​… and anyway, it’s ‘us’ now rather than ‘me. Chris has joined me in being much more a part of the seatree life which is fabulous. Since I last blogged, we have been very busy. One of the things we are involved with for 2018 is an exhibition… very daunting and exciting. Here is the blog we are writing in the run-up to the exhibition, along with the gallery owners…

Please do check it out and keep in touch as things progress…


​ A popular little pot that we make are the sea creature pots. They are fun to make, if a little fiddly. Making pinch pots is an ancient pottery technique and one that lives on. A ball of clay, once kneaded, is rolled into a ball and using thumb, forefingers and palm of hand is shaped into a wee pot. I make these nesting pots by measuring out the clay.

Decorating the pots

​The pots are shaped and left to dry for a little while before smoothing and before I add in the wee creatures – fish, jellyfish and starfish. According to my marine obsessive son the jelly fish are not anatomically accurate, being a mixture of the body of one and the tentacles of another. I could remedy that in my next batch, although the colours presumably aren’t accurate either…


Pottery workshops


​My latest pots were made during a workshop with these two lovely women. They were concentrating so hard that I had the chance to make my own alongside theirs. Our pots are just fired and waiting to be glazed.

I ran a workshop recently too with a great bunch of young people at the Help Project in Dunoon. These are the pots they made together which show great promise I think. I am looking forward to doing more pottery with them soon.


Hey Clay!

​Another recent workshop was Hey Clay! which is a national event one weekend every year organised by the Craft Council. Our doors were opened for two days and over thirty folks came along for a taster session in pottery. Here are some of the pots made…


​ Such a simple pot and yet can be created and taken in any direction…

One of the joys and challenges of running your own pottery business is learning how to work with galleries. Each gallery has a different way of working but there is one thing that is consistent and that is the need for communication – finding out who owns the gallery and how they would like to be approached, keeping in touch while working on orders, thanking owners for payments received, all good manners and good business.


Blairmore Gallery

One of the galleries we sell at is the lovely Blairmore Gallery here on the Cowal Peninsula. I have been lucky to meet Ciorsdan (promounced Kirsten) on a few occasions now, including on training courses for social media. It was great to be paired with Ciorsdan so we could support and advise and encourage one another – me from the artist’s point of view and Ciorsdan from the gallery owners point of view – while looking at our blogs, websites and social media pages. I really appreciated Ciorsdan’s kindess.

Blairmore Gallery is in an idyllic spot on the shores of Loch Fyne and sells work from local and other Scottish artists. It is well worth a visit, to browse arts and crafts or to sample the tasty cakes and coffee.

Every gallery experience has been different – what is appreciated and / or sells in one place might not be appreciated in another. It can be a case of trial and error and learning to roll with that is tough at the beginning, but worth working through so that we all have a better experience as we go along, artist, owner and customer. It is about not making it personal while somehow keeping it personal.


​If you are reading this with a view to contacting galleries yourself, there is a really helpful blog here – it is from the generous gallery owner at Inchmore Gallery, which will soon be exhibiting our seatree crafts too – very exciting. After such a long gap without my own studio, I am playing catch-up now with orders but hopefully will be working on their order before too long.

Wishing you all the best in your gallery work too.

Building a studio

For a change, instead of a pottery work in progress I thought I would show you the progress of the shed which has taken up so much of our time, energy and money for the last few months – all worth it, I hasten to add!



First things first – getting the old sheds out of the way. Despite the rotten floors, mice nests and smashed windows the shed was very strong and had an iron structure in part of it. It took us a long time to take off boarding, remove windows and wiring, bag up the old and mouldy insulation and then, a couple of days of the actual demolition. I didn’t expect the time it would take, nor the big clear up of the lawn of scraps of insulation, wood and nails. We had marvellous help from our marvellous friends and I think we owe them a pot or two…



Rather than being able to put a shed up where we had taken one down, as I had naively thought at the beginning, we had to start all over again. Filling in a big hole in the patio area, laying new foundations, building concrete blocks up to create a level on our sloping lawn and finally building a wooden structure to hold the shed base.

We designed the shed that we wanted – three rooms – a woodshed, a storage space and a pottery studio. We have two doors, one onto the patio area for pottery workshops and visitors, one for Chris and his sawdusty feet. We also have plenty of windows – having worked at the old house in the basement I was desperate for a studio space with light and a view!


