Going to pot

The vase, illustrated with a hare <i>(Image: Peter Barron)</i>
The vase, illustrated with a hare (Image: Peter Barron)

EVEN if I say so myself, I hit the jackpot with my wife’s latest birthday present.

Knowing she loves The Great Pottery Throw Down on the telly, I booked us both in for a 'pottery experience' day in Weardale.

I admit that the film Ghost sprang to mind when I made the booking: that steamy scene when Sam (Patrick Szwayze) gets up close from behind to help Molly (Demi Moore) mould her lump of clay on the potter’s wheel.

Even grandads can dream, but I decided to keep those thoughts to myself as Heather and I drove to the village of Westerton for our much-anticipated lesson with professional potter Laura Hancock.

The day began with Laura demonstrating her expertise on the wheel in her studio, adorned with beautiful examples of her work. She made it all look so easy as she swiftly produced a perfectly round mug before giving us the chance to have a go.

It soon became clear that my wife was something of a natural, skillfully controlling the clay with both hands, and making it rise to an impressive height, while keeping the wheel spinning with her foot.

I moved a bit closer to get a better view over her shoulder, only to be told I was casting a shadow.

Try to imagine Molly saying: “Hey, move out of the way, Sam - you’re casting a shadow.” Not a ghost of a chance of that happening in Hollywood.

Minutes later, feeling a touch deflated, it was my turn at the wheel, and it proved harder than I expected. Yes, I made a bowl that was passable, but I had to bow to my wife’s greater talent.

For the rest of the morning session, we were taught other techniques, including how to use the ‘slab’ method to make a vase, and how to decorate our pottery with various implements.

Then, after lunch, we were let loose on “showcase projects” of our own choice, and I freely admit that my competitive instincts got the better of me.

Heather immediately opted to return to the wheel to make a more intricate cup. Her first effort turned out to be an annoying triumph, but I wasn’t too upset when she tried to better it, only for the clay to wobble and collapse in on itself.

Meanwhile, I dispensed with the wheel and focused on producing a large slab vase, decorated with an ambitious etching of a hare.

It’s amazing how quickly time passes when you’re enjoying yourself, and I admit to being rather chuffed – some would say smug – with the quality of my finished hare illustration.

It was then a question of waiting for our creations to dry out before we went back a little while later to paint and glaze them, then leave them to be fired in the kiln.

I don’t mind admitting it was a tense wait, wondering how they’d turn out, but I was pretty confident my hare would be top of the pots.

Finally, the big day arrived. Having taken a call from Laura to say they were ready, my wife drove back to Westerton to pick up the finished products. And, when I tentatively removed the protective wrapping from my slab vase, I wasn’t at all disappointed. In fact, it had come out better than I dared imagine.

“What do you think of that then?” I said, proudly, as I showed my artistry to my little granddaughter.

“Wow!” Chloe replied. “I like the kangaroo.”


With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, some thoughts from children on the subject of love (courtesy of the excellent All Saints, Hurworth, church newsletter):

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume, and a boy puts on after-shave, and they go out and smell each other” – Karl, aged five.

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your chips, without making them give you any of theirs.” – Chrissy, aged six.

“Love is when Mum makes coffee for my Dad and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” – Danny, aged seven.