Over the past few days, we have finally set up the display in our ‘shop shed’. This video hopefully gives some indication of where we are up to.

We can’t say thankyou enough to those wonderful people who made this possible by crowdfunding us. It is incredible to think that others will invest in us, just when we needed it most in the middle of a pandemic. We will be in touch with you all…

Where would we be too without friends? Our friend Nigel helped Chris with whole process. He is a hero!

In case you missed it, here is a bit of a montage of the building process;

 

(This post was first published over on Chris’s personal blog, here.)

We live in a seemingly perpetual Advent. Not just because of all the early Christmas decorating, but because we are all still waiting; for vaccines, for ‘normality’, for release, for and end to isolation and for the possibility of touch. Strange then that the actual season of Advent is now fully upon us.

I find myself remembering an old project, birthed by Si Smith, called ‘We who still wait’. It was a collaboration of photography (Steve Broadway), meditations (Ian Adams) and my poetry. (It is still available, here.)

I wrote the poems quickly, over a short period of time. Some felt ‘forced’, others arrived with tears, which may seem strange to some, until you realise that poetry is essentially about opening a vein and what comes out can be unexpected and overwhelming. Writing these poems forced me to fully engage not only with my own fragility, but also with those aspects of faith that still remain. Sometimes it seemed as if faith had been removed along with my religion, but at other times entirely the reverse, that only through losing religion was it possible to rediscover something deeper and more true.

Anyway, I offer you one of the poems from ‘We who still wait”. It says as much as I can say today.

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Open the sky

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Open the sky and let some light in

Let this night be night no longer

Let stars shine down in shafts of love

Illuminating ordinary things

All down with dirt and common use

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Let donkeys laugh out loud

For even basest things

Are silvered up with grace

Lubricated in kindness

He is coming

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Not to penthouses, to plump up cushions of comfort

Not to stroke the fragile ego of celebrity

Not to strengthen the hands of the powerful

Or expand their empty empires

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Not to shape new cathedrals from seductive certainty

Or even to doctor our old doctrines

He comes not to the exclusive few

But to you

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The mess of you

All your brokenness, all your failures

He comes in the certain knowledge that

You will fail again

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So, open the sky and

let some light in

This year, we decided to focus our attention on a limited number of Christmas decorations instead of spreading ourselves too thinly. Last year Karen and I had a competition to see who glazed the most decorations. Karen won by glazing lots of workshops decs and I made her a special one-off as a reward! But this year, there’s only sixteen being made by me. I made twenty, used two for trials and dropped two! So, sixteen it is…

I bought some beautiful slate grey ribbon – not my usual starting point! I tried two green glazes, seen in the photo. I love the silver flakes, provided to me by Raine Clarke artist – if you don’t know her work, you can check it out here at Underwing Studio. Anyway, having done two trials I decided not to go with green but to follow my first instinct and go blue. I’m hoping with the silver they will look beautiful. It’s a small thing, but making something that feels right, is totally ‘seatree’ is really important – so, blues it is and a special word on each one, pulled out of some of Chris’s poetry.

We hope you like them. 

Watch social media for photos of the finished pieces.

We’re very excited to say that we won a prize this weekend at Potfest.

Every year there is a (very friendly) competition for the potters taking part in Potfest Scotland and we entered our ‘girl, amended’ into the competition – created from a broken sculpture, as the theme this year is ‘recycle, rebuild, repurpose’.

We were very surprised to be picked by fellow potters to receive one of the prizes – ours was donated by an Australian potter taking part – a beautiful bottle of Shiraz and some Vegemite! What fun! Here are a few snaps.

We’ve just watched a beautiful talk by Rob Bell called ‘Drops like stars’. It was about the way that destructive forces, like bereavement, betrayal, debt, changes things for us in a positive way – the way that they define the future and the choices we make. He wove so many stories through the talk, including from a ceramic artist. Of course, those words really grabbed my attention. The way that every piece of clay, every error, every success, every disaster, is precious because it either works and something beautiful emerges, or we learn from it. 


In the studio, not one piece of clay is wasted. Everything that breaks or goes dry or stops cooperating in some way, gets recycled and used again another day. Some pieces that go ‘wrong’ get used for glaze trials. Some get sold as someone else loves them. Some get smashed in a very therapeutic clear out. 
Here’s a recent sculpture in the making. The poem says ‘I’ll not be drowning today’. She’s the third in line of recent makes – the first worked then cracked while drying, the second just didn’t work, and she is the third – we’ll see how it goes. I so enjoyed making her. It just came together how I imagined it. I have so very much to learn but this is one way of learning – I’ve been frustrated at times but am determined to keep moving forward. She is now fired (phew) and waiting to be glazed and fired again next week.. Watch this space!