Designing a studio space

All of that took heaps of time and work – thankfully the Argyll winter has been fairly mild and we managed to be working outdoors for a lot of the time. Then we had to wait – booking in with Beaver Timber in Oban to bring us down our shed now we were ready….

The shed is much yellower than we expected. What colour shall we paint it? And the inside now needed to be fitted out with insulation and boarding, then painting and then the electrics – another couple of weeks of work and waiting and with some brilliant assistance from dae-it-yersel in Dunoon – possibly the best customer service possible. Alasidair Mirrlees cheerfully worked on our electrics and now we have power! We were so glad to get all our gear unpacked and get ready to get stuck in. A big thank you to Pauline at Sea Drift Pottery for letting me share her space in the meantime.

I spent Friday afternoon putting up my collection of arty postcards and such like and painting myself a blackboard area – all the arty stuff I have been planning for months. And then Saturday was our first full day in the shed. Do come and visit us – but be warned, we are taking a snap of our visitors for our Instagram page. Here are a few snaps of our first finished piece this weekend, our first visitors and a the space starting to look lived in…


Frequently asked questions – pottery

​ Ever wondered how long it takes to make something in clay? It is the most popular question asked but such a hard question to answer. First thing is of course that you get quicker as you get more practiced. The first time you make a piece, you are experimenting and trying and fiddling and sitting staring into space. Once you have created something you like you get quicker. But you don’t want to devalue what you are doing when someone asks that question by saying, “Oh, not long!”

Planning and designing

​ The reality is that a lot of the work is done in the thinking, sketching, experimenting and making mistakes. And photographing. I so love the lines in the shore. After our house move too I find myself drawn to the beauty of the oak trees in our garden and the glimpses of water through them and the expanses of sky above them. Watch this space…

Getting the clay ready

​Practically… clay comes in many different forms and even the same clay (in my case white earthenware) can be sometimes very sticky and sometimes a bit drier. So the first thing is to get some out of the bag and knead and pummel it to get it smooth and free of air bubbles. This is crucial.

Clay scraps, the bits I haven’t used or the bits that went wrong, all get thrown into the bucket of doom and soaked in water. At some point it can all be messily taken out of the bucket and onto a board to dry out, be put back into a bag then used again. Magic. No waste. This clay needs even more kneading and wedging and work to ensure it is free of lumps and bubbles.

I can then roll it out thickly to dry off a little. These are called slabs. Sometimes I can start work on a slab straightaway but more often than not I have slabs drying. You have to watch that they don’t dry too much so at some point they need wrapping in plastic ready for use.


Making a vase

​For a poetry piece, like the vase above, once the slab is ready, it needs rolling some more so it is the right thickness. Sometimes I use guides so that it is a particular thickness, such as when I make tiles, but more often I do it by feel and look. I can then add my lines and dots and words and designs. Each letter is put in individually. Sometimes I aim for straight lines, sometimes rolling lines of words; it depends on the poem and the mood really.

Once the individual pieces are made they need fixing together – sometimes that means waiting again until the clay is much drier, maybe leather-hard. The edges are scored and sticky slip is added as a kind of glue. Slip is watered down clay. The pieces can then be joined and then more work is done to make the edges and joins look smooth and finished. The top edge then needs to be worked on so it looks neat and fine and any inside joins need to be worked on to make sure there aren’t any gaps where water could escape or any rough edges. Glaze hides a lot but not everything.


Firing ceramics

​Almost there? The piece is made and now needs to dry out completely If there is moisture int he clay still, it can explode in the kiln. that’s a messy business. It might take a day to dry, or less if it’s really warm weather. You can’t dry it too quickly though as it might crack. If I have the log burner on I might wrap my pieces in plastic and let them dry slowly to protect them. Left alone, it still might take a week or longer if the piece is very heavy and the weather is damp and cold.

Once dry the pieces can go in the kiln for their bisque firing – the first one, that turns clay into ceramic – not yet waterproof but certainly hard. Until that point the clay is very fragile. I once spent two hours making a bowl the picked it up by the top edge to put it in the kiln to find one bit still in my hand and the rest on the floor. The bisque firing might take eight to ten hours, depending on the clay. It then will be the next day before the kiln is cool enough to open.

