It’s Spode Open day on 6th and 7th October 2018. It’s at the studios at the old Spode factory site on Elanora Street, Stoke-on-Trent.
As well as the studios being open you will also be able to see an exhibition of the artists work in the gallery space. These are the pictures I will be showing.
Spode studios are run by a charity called Acava and part of the remit of the charity is to allow the public to come in and see what we are doing. Allowing the community to see the creativity in its midst.
The open day is on from 11am to 4pm on both days. You could also visit the Spode visitor Centre, the works canteen cafe on the same days.
Stoke on Trent is such a creative place. There are Pottery classes and ceramics courses for people to join. Artistic hubs and creative groups. Music, art and history all in one small city in Staffordshire. I am proud to live here.
I think they are by Minton which was a Pottery that went out of business a few years ago when a lot of Pottery manufacture went abroad because it was cheaper.
I know lots of people admire these tiles and they are often found in hallways in old victorian houses in this area. Our local church, St Thomas’s has tiles by Minton. The factory was based in Stoke-upon-trent, which is one of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.
Many of the people in the town were laid off from factories in Stoke, including Spode. Only a few places still make Pottery now, including Emma Bridgewater, Portmerion, Moorland Pottery, Moorcroft and I think Wedgwood…. There is also a tile manufacturer called Johnson’s tiles. But nothing really compares to the beauty of Minton.
While we were at Gladstone today we saw a couple of interesting ceramic techniques. The first was by a lady called Tez. She was firing some raku Pottery. She had some pots in a metal bin with a gas jet heating it at the base. I didn’t find out what temperature she was firing at, but she said it takes about 40 minutes for a firing plus the work on the pots afterwards. Once they had been fired the pots were taken out of the bin and put in another one to rapidly cool causing crazing in the glaze. The lady put lots of beech shavings on top of the pots so that it smothered the fire. We were told that the wood sucks the oxygen out of the air around the pots and is a reduction reaction causing the copper in the glazes to shine through in a wonderful sheen.
The other technique we saw was more subtle. This time another potter put her pots in a box of burned sawdust ash. The pot was then covered in fresh sawdust mixed with white spirit. She sprinkled some of the burnt ashes on the pot to mask some areas then set light to the sawdust. As it burned it gave a mottled effect on the pot. It looked like it was being aged.
Finally there was some traditional stone ware pottery for sale. Fired in an ordinary kiln but also lovely to look at
Starting with a ceramic head I made in the 1980s at a pottery class. It has lasted through many years and many plants. This year its just planted up with lobelia, but the fuschia that was in it in 2017 was spectacular.
The second photo is part of a Chinese bridge at Biddulph Grange gardens. A wonderful garden owned by the National Trust at Biddulph, North Staffordshire. The garden is split into different areas including one based on Egyptian architecture, a Swiss cottage, an ancient grotto, and the Chinese pagoda garden. It’s a fascinating and beautiful place to visit.
One of the odd things they have there is in picture number three. This is an upturned tree root that is covered in moss, there is a whole section of them lining the steps down to the grotto, the trees must have been huge before they were hewn.
The fourth photo is a phone error. Probably because I had too many images on my phone, so two photos of daliahs are grouped with the hedges of the daliah walk at Biddulph. The picture is totally random, and the colours just happened.
Using the Layout app from Instagram, I created this surreal image using a photo of a local canal with a strange thin building projecting upwards from what appears to be a circular or oval pool, the water was so still it had a lovely reflection on it, and this has added to the final picture.
The building is the edge of an old, derelict, warehouse that stands like a cliff face next to the canal, in the past ware from the pottery would have been transported from the pottery, south and east to the Midlands or north and west to the coast at Liverpool or up to Manchester and beyond. In fact Stoke-on-Trent lies at the heart of the canal system, and was built around the coal, clay and water of this area. Manufacturing of pottery, steel making and coal mining was on a massive scale here. Industrial archaeology will reveal the landscape as an amazing historical treasure trove of creativity. Some of the buildings were lost to demolition and decay, many bottle ovens have gone. The rest have protection orders on them, but are not necessarily being maintained. Warehouses and factories are crumbling. It is sad that history is being lost.
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!
For years I have drawn a little cat in a hat, useful if you want to talk to someone and they have a fidgety child. I would ask if they would like me to draw them a cat, and then draw this motif, with a pointy hat, and a name tag on its collar so the child could choose the cats name.
I also like decorating pottery so took the opportunity to do so at Trentham Retail village. This is on the A34 near Trentham village, a couple of miles South of Stoke-on-Trent, near the Stoke South junction of the M6 motorway.
There is a shop there selling pottery called the Potters Barn. They have glazes and blank pottery so you can decorate pots yourself. I know it’s usually for children, but I don’t see why adults can’t do it too.
Anyway I painted two cats, so you will see one or the other depending on which hand you hold the mug in. There are various things to paint so I chose a large mug. It cost me £15, but when you think that’s including the firing of the mug, it’s no too bad.
The final result should be bright and cheerful. I added numerous flowers in the background and dots on the rim. I should get it back I a couple of weeks.