These are sad days. The C-Word has struck. I’m back home thumb twiddling rather than throwing so I’ve been looking at old work and realising why I’ve never kept a diary. It’s because sooner or later the person you are now must confront the person you were then. It’s not a comfortable experience.
That said, I reckon there have been a few OK pots along the way. There were some nicely made flared bowls. (sooner or later we all make them, even if the great goddess Luci Rie always did it better.) There was one in stoneware, decorated with those slipped bull’s eyes that look a bit like the eye of a peacock feather, painted in copper carbonate.
Then, in the September of 1973 there was a series of little porcelain bowls with a yellow ash glaze and iron oxide bandings. Then time passes, beat, beat, and rant, rant, and a realisation that most of the burnt brown pottery around (i.e. the tradition I’d been trained in) was about feeding, middle class fantasies of honest peasant living when in reality peasants lived like peasants because they didn’t have central heating and decent pensions funds to fall back on.
And, God bless historical inevitability, along came punk. And with equal inevitability along came my white earthenware punk pots with zips and bondage straps painted in black acrylic and pink safety pins pushed through them. But, where could they go? Whatever I might say about the old craft pottery I do like the idea that it’s made to be used. And they weren’t. No way.
Come to that, the wall panels I based on pieces of dug up road I saw melting over the curbs as I walked to my studio at 90 Lots Road (it’s now the jazz-club 606.) weren’t exactly utilitarian. And given the state of the galleries at the time such objects were falling through the gaps between art and craft. That was the early 1980s, when I was also making slabbed draw-string purses as well as oxidised, stoneware jugs, mugs and bowls and that was about it, until July of last year.
As I said, it’s been like reading diaries. Diaries written between leaving school aged 17 and heading in a different direction aged 30. Thirty plus years on I see some skill, and a lot of flailing around. I think, or like to think, I see a desire to make things that respond to my situation but without any clear certainty about how to do it. I realise that I always liked joining things – spouts, nobs – but was always less keen on decorating. Then while making some pinched apples and pears the other day it occurred to me that although most of my pottery has involved wheels in my heart I’ve always thought of myself as a hand- builder. Does that make sense?
The best bit of all this is that I realise that I’m now more focused than I have ever been and that if I were to meet the person I was 40 plus years ago I’d tell him `It’s alright, one day you’ll make a good pot.’ And, you know what? I think I might be getting close to achieving that.