Middleport Pottery 

Well! A few weeks ago   I ticked an item off my bucket list – a trip to Middleport Pottery! The home of Burleigh ware.

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Sadly, it was supposed to be for a porcelain class but a mix up meant that I did not attend (we were fully refunded and the staff were very apologetic – giving me a beautiful book to compensate!) but rather than waste the journey we went for a walk around the estate. Again unfortunately it was a weekend and so their official tours were not running but we were nonetheless able to walk around most of the exhibits and grounds and the representative Liz was extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

The beautiful Burleigh transfers

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The three stages of a teapot!

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Middleport has been producing wares since the mid 1800s non stop to present day. This is an incredible feat in of itself! The factory was the first to consider the different stages of creating ceramics and accordingly planned the building and layout to create a production line with seven bottle kilns and their own seggars on site. The site is perfectly placed next to a canal for transport of the products.

We also stopped for a spot of lunch in the cafe which was very reasonable and absolutely delicious. And then even more time taking in the beautiful show rooms!

I’d highly recommend a visit to the pottery, particularly if you are a Throw Down fan as they have a current exhibition displaying some of the most memorable pieces from the show!

P Stratford xx

 

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The Great Pottery Throw Down Series 2

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(The original GPTD line up!)

I owe the Great Pottery Throw Down a lot. If it wasn’t for the 2015 series, I would never have returned to clay as a medium for art and expression. And those of you who follow this blog or my instagram will know that I am a HUGE Kate Malone fan! I went to her Waddesdon Manor Exhibition and her open studio recently and have my very own KM pumpkin. It is genuinely one of my dearest things. And you can’t think of GPTD without Keith – it’s hard not to love that guy. Beloved uses the KBJ espresso cups I bought him last year almost daily and I’m hoping to see him throw in John Lewis on Oxford Street this week! (Now I just need to think of a good question or something intelligent to say…). And, despite him not being in the above photo – Rich Miller is an essential part of the programme, and an overall really warm and genuine guy! His cup is sat next to me at this moment, beautifully made and skillfully decorated. Finally, Sarah Cox expertly balances gentle encouragement and humour – it’d be a very different show without her!

The contestants were from all different backgrounds on the first series and all has very different strengths and levels of ability. It was great to see people learn and challenge themselves as the episodes passed but overall the sense of warmth and friendship between them all really came across, and the genuine competitiveness between the final contestants was great! They all wanted to win by doing their best and producing something wonderful.

The wait was on for series 2 of GPTD expected in 2016 but we were left hanging on tender hooks until 2nd Feb 2017. I don’t watch much TV but I hadn’t seen a single advert for the show before it started so perhaps I missed them, but it made me sad that the BBC wasn’t advertising this brilliant show more – friends hadn’t heard of it at all! A real opportunity missed. Regardless, the show started and now every Thursday I have a new installment of wonderfulness to watch on TV and repeat throughout the week on iPlayer – oooooeeee!

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(GPTD 2017 contestants)

Now. As a home potter, I have loved the warmth and sense of community that potting events and going to a studio brings. In my mind, amateur potters are working away all over the country making for the love of making.

However, maybe I’m missing something, because it strikes me that most of these potters have their own studio spaces and sell their work in volume. Am I wrong to think this blurs the line of amateur? I don’t know. I guess last year I was frustrated that the winner was a ceramics teacher – I wouldn’t have called him amateur at all because he was basically born in a ceramics studio and taught ceramics for his profession. After doing a little search on Instagram for the different contestants of 2017 this week I came across most of them and realised they virtually all were in the ceramics business in terms of mass producing and selling their wares. I guess the solidarity I felt with the people on the first season has been lost a little or perhaps it was misplaced as they were of a similar potting calibre? Cut from the same wedge? Were most of the 2015 contestants also selling en masse before they appeared on the show?

But please,don’t get me wrong – I’d love to sell my ceramics! I’d also love to be on the show. But I know my work is no where near the quality good enough to sell and I don’t have the time to mass produce. I guess I just made the assumption that an amateur potter was someone working with clay as a hobby as I do and occasionally selling at a local event rather than someone who owned a fully equipped ceramics studio and taught day to day or sold in large volumes – to me that is a professional.

The bakers on the Great British Bake Off didn’t work in bakeries and cake shops – or did they? Actually, I remembe one was a Home Economics teacher… Am I now questioning all I thought I knew? Ok, let’s not go that far.

Perhaps I’m just jealous they’re all immeasurably better at throwing than me!

Whatever the case, it’s great to have it back on the telly and I’ve even got Beloved watching it with me this time, voluntarily!! It’s great to see the different challenges and this has been giving me inspiration for my own work! Like the bubble glazing – it looked so cool and was actually relatively easy to do! I’m excited to see the different projects and learn from the show. It’s great to see the show making more of Rich’s role as well, giving his opinion and explanations for the technical side of what is happening with the clay – or might happen!

It takes a little while to get to know the contestants and I’ll save my personal opinions as to the individuals and my favourites!! They do seem a little more ‘cherry picked’ than the first series, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. And I don’t want to let anyone know any details if they haven’t watched it yet, no spoilers alert! So I’ll end it here.

All I can say is that I know the series will end too soon

PS xx