?
The feral cats of Spode can be friendly. A grey and white Tom cat was hanging about next to the Hulton art pottery. We were told that someone is thinking of rehoming him. He had water and food….my partner wanted to take him home. But we already have two of our own cats. I think he will be OK. I have nicknamed him Maurice. ….
Some paintings I have worked on and a Mini Mona Lisa. ..
The first four are recent paintings that I have worked on because I was not happy with them. Water and Earth are both part of a series (including Air and Fire) I also want to improve them.
Leaves was originally a single leaf but it was very simple and I wanted to add more to it. The leaves are from my imagination. I sometimes use art as a way of helping my memory. If I can remember what something looks like I can use the memory for other paintings and not necessarily use reference photos. I dont have a photographic memory but I sometimes describe an image to myself, like the way a gutter and drainpipe are attached to a house. If I can describe it I can draw or paint it.
Autumn pottery is based on a “pot bank” the kilns that were used for firing pottery in the past. Now they use gas tunnel kilns. The plants are roses and cotoneaster. They are to represent vegetation growing around old, derelict pot banks. The blue background could be sky, or the water from local canals.
The final painting was a quick copy of the Mona Lisa, taken from a very old book on anatomy for student artists. I know it is wrong, the face is too thin, the smile is wrong. But for half an hour’s work its not bad. It’s on a tiny canvas about 1 inch by 2 inches.
So there you are, more paintings, its something I do.
I found some surreal drawings I did a few months ago in an old sketchbook….
It was just before Christmas and I was thinking of ideas for cards that would incorporate cats and pottery. I was experimenting with cats keeping warm, or towering over bottle ovens, their poise as they step across and round objects.
I was also playing with scale. Why should the cat be tiny and the bottle oven huge? After all there are no written rules for art.
These are just sketches, and the photos were taken on my phone camera so I don’t think they are very clear. But you get the general idea. I may take them further by colouring them and tidying them up.