Saturday was the Annual General Meeting of the Kent Potters Association. Normally AGMs are dull administrative meetings to be avoided if at all possible. However, what the KPA does is organise a Master Day demonstration and then sneaks the administrative meeting stuff into about 15 minutes over lunch. This year, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Association, a two for the price of one deal: both Doug Fitch and Hannah McAndrew were demonstrating and talking about their life together. (Soon to be formally a life together as they are planning to marry next year.)
The day started with photos and talk about their current dual-location working environment. Splitting time between Hannah’s base in South West Scotland and Doug’s in Devon, South West England, does bring its issues. However it does also have some advantages, enabling them to cover events and exhibitions in a greater area. Both locations are beautiful, rural and fairly isolated.
Both Doug and Hannah then demonstrated their throwing techniques. They work with a red earthenware clay, grogged in Doug’s case and slightly sanded in Hannah’s. They make work which needs a minimum of subsequent processing such as turning. For example Hannah showed how she undercuts the foot of a plate and cuts it off the wheel before she lowers the rim. Similarly Doug’s jugs should just need a thumb run around the base when they are removed from the batt.
During the afternoon Doug continued to throw pots whilst Hannah demonstrated her decorating technique. She coated the inside of an oval serving dish with white slip and then trailed decoration onto it using coloured slips. The slips are all simple traditional ones made with clay for white and red and an addition of manganese for black or copper for green. Her slip trailers are made from bicycle inner tubes, demijohn corks and fine tipped pens and closed with a bulldog clip. They give her extremely fine control with a minimum of pressure to get the slip to flow.
Hannah prefers precise control, and lines that join up. Doug admits he doesn’t have the steadiness of hand or the patience for that. As a result his slip decorating style is freer and more gestural. He showed how he dips a pot in slip and then, using the corners of the square it is standing on as guides, marks through the wet slip with a soft tip. Alternatively he uses thin coils of clay and stamps to make an elaborate raised decoration which is then covered in slip.
Both potters glaze using lead-fluxed glazes in a wood-fired kiln. The traditional glaze (though made with lead sesquisilicate these days rather than galena) produces the high gloss, rich finish. Unglazed areas will catch a slight flashing from ash and vapour in the kiln. Whilst this leads to some losses in the kiln they feel it is worth it for the individualising marks of the fire on each piece. Here they are unpacking a firing last week.
One of Hannah’s little brown jugs is now sitting proudly on our living room shelves. I’m looking forward to using it. Throughout the demonstration the good natured banter between Doug and Hannah enlivened the day. At one point Hannah said “Just imagine what we’ll be like when we’ve been together as long as David and Margaret Frith.” Doug’s pause was only fractional before reminding us for the umpteenth time that they are planning to marry next year. Well, I’ll take this opportunity to wish them a long and happy future together. Here is their valentine special video from February this year: