Maggie at Folly Pottery

Heading

Well!  I've actually done it! 

Actually retired!  50 years of pottery, 40 years in business as Folly Pottery, three beautiful pottery buildings, websites, shops and galleries, all happily packed away.  I'm continuing to make pottery just for me and the family, plus the kiln share and teaching will continue as part of my retirement plan.

EllieDoods and I want to say a HUGE thank you to all of you who've supported our little pottery, you've all become good friends and we hope we will keep in touch.

love Maggie and the Doods xxx

________________________________________________________

KILNSHARE TEACHING AND WHEELSHARE DETAILS 

WHEELSHARE - initial teaching session £45.00 - 3 hrs, if needed. after which, the wheel may be shared by appointment at £10 an hour, (provide your own clay for wheelshare)

KILNSHARE - terms and conditions
Thank you for enquiring about space in my Potterycraft electric kiln.
The shelves are 32cm in diameter and I prop in three places for each shelf. The kiln has a total of 45cm head room and I often divide that head room into three or four shelves
I fire regularly to 1045oc for bisque and 1220 or 1245oc for glaze firing, but can fire to whatever temperature you need if you are happy to have the whole kiln.


Costs:  whole kiln load - £10.40 bisque and £12.65 for stoneware
              1/3rd kiln load - £5.00 bisque and £6.30 stoneware
               2/3rd kiln load - £8.00 bisque and £9.40 stoneware.

PRICES CURRENT AT 13 JAN 2023 - BUT WE ARE ON A FIXED TARRIF ELEC CHARGE ENDING SHORTLY AND ARE EXPECTED A MASSIVE PRICE HIKE TO COME IN LINE WITH THE REST OF THE COUNTRY SO KILN SHARE PRICES WILL GO UP BY APPROX 1/2 AGAIN ONCE WE HAVE CALCULATED THE NEW CHARGES.


*There is space in my small workshop to decorate or glaze your work between bisque and stoneware, free of charge, but I must have advanced notice as the workshop is attached to the house - there again, it does have a ready supply of tea and coffee.
*If you are a beginner, please learn the rule of trapped air in your work ( any trapped air expands faster than the clay and will find a way to escape usually with a loud thud and a shattering of yours and other peoples work, so is to be avoided.)
*I don't fire anything previously commercially fired, or anything made from hand dug clays.


* kiln firing has always been unpredictable until the potter has made and fired many prototypes ironing out any issues, for this reason I take no responsibility for any loss or damage to your ware UNLESS the kiln or myself is at fault, in which case I will refund your fee and re-fire free of charge.
About me:  I am now retired after celebrating 50 years in ceramics in 2022, I've run Folly Pottery for 41of those years and taught for 32 :-)

one last little sketch for you

December 2022

seriously, is it Christmas Week already?

This last month has literally flown by, pushed along with gale force winds, icy snow storms and a raft of smaller craft events that had me in a spin. But the weather has settled now to a more British-like steady rain and the pottery has fallen silent for the holidays.

It had been a pretty time of year for the pottery.  Beautiful ice crystals formed on the glaze buckets and in the clay. My breath billowed condensation in the chill of the kiln room, and Elliedoods and I found ourselves accompanied back and forth to the kiln shed by a chubby little robin, hopeful for a hot dinner, so we obliged with a little warmed oats.  He's a sweet chap, very young and very friendly, hopping back and forth from the shed roof where the Christmas lights come to the outside plug sockets, then back again to the flower tub at the pottery door. Such a lot of expended energy for someone out in the freezing cold so we think he enjoyed the oats, he seemed reasonably satisfied, though I know my neighbour leaves out fat balls and expensive bird food just over the fence, so we had trouble understanding why this little bird picked us to feed him.

{the floppy 12" vase I mention below!)

My new little venture, Kilnshare.com, has found me several really interesting potters keen on using up the spare space in my kiln and has lead to some serious 'mud' conversations, there's nothing on earth as good as a great pottery chat. Next year already seems set to bring in another couple of regulars and an opportunity to fire more of their fascinating creations for them.

As for the last few shows of the year, they were surprisingly good. I honestly thought that as the recession was already biting hard with the cost of heating and food rising daily, people would be cutting back on what they bought and sales were beginning to wane a little – wow was I wrong! I doubled my takings at the CAD arts show from last year figures and did virtually the same amount at the outside market at the motorcycle museum! No idea why, it just seemed that I had what people wanted and they wanted it handmade and local.

