Words from Chris:

It has been a long time coming. Five years in fact. It started out when Si Smith (more of him later) asked me to do a kind of poet-in-residence thing at an art exhibition he was curating entitled ‘World upside down’ back in 2017.

This exhibition was inspired (if that is the right word) by Donald Trump’s use of the Beatitudes in his inauguration speech. For me, this began a long period of writing words of resistance against an increasingly right wing world ignoring the crises of climate change and widening inequality.

A lot has happened over the last five years. Trump came and almost went. His trusty side-kick Boris Johnson the same. Oh, and we had this thing called a pandemic.

Writing protest poems is a kind of sickness – I found myself being sucked inside a vortex of negativity. I could still see compassion and goodness but it seemed stilted, fleeting and fragile. Then the Great Silence caused us all to STOP.

What next? Where do we see hope? What have we learned and where do we find inspiration for the journey to come?

These three periods – before, during and after the apocalypse give shape to this book which will be out very soon!

I am so grateful to Si for his incredible images. He did them at a time when he was desperately trying to work on another big project (which I hope to be able to shout about in the future.)

If you have never seen his work before, he is an artist, illustrator, print maker and graphic novelist based in Leeds. Some of his work includes 40 which we collaborated on and the beautiful How to disappear completely.

 

It’s a regular theme in our work. To be, to dwell, to rest..

Over the last 48 hours, I have driven from Glasgow (from a makers market) to Nairn (to see a friend and to make a pottery delivery) then back to home.

But I have used that time to rest, to dwell, to think.. To talk things over. To just sit by the shore. To walk in the edge of the sea. To play with their dog. To sing along to CDs in the car. To be cooked for and to be understood and to be finding time to find me.

I’d recommend it.

After a few months of making for shops, commissions and fairs, I decided to have a week of playing with clay – here’s one of the sculptures I created. It’s a reflection on a poem by Chris about how we sometimes need to be low down, near the curve of the earth, seeing the world from a seated position, in order to look upwards and to know that we are held.

I enjoyed the process, the letting go, the thinking bigger.

Today, I was back to some orders, but with a fresh eye and a renewed spirit.

Gratitude really matters. Today, I am grateful for..

the crowdfunders who supported us to build this wee shed for display

selling our old house which funded our pottery studio (the green one)

the sea view beyond the trees

the poetry that Chris writes that enables all of this

the people who support us on a daily basis through social media or sales or encouragement

family and friends

blue skies

What are you grateful for today?

It can be so real. The imposter syndrome. It’s more than false humility. When we got into Art in Clay, our first fair in the south of England  and a large and well attended one that I have followed on social media for some time. The acceptance email came through and after thirty seconds of elation , the doubt struck and I kept checking my emails expecting them to say, sorry we just emailed the wrong person. That feeling hasn’t quite left until the publicity began in earnest more recently. I read a little while ago that imposter syndrome only occurs when you know and understand the standard expected of you – and that allows you to work up to that. So I am taking that on board and aim to mark work we’re proud of. Stay tuned!

This is one of my favourite pieces for a while, designed and made by me (Michaela) using Chris’s words and glazed by Chris. The line of poetry just makes me think about sitting on the shore in Argyll looking across to the islands. It’s lovely when it all comes together and reflects what was in my mind. I’ve just updated the website shop and added it in, if you’re interested!

Isn’t this wonderful? It’s an unfiltered image at 10.30pm last night, from our son’s boat. We had just had a beautiful sail to the isle of Bute (in the distance) for fathers day, a pottery delivery and a game of cricket. As you do. These colours were hard to believe. It’s going to be a challenge, but I shall aim to recreate in the pottery. Someone said recently that our pottery was darker than it used to be. Let’s see if I can allow the colours of summer back in..

We’re home from a wonderful weekend at Potfest Scotland . We met so many lovely folks, friends old and new, people coming back to buy from us, people with beautiful stories, kids asking great questions.. We also felt a belonging to the wonderful community of potters. The Potfest team encourage working together, celebrating together.. After set up, those of us camping can gather round a massive firepit provided by the team. At that point, we realised we had no mugs and no cutlery! So I headed back to the marquees to find a potter who might still be setting up who might also sell mugs – and found one! Once a stranger, now a friend.. mug provided even though I’d gone without my wallet! (We did pay him the next day!). Then after the first day and lots of cheery good wishes, we all gather around the competition pieces, cheer all the winners, toast the team and each other – then take part in the annual Vessel Swap – all standing in a circle while the team leader Matt shouted out two to the left, six to the right.. mugs and bowls passing round the circle till the end was called and we each had someone else’s cup in our hands to take home. Great fun! We also had neighbours that cheered us on, offered encouragement , shared the funny stories.. We’d recommend going along to an event near you or taking part if you’re a potter or crafter – these conversations keep us going.

Words are our thing! One of the projects we make are wee jars with poetry in along with beach finds. Little treasures. I make a line of poetry, write it down then once the sets are all fired, here I am… an hour later and still trying to make sense of the notes and the words and turn them back into lines of poetry..

Wish me luck!

 

This is my third attempt at a very large bowl. Once I finished putting the lettering and the textures and lines in, it went into a large mould and is drying nicely. The rocks and pine cone created textures for the bowl. I’ll be posting pictures once it’s finished.

It’s my third attempt because the first two went badly wrong. I made a large bowl with a thin slab of clay and it dried and fired beautifully but warped in the glaze firing.

After sulking for a while, I made some trials with smaller bowls, which also sometimes warp, by using thicker slabs of clay. I don’t enjoy it as much but at least there are less ‘seconds’.

So, time to try the large bowl again, this time with thicker clay and a lovely ring base..

And still it slumped! No longer a bowl, more of a wobbly platter! I asked a fellow potter for advice and she suggested less glaze on the edges and then firing the bowl upside down.. So, that’s what I’m going to try! Wish me luck.