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Potter

In March 2010 I found some old photographs of four of my pots. These are at the bottom of the page.

Cornwall Technical College, where I did my two years of teacher-training between 1969 and 1971, included Redruth School of Art, which had a phenomenal craft potterís course. As a teacher-training student I got a little bit of ceramics - very little, from my point-of-view. However, I was fortunate enough to make friends with Hugh West, one of the írealí pottery students, who helped and encouraged me tremendously as I got very heavily into pottery. I built my own kickwheel and primitive paraffin-fired kiln, and experimented with all the amazing minerals which the Cornish tin-mining industry had brought to the surface over the centuries. I continued the interest at The Curnow School, designing and building a top-loading electric kiln (even winding my own elements!) but later buying a írealí front-loading one.

Hugh taught me more in a few evenings than our tutor did in the whole two years of my course. He was a fabulous thrower who was generous in sharing his skills with me.

Stoneware bottle made between 1971 and 1984

This stoneware bottle is the only pot of mine that hasnít been lost, broken or left buried in a box we havenít unpacked since we moved from Derby in September 2005.
It was thrown on my home-made kickwheel using a rough stoneware body supplied by Bill Doble, a farmer in St Agnes, Cornwall, whose land contained a large deposit of fireclay. He blended this with a highly plastic ball clay from English Clays in St Austell - using an old corn mill belt-driven from his tractor!
The bottle (always a difficult shape to throw) was scraped with a sawblade to roughen the surface - and probably to hide the fact that it wasnít well-enough thrown to leave as it was! - and cross-dipped in commercial oatmeal and tenmoku glazes before being high-fired in the electric kiln I bought for school.
This is an excellent result from an electric kiln - particularly the black tenmoku breaking to rust.

I did a couple of years of evening classes at Redruth, taught by Harry Isaacs, who had trained at the Leach Pottery in St Ives (and who, when I last looked, was Mayor of St Ives and involved in the restoration of the Leach). One of my proudest moments was when Harry was being pestered by a crotchety old Biology lecturer from the college for help with his pot. He obviously thought that being a senior member of college staff gave him special privileges. Harry turned round and said: íAsk Mr Marsden - heís a potter.í

Sadly Brookside School in Derby had no facilities for pottery so, like so many of the pursuits I had enjoyed, this one slipped away from me. I even left my precious kickwheel behind at The Curnow School.

In 1996 I tried another evening class in Derby - really in the hope of meeting women after Wife Number Two departed - but after years of high-fired stoneware I didnít take to crummy earthenware.

Before that, though, I visited my old friend Hugh at his pottery in Cornwall and had one wonderful day throwing on his brilliant little Japanese electric wheel. In June 2009 I found the photographs Hugh took of me attempting to throw pots, ten years after my last encounter with a wheel.

Can I still centre the clay?
Would I still be able to centre the clay?

Itís on centre!
Iím not telling you how long it took to get this on centre!

Opening the centred clay
Getting the pot into shape.

The base is trimmed
Thatís the base trimmed up!

Safely off the wheel
Safely lifted off the wheel!

A dayís work
All this throwing - and pulled handles too!

One got away!
One of the ones that got away!

To my shame, I lost touch with Hugh, but...

Update on Hugh West - 11 April 2006

I found out from the Glasshouse Gallery website that Hugh had moved back to France, where he had worked in the 1980s. Specifically to La Borne, near Bourges. I managed to find a rather terrible website for the village with an embryo home-page for Hugh. Then, having already tried to send Hugh an email via the village webmaster, I discovered that he had his own website - www.hughwest.com. This included a gallery of his amazing raku, of which I have two early examples bought at the Glasshouse Gallery in 1995 (below) but which had obviously moved on amazingly before he had to stop making raku on health grounds, and some truly stunning stoneware.

He later launched a completely revised site at the same address, designed by his son James and with a vast gallery of ceramic work, as well as some superb photographs. Please visit to see the stunning raku, stoneware and porcelain pots heís been making over the past few years. The glazes are astonishing, and the quality of Hughís throwing just blows my mind (though Iím not too sure about the wooden handles on some of the pots!). I canít understand why he isnít better recognised. Please also have a look at Hughís and Christineís blogs.

My bottle lurking behind two of Hughís wonderful raku pots
This is where my bottle normally lives - lurking rather shamefacedly on our front windowsill,
behind the gorgeous raku pots which I bought in 1995.
I canít show you the wonderfully rich glazes heís hidden inside these exquisitely-thrown pots
until Patricia clears out last yearís lavender!

Old photographs found in March 2010

A thrown bottle in tenmoku and oatmeal
A slightly less ambitious bottle with commercial tenmoku and oatmeal glazes

A coiled pot in tenmoku and oatmeal
A coiled pot in tenmoku and oatmeal

A coiled pot batted into shape
A coiled pot, originally more-or-less circular in section, beaten into a quite-extreme shape when leather-hard, using a wooden bat. Oatmeal glaze overlaid with another unidentified one.

A teapot in oatmeal
Unquestionaly my most ambitious single pot, with the main body, the lid and the spout thrown on my home-made kickwheel and a very difficult pulled handle (I have no idea how I prevented it from sagging, either while drying or in the kiln - you can see why the Oriental potters adopted bamboo handles!). Commercial oatmeal glaze. The pattern on the lid was done with the controlled (eventually) chatter of the turning tool.

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.

This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.