I recently wrote an article about The Craft Centre and Design Gallery and was really disappointed that the workshops scheduled for the Spring/Summer Season clashed with events I had already committed to attending. By a quirk of fate one was moved meaning that I could benefit from both that one and this. Result!
The workshop in question was run by Poppy, a freelance artist based in Leeds, and was a masterclass in agateware. Sadly it seems that the karma from which I benefitted had had the opposite effect on three of the six prospective students who were no-shows. I was asked if I would like to take one of the vacant places but declined on three grounds; firstly my crib is hi-tech minimalist so arts and crafts would not sit well, secondly, my hand/eye co-ordination is non-existent when it comes to artistic pursuits, and thirdly my patience threshold is pretty low and I wouldn’t have wanted to cause any expensive damage when I lost it and hurled a rather heavy piece of clay across a gallery filled with artworks.
The workshop began at 11.00am on a Saturday and was due to last two hours. My Plan A was to get a flavour of the event, have a chat with Poppy and the participants Reena, Helen and David, and get away about noon to write my piece. In the event, that went out of the window as I was mesmerised by what was going on so stayed until the end.
Agateware is the mixing of white clay with another colour to produce a streaky finish similar to that of the semi-precious stone – wait for it – agate. Poppy cut three pieces of white clay and gave the pupils a choice of the colour they wanted to mix it with. Then the fun began!
My only exposure to the art of pottery making was in the 1950s when there was a thing on BBC TV called Interlude, which were short films used to bridge the gap between programmes, there was nothing so vulgar as trailers. One of these was a tank of angel fish and the other, a potter’s wheel on which a disembodied pair of hands raised a vase. It all looked so sedate, a million miles from the violence which was to take place here.
Once the colour had been chosen, both the white and coloured clay were cut into slices and layered on top of each other and the whole lot thrown forcefully, and noisily, onto the work table, much to the surprise of the good folk of Leeds who had wandered into the gallery for a quiet look round!
The lumps – I believe that is the technical term – were repeatedly rotated and thrown. I shudder to think what the decibel level would have been had all six been present, or had I been given some clay and lost my cool!
Eventually, the desired effect was achieved and tranquility returned. This turned out to be only a temporary state as the bowl part of the vase, for that is what was being made, required that process be repeated with white clay and the option of a different contrasting colour.
A cone was used as a mould for the base of the vase and a small dish for the bowl. David decided that he would go rogue and invert his creation to have a hemisphere for the base and a cone for the vase. Very imaginative.
The two hours absolutely flew by and before we knew it the job was done. All that was left was for Poppy to take the creations back to her studio at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley where they would be fired and returned to their creators. She told me that she would let me have photographs of the end products.
Poppy has occasional Studio Open Days at CloD in Sunnybank Mills, Farsley so check out what is happening on her instagram https://www.instagram.com/clod.studio/ or visit her online shop at https://www.clodstudio.co.uk/
For details of other workshops run by The Craft Centre and Design Gallery on The Headrow, Leeds go to https://www.craftcentreleeds.co.uk/workshops
To peruse the other delights it’s https://www.craftcentreleeds.co.uk/
All photographs by Stan Graham except for the finished vases which were provided by Poppy Davis of CloD Studio.