I’ve been really lucky to receive an award from Craft Scotland for a sculpture course. It was the chance to apply for something that was about developing my art, not about the business skills. I feel so blessed to have an investment into me as an artist. The course will hopefully take place early October, virus permitting! I’ll be back to blog about what I’ve learned!

We are always growing and developing what we do, but what has stuck for many years now is our colour scheme and logo, used in paperwork and on the website, as well as leaflets, business cards and labels. So, I wanted to give a shout out to Enterprize web Design and Print Ltd in Lancashire, a small business run by friends (full disclosure!).

Andy sat with us to create our first website and our logo. The colour is based on the paint colour of our dining room walls! It was easier to point to that than it was to try and describe the blue/green/grey that we liked and it gave Andy a starting point. The idea of branding and all that seems a long way from making pottery, but actually having something to stand with over time really helped. At the time, ‘seatree’ seemed like something largely intangible, more a matter of hope and aspiration than real. Somehow having a logo really helped!

We’d recommend Andy and David for getting you started too. They are able not only to set up a website, but then support you to manage your web presence going forward. Andy is a brilliant photographer too, which is another one of those essential skills necessary for getting your stuff to look right…

Seatree is a small, independent business; what we like to call our ongoing experiment into living creatively and sustainably. It has been a labour of love for both of us for four years now. Like many businesses, the pandemic has forced us to do a lot of rethinking. We know that we need to make changes in order to be more resilient and to build into the future.

Part of this plan involves creating a shop space in the garden so people can purchase things we make locally and so we can create more space in the studio for socially distanced workshops.

We are excited about both prospects – creating a beautiful shop space and having more space for workshops both during the pandemic and onwards.

The funds we raise will be used to create a platform (we live on a hillside) on which to build a structure with a secure door and windows for natural light. It will also have electricity and shelving, storage and display units. We hope to be able to show our work in a well lit and attractive space and use our reclaimed studio space for creativity and classes. It would be lovely to have this in place by September, ready for adult and children’s classes to resume. 


We have been researching options for buying or building a shed and visited some fellow business owners @econaturehols to check out their lovely garden shop shed. We have decided that building our own is the cheapest option and have already gathered some second-hand windows ready.


We are so grateful for all the support we have received from our community, both locally, through our stockists, and on social media.  We love the connections we have made over the years and think that this might be an opportunity to share this project with others. 

We think that it is possible that some of you lovely people might like to join us on our journey, through our Go Fund Me initiative.


So here we are, asking for more support but we would love to give you some tokens of our gratitude too. For every donation, we will create for you a limited edition decoration and an invitation to our grand opening! For every donation over £50, we will also include a hand-drawn seatree poem. And for or every donation over £100, we will offer you a poetry or pottery workshop, or a piece of ceramic art. With thanks from Chris and Michaela at seatree! 

We are doing a community project as part of our local village festival. That is what this wee video is all about…

For those of you who need to know, these are the other instructions;

Pinch some pottery! It’s simple! Take the ball of clay and briefly roll it back into a ball if it has got squashed. It’s like making a snowball.

Then, hold the ball in the palm of your hand and press into the middle with your thumb of your other hand. Now your job is to make it thinner. Using your thumb in the middle and your fingers on the outside, pinch the clay to make the walls thinner. Aim for 5mm or less, all over, including the base.

You can decorate the edge or the sides with a fork, a pinecone or make dots or lines with a blunt pencil – or use your imagination! You can press in small leaves or petals – they will burn off in the kiln and leave a pattern. It’s all an experiment for you, so there are no guarantees but it’s fun trying!

Please return with your name and phone number written or taped onto the bag.

Leave on the garden picnic table or give us a shout if we’re in the studio. Please don’t bring a dog into the garden as we have free-range chooks. It would be good to bring your pot back as soon as possible, because when clay dries it becomes quite fragile.

Your pot will be fired and will be glazed with a clear glaze on the inside.

Recently Michaela has been untertaking a course with the brilliant Design Trust, intended to help us develop new skills around making our website more effective because, after all, this online selling thing is a brand new world for us. She was both surprised and pleased that the course first encouraged participants look at what their ‘core values’ were.

