All fired up for throw­ing a pot

To cel­e­brate this year’s Bucks Open Stu­dios TOM HER­BERT vis­its ceram­i­cist Jeremy White and learns it re­ally isn’t as easy as it looks

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

HAVE you ever seen some­thing on TV and thought, ‘Wow, that looks easy - I won­der what the fuss is about?’

We’ve all done it, watch­ing skilled ar­ti­sans and crafts­men cre­ate some­thing out of noth­ing and think ‘I could have a go at that – it doesn’t look too hard’.

Well, I’ve of­ten thought the same about pot­tery, although re­ally my only ex­pe­ri­ence of ceramic art on the box has been the 1990s clas­sic film Ghost.

So, with Un­chained Melody stuck on a loop in my head I was sent off on a rainy Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon ear­lier this month to the Wen­dover house of artist Jeremy White, who kindly let me have a go at his craft.

As my guide for the day Jeremy, who de­scribes him­self as a con­tem­po­rary ceram­i­cist, says he has been in­volved in pot­tery for the last nine years and take in­spi­ra­tion from unique places.

For in­stance he showed me works of art that were in­spired by the rock mark­ings on the Corn­wall coast­line and Shake­speare’s The Tem­pest.

Fol­low­ing him out to his small work­shop, Jeremy talked me through the mo­tions of how to pot and cre­ated a very nicely turned out jug - and then it was my turn.

With his artis­tic di­rec­tion run­ning through my head in a jumble I slowly low­ered my­self onto the re­ally small stool in front of the wheel and strug­gled to ma­noeu­vre my­self into place.

‘If I can’t even sit on a stool grace­fully,’ I thought, ‘how on earth am I go­ing to ma­nip­u­late a whirling wet grey blob into a clay-based mas­ter­piece?’

My left foot stepped onto a clutch at the side, too gin­gerly at first as Jeremy told me to give it some more speed.

The wheel span quicker, the clay that had been placed there by Jeremy ear­lier on was doused with water and then my hands wrapped around it, try­ing to mould a slimy wet blob into, frankly, a flat­ter and fat­ter slimy wet blob.

‘No,’ Jeremy tells me, ‘use the bot­tom of your hand’. ‘I am’ I thought to my­self through imag­i­nary grit­ted teeth.

He points to­wards his lit­tle fin­ger and palm on his left and says this is what I must use to ‘cen­tre’ the pot.

The right hand is placed on top of the squidgy – but dis­con­cert­ingly tough – mess and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing thumb is pressed down to flat­ten it as my left hand pushes into it to raise it.

I must be hon­est, I couldn’t see why we were do­ing this be­cause when we fin­ished it looked re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to how we started.

‘Do you see the dif­fer­ence?’ Jeremy asks. ‘Yes’ I re­ply, nod­ding and grin­ning inanely (I didn’t).

And we went again, us­ing a us­ing a sur­pris­ing amount of up­per body strength to cen­tre the clay.

Then two fin­gers were placed in­side and one was placed on the out­side and both hands were slowly moved up the jug to mas­sage the clay higher, although a more vig­or­ous in­side fin­ger re­sulted in mine look­ing rather fat bot­tomed.

We re­peated the process, run­ning fin­gers up the in­side and out­side slowly un­til it could make a pass­able jug.

Cre­at­ing the lip by pulling the top down was, once again, harder than Jeremy made it look as mine came out look­ing like it had been punched in the face, all fat lip and bul­bous in the wrong places.

When fin­ished it was placed next to Jeremy’s and a trained eye would strug­gle to tell the dif­fer­ence - un­luck­ily for me a trained eye was, in fact, stood next to me and I got a ‘good ef­fort’ for my trou­bles.

He has promised to post me the fired ver­sion and I can­not wait to see what it looks like, although I should per­haps tell my house­mates to ex­pect some­thing frag­ile through the let­ter­box.

Jeremy has opened up his stu­dios to the pub­lic as part of Bucks Open Stu­dios, which sees par­tic­i­pat­ing artists take part in a month long, record break­ing event from Satur­day June 11 to Sun­day June 26.

The an­nual event, which is one of the big­gest in the coun­try, in­cludes 332 en­tries made by more than 500 artists.

For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.buck­sopen­stu­dios.org.uk.

In a spin: Tom and Jeremy with their fin­ished ar­ti­cles. Left, Tom gets to grips with the pot­ters wheel.

PHOTOS: STEVE PORTER BE162149

Hand made: Tom’s jug grad­u­ally takes form un­der the tute­lage of Jeremy White

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