2015 was a good year, I celebrated 35 years of making by donating 100 mugs to raise funds for Mary’s Meals, I started selling them in March and by August they were all sold raising £1419. I took part in two Potfest shows, Scotland and Cumbria with good sales at the both and won a competition for tableware at the Cumbrian show whilst one of my ex students won the front cover prize given by Craft and design Magazine. Later in the year I did a run of mixed craft shows from October to December and an exhibition in Canterbury’s Beaney gallery with the Kent Potters Association. Nearly all of the shows in 2015 had improved sales wise on 2014 so hopefully showing that finally the economy is picking up.
I decided to slow down on teaching( I have only ever done a couple of days a week) and not advertise it but I had a few schools ask me to come in. One project was a large mural for the entrance hall. I rolled the clay out in sections which were joined together to make a mural 1.5 x 2.5 metres, the children modelled a scene of the playground depicting children doing all the activities that they do in the school. Once cheese hard it was cut up like a jigsaw, fired and then mounted on a board. The children then painted it. When they come into school they like to mention what bit they did.
At the end of the year pottery went large with the Great Pottery Throw Down, despite a few negative comments it was a great success and raised awareness of the trials and tribulations of a potters life. It also boosted classes and lots of the public at the shows I did talked about it. Maybe with a few more similar programs universities will think twice about closing courses.
Also spreading the word is a new online magazine called Emerging Potters Online Magazine produced in conjunction with Ayelsford (Priory) Pottery in Kent. The pottery was set up by David Leach and Colin Pearson with a view to the monks producing wares. It is now run by Alan Parish and Billy Biles – Billy is the holder of the Guinness book of records for throwing the most pots in an hour. He made 150 I came third with 75 – well he is 20 years younger than me!!
Now in 2016 I have just started back to making and will be using this quieter time of year to make new work, rebuild stock and get the website up to date in time for a trade show. I have applied for several shows and wait for replies, so far confirmed are two Potfest shows. I start the year at The British Craft Trade Show in April which is held in Harrogate, Yorkshire, while I am there I will visit the refurbished York Art Galleries COCA gallery for their collection of studio pottery, probably the best collection in the UK.
Every year I take part in the Craft and Design Magazines awards, you can vote for me and any other selected member on the address below.
Vote for David on http://www.craftmaker.co.uk/davidmelville/
A lot of potters use wood ash in their glazes, I collect ash from a wood burner in my workshop. When I have filled a large dustbin it’s time to start processing it. Some potters use it unwashed if you do there is a good chance that the glaze mixture will change in time as soluble fluxes evaporate. The ash will also need to pass through a sieve so as to take the large particles out as these will not be taken into the melt.
First as the ash is taken from the grate it is passed through a garden riddle sieve which has holes around 7mm, this takes out the un-burnt matter. I then fill the bin with water and stir it, more un-burnt matter will float to the surface. The mix in the bin is now passed through a 40 mesh sieve, at the end of each sieve full I run a hose over the remains to help it through. I use a lot of water in this process so it helps to clean it as I go. The bin is left to settle, the water removed and then refilled. The process begins again through an 80 mesh sieve. After this remove the water top up with fresh and stir. It’s now a case of letting it settle, remove all the water and dry the ash.
A recipe I use can be applied with a brush is 50 local clay, 30 ash, 20 whiting.
Ash can be caustic so wear rubber gloves and while processing dry ash wear a mask.