In some ways, this was an easy question for us because everything we have tried to do with seatree has been driven by our values. These are things we have thought and talked around for such a long time, and in fact we started our small business as a direct attempt to enact these values. Even so, listing them again has become an important thing. A statement of continued intent perhaps, or just a reminder to ourselves that the reason we do things and the way we do things MATTER.

So, here they are. We hope some of them have been communicated to those of you who have had contact with seatree;


Meaning – We want what we make to have depth and value, with simple images and beautiful poetry that communicate things that matter.


Integrity – standing by what we believe, being honest and upfront with you, sticking with what we do and not being motivated by short term profit


Uniqueness – we only use Chris’s poetry and every piece we make is unique, a one-off, being handmade and not wanting to churn out endless copies.


Connection – we have always sought to work with others, promote others, learn from others , whether that is other artists, galleries, new potters and new poets. We know the value of being encouraged and of encouraging others in turn.


Community – we have one another but we also love to connect with a wider community, and to build collaborations and exchanges with other creative people.

Sustainability – we want to live in such a way that does as little damage to our planet as possible. This means making choices to live more simply, to consume less and to invest our resources in ways that always push towards creating less carbon and less waste.

So, how is this going for us?

Writing this list gives us a way of reviewing our progress, and doing an inventory as to where we are up to with our values.

Meaning – We are still pushing forward with this. The challenge of course is that this comes up against our other value – Uniqueness. Most creative people will know that our creative juices ebb and flow. Sometimes it is hard to do the craft… Nevertheless, we are determined to continue to follow what we believe to be a spiritual path, defined as a continued search for deeper meaning.

In terms of Community and Connection, Michaela and Chris differ slightly in approach! Chris is much more introverted, and often has to be kicked towards connections by the much more out going Michaela. Nevertheless, even during lockdown these values have been operationalised by seatree, for example by running free workshops with clay and poetry during the local community festival, sending out wee gifts during the lockdown if we see someone struggling, creating the ‘workshops in a tin’ so we can share the clay and creativity with others again, taking part in the ‘secret regatta’ exhibition with the Tig Gallery community, connecting and sharing with our social media world – hoping to pass on some encouragement and love (just as others do for us.)


Finally, in terms of Sustainability, we continue to try to live simply and in connection to the natural world around us. Lockdown has made this even more acute, as it has stripped away a lot of activities that we had previously thought ‘normal’, but only now realise that they were never were. We continue to grow more food and have established more outdoor growing areas alongside our two poly tunnels. We have also been learning a lot about foraging wild food from the fields, forest and hedgerows- a particular success being the use of a dehydrator to dry all sorts of things for herbal teas. (This has also been brilliant for seaweeds and wild garlic.)

But our environmental impact is still greater than we are happy with. Our kiln is electric, and even though we use our car less than ever, we rely on deliveries both for materials and to send things out to you. We have tried to find ways of making our packaging as low impact as we can, but at present this has meant gathering recycled bubble wrap etc from all our friends and re-using it alongside greener materials.

Values are important. How else do we become what we hope to be? How might our kids avoid our mistakes?

It seems appropiate to finish with a lock-down poem. Chris was thinking about change in the early days of lockdown, and trying to imagine a world in which we break our dependency (in the western world at least) on over consumption and turbo capitalism. He had read somewhere that we only change because of two great imperatives- love and suffering. However, lockdown (the great silence) seemed to have added a third.

Trinity

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in the old way of thinking, change

comes only through Great Love, or

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Great Suffering – but both are hard, both

will break us apart, if we let them

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then (like third part of trinity) came

the Great Silence.

dav

We’ve missed people’s creativity and energy around the studio and so cooked up an idea. After lots of research and trials, we are now up and running with Workshops in a Tin.

How does it work?
It involves sending you a slab of clay, with instructions and design ideas. You need no experience, but if you have then you can add that into the mix. The kit includes a cloth to work on and comes in a clever box which can be reused to send it back to us. We will glaze and fire your ceramic artwork and get it back to you. (We can even frame it for by arrangement!)

Words can be written or printed in the clay, or patterns and pictures made using household items or beach finds. Let your imagination run wild.

You can now order the Tins to from our online shop, for £35 including postage.


It’s more than a product though. it represents the joy we receive on firing other people’s work, a gift to a friend who is needing something creative, a group of pals all working on a shared project, the chance to try something new, an activity to do with an elderly relative…


What will you create?