The kiln is opened with great trepidation – any air bubbles will mean there was an explosion and that often takes other pieces with it. Sad days. But usually all is well, and the pieces can be taken out ready for glazing…


Glazing and firing pots

​Glazing – once you have decided on the colour, you can reach for a pot of the shelf that is ready mixed, you can reach for the bag of powder, add water and start glazing, or you can make your own – the most fun bu the most time-consuming. I love it though – it’s like chemistry at school but you are making colour and art…

How long the actual glazing takes will depend on how big your piece is and how complex the design is. Usually each glaze needs to be applied to two or three coats, even the transparent glazes.

The pieces then get stacked very, very carefully in the kiln – no glazed side can touch the kiln shelf or another piece or they will be welded forever. Another day in the kiln and another overnight wait and then… ta da.. that piece that didn’t take very long at all!


​I am back after a spell away from writing this blog. I didn’t mean for there to be a gap. Life took over. we sold the house and had four weeks to move, moving in just before Christmas. As soon as we were unpacked, house warmed and Christmas celebrated, we got stuck in to demolishing the old sheds in our new garden and putting up a new one – our new pottery studio and woodshed (with windows!). I needed a prompt to get back into writing and that prompt has come through Dream, Plan, Do – this lovely red book is just part of a package I won in a Creative Scotland competition – I also won a place in something called Club 111 – run by the Design Trust. Patricia offers business mentoring for creatives.

It has been challenging – so much work to do to create the studios, learning how to mix concrete and lay foundations level and put in insulation, a whole new skills set. I have to admit I couldn’t have done it without Chris who has the vision and motivation and skill to make these things happen, but I was happy being his sidekick.


​Another challenge has been trying to keep up some pottery orders – although I am not way behind, so apologies again to any of the galleries waiting for a seatree delivery. I have had the pleasure of sharing the space of my friend Pauline at Sea Drift Pottery – I am very thankful for that but also glad that today I have unpacked my things into my own space – at last!


​Very often a little red boat sails by our house with fishing nets and seagulls in tow. It belongs along Loch Long in Ardentinny and has been a feature of our lives here for many years and so it has of course found its way into my pottery. First thing is to roll out the clay thin enough to fit into a frame once finished. The boat and the seagulls are marked in with a knife and the waves a stamp or fabric.


​The pieces as you can see are laid out on plasterboard and newspaper and with another layer of paper then board on top to help them stay flat. Once dry they can go in the kiln for their first firing of 1100 degrees. I can then glaze them which is the fun bit, splashes of blues and greens along with the red of course and once fired again they can be framed and labelled and ready to go.


​And here’s the real thing…


​You might have read in an earlier blog post about my challenge to myself to create a collection of pieces that I was happy with and how delighted I was to have the collection displayed at the lovely Tighnabruaich Gallery. Here is a photo of the pieces all gathered together in a display with my rockpool bowls. I am so pleased to see everything looking acceptable in a gallery!

Robbie has been such a support since I got started with pottery and I still have such a lot to learn but he has been invaluable in helping me think I might have something to give. I would to hear who has been alongside you as you create…. Just small actions and kind words can make all the difference, can’t they?


​It’s been a lovely weekend here with Cowal Open Studios. You get to meet people both local and from a distance, some wanting to buy gifts, some curious about the pottery process or Chris’s driftwood collection. There are all sorts of connections that happen and shared stories and also the interest of meeting artists of other disciplines. One person was a weaver, admiring a very old weaving we have on our wall, and we sent him along to Lorna Morrish-Davison, a local weaver who is also part of COS. It feels like being part of something much bigger than us, a part of the wider world.

On that note, I thought it would be nice to hear from you – what are your interests? what would you like to be reading about? what arts and crafts do you do? or like to see? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Fancy a go at making your own mug? I run workshops regularly in Hunters Quay for one or two people at a time. It is £20 for an hour and a half per person. Drop me a message on here to book in – and over on Facebook I have a wee competition running to win a free workshop place. If you don’t do Facebook and would still like to enter, give me a shout.

​Here are some pictures of mugs recently made on a workshop and the happy makers enjoying a cup of tea in their own mugs. It is so fulfilling to create something from scratch, and fulfilling for me to see what people do and how they create their own unique piece. No matter how much someone insists at the beginning of a workshop that they aren’t ‘arty’ they will certainly be pleased with what they make.

Why not come along and have a go?