Me : Darling, I fancy doing something sexy for my birthday this year, you up for that?
Him : *Nods furiously*
Me : *Plans homage to famous scene from Ghost. Sort of.*Now, ok, I know there are a few subtle differences, but you need to bear in mind that a) Patrick & Demi might have set the bar with regard to pottery nakedness but this was East Yorkshire in December, with Storm Desmond in full blow and b) those two had clearly had plenty of expert tuition at ‘coning up’ whereas this was our first throw. Hence fully clothed, with a slightly less impressive tower to grapple with and inspired by the Great Pottery Throw Down, we celebrated my Hey Clay birthday.
The three day event was part of the BBC’s Get Creative campaign in conjunction with the Crafts Council, designed to get people out to local potters and craft centres to quite literally celebrate clay. I’d never ‘done’ pottery before and never worked with clay, unless you count digging it out of my boots on site. Off we set first thing Saturday morning, heading for the depths of Yorkshire, with me fibbing all the way ‘It’s not not far now’, but seeing things on iMaps like “The World of James Herriot” and “North Sea”. I find it best in excess mileage situations like these to just keep feeding him at the wheel, it serves as a distraction technique.
Our first stop was Thirsk, a charming rural town with a bustling market in the central square and we headed to Rural Arts, a thriving arts organisation in the town’s old Courthouse. It was packed full of families, all watching demos and eating cake in the scrummy little cafe. Session 1 focused on a technique called Sgraffito, which means ‘to scratch’ in Italian. A layer of colour is applied to leather hard pottery then patterns are scratched off by hand to create surface artwork, then in some cases, fired in a kiln. You can see on the left below one part scratched and then one post-firing on the right.I’m not brilliant at drawing and had a bash at something festive, holly leaves and a few mistletoe berries, nothing too ambitious. But something a bit amazing happened. Mr M, usually to be found doing the heavy lifting, humping and builder type stuff, drew the most wonderful dragon and then scratched it out perfectly. Freehand. Who knew?! Thirteen years we’ve been together and though I knew he’d been good at drawing at school, I’d never seen him do anything like this. Even the tutors were impressed, I was so proud of him! And a bit jealous, obv.After the Sgraffito came a session with Angela Hall, who can be seen rolling the clay below, to make porcelain Christmas decorations and angels. We rolled it out on muslin to the same thickness as the green guide sticks and pressed patterns into the top using decorative lace and anaglypta wallpaper, giving texture to the surface.Using cookie cutters we created hanging tree decorations and then utilised some larger templates to create our angels. This was quite difficult! We’d to make a hollow dress base, like the one above, then create a head, sculpt the face, and make arms, hair and wings – blimey. Mr M might have been better by miles at the Sgraffito, but let me tell you, that Gollum In A Frock isn’t going anywhere near my mantelpiece, it’s enough to scare the kids! The morning session done, we jumped in the car to head to the next Hey Clay venue, somewhere over near the North Sea. We drove so far there was even time to stop off at a cracking but very windy farmers’ market in Hovingham to pick up some local cheese and meats for tea. Their gorgeous Yorkshire grown kale will find its way into this recipe again this week.So it was now time to get stuck in, get mucky and throw some pots! We found Mark and Paul at the Wentworth Pottery workshop and craft course centre in Alborough, right out on the east coast. In a great group of 6 gung ho amateurs, we first made some pinch pottery by moulding the forms by hand and pinching out the shapes with strong thumbs. We also had a go on the slab roller and played like kids with patterned rolling and tile cutters.I was very unsure about whether Mr M would enjoy the day but, er, look at this happy little face! He was so blinking good at it too, coning up and down like a pro and forming a bowl like a natural. Must be those strong arms eh, cause the rest of us weren’t anywhere near as proficient! Some of the pots went flying off the wheel like cannon balls, some collapsed and others never really got going – it’s WAY harder than it looks.All in all a fantastic day, new things tried, new places visited and great fun had, what more could a girl ask for as a birthday present? A superbly well executed event, with excellent online information and brilliant venues. Now I just have to accept that I’ll be getting a lump of clay for my birthday and he’ll be expecting a potter’s wheel for his 😉
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