A good pottery holiday

So this week I have been in the South West of England, across the three counties of Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset.  There was lots of travelling because there isn't much in the way of civilisation between all the potteries, but that is nice in some ways, very much unspoilt rolling hills and winding lanes.

Mike Dodd's show room, this is just the smallest of the three walls covered in pots.  Mike Dodd was the first potter we visited, as we wanted to visit on a day he said he was open.
One of his big pots that I would have brought home with me if I actually had any money.
Mike Dodd's Kiln was the first I saw all week and it is just a bit bigger than the gas kiln I used to fire in at University and he complained it wasn't big enough.  I really got kiln envy this week, with my little Eco 45.

On Wednesday we also visited Lisa Hammond at Kigbeare Pottery which was about 3 miles from where we were staying in Okehampton, and when I mentioned I was a potter I got the grand tour by her latest apprentice Bethan Jones.  The pottery is better equipped than my university and I didn't want to leave, I wanted to stay there and throw.

We started Thursday by driving all the way down to Land's End in Cornwall, we got there and the fog was so thick that we couldn't see a thing, the tourist centre wasn't open as we arrived before 10am.  not wanting to wait we headed back towards St. Ives the fog was quite thick until we came around the coast and the bay opened up before us, it was amazing in St Ives and was so much nicer than the town here in Cleveleys which is also a seaside tourist town.

After spending the morning in St Ives we took the bus to the Leach Pottery (in hindsight if I knew it was that close I wouldn't have bothered with the bus).  We took the tour of the pottery and watched the video, the guide on the tour quickly picked up I was a potter and started talking about bits she didn't know.
After the tour and looking in the old kilns, I went out to the car park to find the Apprentices packing the soda kiln ready for a firing the next day as stock was running low and they had a scheduled opening on Saturday which they invited us to but we knew we would be at John Leach's Pottery that day.

I put my camera back in the car and waited for Jack Doherty to come back to the Pottery and he gave me a personal guided tour of his studio in Bernard's old studio upstairs which was full of just fired pots and then through to the production pottery and showed me the hidden wheels.  It is an amazing space and wish I had taken my camera on the tour.

I honestly didn't want to leave St Ives and would of happily spent the rest of the week there, especially if I could have worked in the pottery, it seemed a peaceful friendly place to work.


We started Friday looking for Svend Bayer's Pottery outside Sheepwash, we got to a crossroad's where we couldn't work out which was it was and as the was a van behind us we ended up going and seeing Clive Bowen's Shebbear Pottery first (No pictures from there) though panicking about a show that is 4 weeks earlier than he anticipated he took time out to show us round his pottery and showed us his big bottle kilns, I can't even imagine having enough work to fill it ever.

After lunch we visited Svend Bayer at his Pottery it is very quiet there and he is next to the woods, you wouldn't spot it if it weren't for the chimney and the wood pile.
This is one of his Anagama kilns, this is the bigger one, the smaller one he recently took down citing that the brick were failing and was rebuilding from the ground up.  There is chopped wood every where.
Some of Svend's big pots. they just seem so flawless, they are very different to the work of Nic Collins who makes pots to have imperfections.  I asked Svend if they were hard to put in the kiln, I got a single yes.  After having a good look around I picked out a mug, paid and left him to his peace.
We knew we had found Hollyford Pottery when we saw a lone chimney as we came up the lane, potter's chimneys are hard to miss.
This is Doug Fitch's Hollyford Pottery, it seems very tranquil in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farm land. He showed me round his pottery which is the smallest of the week, but no less impressive.  He even took me down to the stream and I brought home a ball of clay with me, it is so close to such a brilliant natural resource and it is a nice colour too not like the clay I found the near my house which goes putrid green when slaked down.
Doug hard at work decorating his jug, it is still fascinating watching other potters at work and I think I always will no matter how good I get at making pottery. I had to be dragged away from  Doug's studio as I was having a good chat with him while my fellow travellers sat in the car.

We went to the Kiln opening at John Leach's Muchelney Pottery and John Leach did some amazing demo's.  He even gave me a one to one demo on pulling handles off of a pot the pot in question was a spoon rest which he said was the strangest piece of work he has ever put a handle on.  He is so warm and friendly, and teaches like a caring grandfather when it comes to giving criticism.
This is the middle of three chambers in John Leach's Kiln, with the front part already emptied read for everyone turning up.  By the time we left the table of seconds was empty and quite a number of the signed pieces had been bought too.  Everything seemed to be selling well and it is definately a well marketed event.  Nick Rees told me about the kilns and about the various work that they do.

The last potter on our trip was Paul the Potter, just 15 minutes away from Muchelney Pottery at Barrington Court, once again I forgot my camera.  I loved talking to Paul and looking around the pottery and  at the buildings he was in, we don't have those sorts of barns up here in Lancashire not with proper tiles etc. He has some amazing plans for the future and another potter I will definately visit again.

Thanks to Doug Fitch, Paul Jessop, Mike Dodd, Lisa Hammond, Svend Bayer, Clive Bowen, Jack Doherty, John Leach, Nick Rees and all the apprentices (and a few other potteries I can't remember the names of) Thank you for letting me in and looking around, I just wish I had taken a few more photographs, but I always feel awkward taking photos of people especially when my young brother is a photographer and was with me.

After this week though, I want to be part of something big, something that is more than one man, I want to look for an apprenticeship again.  I would love to work in the Leach Pottery but without being able to drive it is a long way from here in Lancashire.

I have lots to do this week, hopefully going to pick up some supplies from Pilling this week, to rush make some things for Christmas.


  1. A marvellous trip, glad you're getting inspired!

  2. Looks like you got around quite a bit! Its interesting to see the variations in kilns, it seems something thats really individual to each pottery and potter...

  3. Spent the day rolling out clay, two bags of Terracotta done and a bag of stoneware, getting everything done for Christmas.

    I did a bit of throwing too was trying to loosen up aiming for "wonderful imperfections" Steve Booton keeps quoting from me. Wish I was doing it on a kick wheel but have slowed down my wheel to a crawl to add more character to the pots while ensuring they are well thrown.

    And the kilns differ completely with the amount of pots too, the shapes of them all are so amazing. Even something like an anagama varies depending on the maker too Svend Bayers are so uniform but the others are so haphazard and amazing they fire to Stoneware.