Not being much of a biker myself, I really hadn't expected the motorcycle museum event to be so much fun. Santa arrived on a decorated quad bike to deliver gifts to all the children there, choirs sang and hot chocolate was on tap, the place was just brimming with genuine festive cheer.  Then, something like 150 middle aged bikers all arrived dressed as Santa Clause. All supporting Sammy Miller, the ex-racing champion, who now owns the museum and who runs the event annually for local charities. Many brought their wives and it was the ladies on the whole that did the buying so I say a huge thank you to them all and double wrapped their purchases for the trips home on the bikes. 

But I've packed the stand away for the year now and like lots of crafters selling online through Etsy, I closed the shop very early due to problems with delivery.  It just meant that I missed out of a few sales, Etsy hasn't been so good for me lately, not sure if people are concerned about my more delicate porcelain not making it through the post.  Ha! They should meet some of these little blighters, they are as tough as old boots :-D The joy of porcelain is that it fires so high that it vitrifies becoming like strong glass.  Oh yes it will break if you drop it on a concrete floor but I'm known as the Packing Queen round here, over packing everything to the hilt and my stuff goes out with a guarantee against breakages!

Next years work is going to be even more ethereally delicate – I hope :-)

I've been working on forests and tall stemmed flowers designs, trying to see how high I can make the very airy forms before they collapse in the heat of the kiln. So far, I've got one to 10” but another which was 12” tall flopped over. Although it was a total disaster, it was still very beautiful so I took it with me to the arts show as a conversational piece and it sold within 90 minutes of opening :-O  I was quite sad to see it go, I'd grown fond of it's glassy quality.  Another one I was sad to see go was the same design concept but as a short square dish, I took it out of the kiln on Friday and I sold it on the Saturday without really getting to know it first!  I know I shouldn't get attached to my work, I can't possibly keep it all in my tiny house, but when it sells I still find it quite hard to see it go :-(s

So that's about it for this year, for now, Elliedoods and I have our feet up in front of the fire, under the Christmas tree with a Baileys (for me not Ells!) and we take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, thank you so much for your support this year, it's really really appreciated. And have a peaceful and happy New Year :-)

Love

Maggie and the Doods

A Sea Change

Sometimes there is such a big change of the season that it really shifts your whole perspective of what you're doing.  

I was going to write about how summer has still been limping on here with the last of the garden flowers absorbing the unexpectedly warm sunshine, along with Elliedoods and I taking every opportunity to work outside enjoying that warmth. 

But throw that mellow idea out of the window straight away!

We've just had a tornado through, three miles away from us, tearing a barn to shreds and trees from the ground. Now if you live in an area where these things are quite common, such as where my sister lives in mid west America, then you wont be particularly bothered by this. But here? On the south coast of Britain? Here tornados are as rare as hens teeth! (And if you don't know this saying – trust me, hens don't have teeth!) But the storms here have been fierce and it's been raining buckets and buckets and buckets for days now, so I guess that means I have to officially call an end to the summer :,-(

Each new season in the pottery has it's trials and tribulations, 

In an average pottery year, Spring time is all about booking events and working out the costings of new ranges, doing the prototypes and trialling new materials. I usually do new stationery each year in spring, 'thank you slips' to go in with each sale, information cards and always a new leaflet instead of business cards. It's all exciting, so vibrant.  So really enjoyable that I forget I'm working 10 hour days.

EllieDoods does final inspection

Summer season starts early, usually well before the spring season has truly ended, with a rush to get the new products ready for the first of the shows. I take time to improve or remake last years show stand and lay it out on the lawn to see how it all fits and were the problems might be. Checking that it will all fit in our little car now the van has gone. Then, as the shows begin, it's a wild ride of show after show, pack it, take it, put it out, sell it, pack what's left away, drive it home and store it for a week before starting all over again :-) Exhausting but exhilarating, and honestly I forget I'm working 10 hour days.

Autumn comes along and there's a slowing down, breathing space for a week or two, time to assess what sold well during the summer. What I will make again and what I wont! Feet up and some time spent tidying a neglected garden but not for long, it's a very short season and my head is already tumbling with new ideas! Things that have inspire me to alter what I already do, or experiment with something so different it knocks my socks off! The issue is that if I'm going to use any of them it has to be in a rush, because making changes in pottery ranges take time and the Christmas Season looms large and approaches fast like a steam train. So before I know it I'm back to the potter's wheel and I forget I'm working 10 hour days.

The Autumn season merges into the Christmas Season with a hearty nudge. 

If I'm lucky, I start selling near the end of October, overlapping Halloween with undignified haste, but with more decorum than the Supermarkets who have had their Christmas decorations for sale since August! Then it's a show each weekend until the first week of December, so a season of 6 -7 weeks tops. The odd sale will come through online but most of the selling is earlier, people like to be organised :-D After that we can relax a little and spend time sorting out our own Christmas and I soon forget that I was working 10 hour days.

But all too soon is Gloomy Season, festive season is over and it's the long long long draw to the start of Spring Season. This can be long or short depending on the enthusiasm of the potter. Me personally? I like to hibernate for a month or two.  We've had some pretty mild winters lately, but my own enthusiasm wanes if I have to break the ice off the top of the clay bags in the morning. Who needs a 10 hour day then?

So here I am, just past Autumn Season and hurtling into Christmas Season, with loads of exciting new stuff brimming from my over whelmed brain. It seems that all the stout little flora jugs I've worked on through the summer are making way to gossamer floating ideas of pots that can't possibly survive the rigours of a kiln... or can they?

Well that's the challenge isn't it.

Our old tutor used to say "make the base of your pottery as beautiful as the rest and then you can call it beautiful"

But just as I'm ready to let these wonders flow out into the porcelain – some silly young lass reverses from her driveway without looking and collides with my car! 

Strangely at the time I wasn't that angry, it seemed such a small accident, couple of scrapes and a dent or two, no one was hurt and that was the important thing. So I found myself saying placating things like 'there, there, these things happen' to the lass as she sobbed her heart out over the scratches on her beloved car's bumper, (never mind the dents to the rear door and wing of  our lovely little car). But the next day, when she set her ferocious mother on me, well yes, then I was a tad ruffled. Fortunately, both of our insurance companies agreed that you can't just reverse out, willy-nilly, into a road of moving traffic without perhaps hitting something, and if you do then you must accept all the consequences. I actually feel a little for her, she's young so her insurance costs will already be high but this is bound to increase her premiums and to be honest, these things do happen, I guess that's why we have insurance :-(

Anyways, the upshot of this is that I spent a good week sorting document, forms, photos and the like. AND NOT MAKING POTTERY!

A sneaky peek at what's coming soon

A massive diversion from where I should have been, I'm really behind but I'm determined to do some catch up days and get back on track.

The work is all in porcelain, some starts on the wheel to give a base to incise a design which I then applique over. The others are completely free standing made upside down over a mould.  I'm still transfixed with floral designs but I have attempted a seahorse design (above) and a manta ray.  But success has been at about 75% to bone dry stage.  They are going in the kiln this week so I've been asking everyone to keep their fingers crossed for them all ;-D

Anyone who does my classes knows I've a fixation on 'how do you see this finished, colour and texture'.  So I already know I want to add washes of blues, purples and greens to these once they are out of the bisque kiln and then clear glaze.  If any of them get to that stage, they will be good and strong but even so, I'm trying to source glass inserts for them, so that they can be useful in two ways.  Vases and night lighting.

so can I ask a favour? can you cross your fingers for this lot in the kiln for me?

Thanks Millions, bye for this month, love

Maggie and the Doods

Wow where did September go?

I think September disappeared in a flurry of the changing season.

I've packed away all the stands and shelves for the summer shows and events and have rushed headlong into making little animals to commemorate my pottery anniversaries!  If you've missed all my faff about my anniversaries, it was 40 year last April since we started Folly Pottery and 50 years at the beginning of this September that Mum and I began our formal ceramic education.  So to mark these anniversaries I've been making some of the little creatures that we made when we opened the pottery first, starting with whales, sheep, hedgehogs, ponies, pigs, ducks and chickens.  All with the 2022 twist that I'm making them in the coloured porcelain I'm so fond of at the moment. 

The first few items, whales, ponies and chickens went onto my {sadly neglected through the summer) Etsy shop last week and wow has it paid off for me, the whales and chickens sold out in a day!  Since then I've added little grey bunnies and a dragon with the hopes that the recession wont hit quite yet :-(   (and there's a new video on the video page on how I make these booful little whales.)

It's all a bit worrying for tiny businesses that don't sell essentials.  No-one 'needs' a little white porcelain pony, they might like one, but everyone is having to be so careful with their pennies now that I really don't expect too much from this season.  By changing to the very small items, my plan is that  I might be able to ride out the worst of the problems by offering small affordable gifts, fingers crossed.  

A few of the potters I speak with regularly say that the cost of the electrics or gas for their kilns might become restrictive, so again, maybe making loads and loads of very tiny things, I can reduce the number of kiln loads I fire.

OH MAGGIE - CHANGE THE SUBJECT PLEASE, THIS IS TOOOO DEPRESSING

 

Let's have some happy bunnies to cheer us all up :-D

There's always a bit of mystical renewal for me in Septembers, after what can be a very hectic summer season, I come to a halt as I said before and reassess where I'm at, my head full of ideas that I haven't had time to try through the summer.  It's cooler in the pottery, and the sun is already moving round so that I have less time to sit in the sunlight in the mornings.  By mid-October the sun wont visit my studio at all until 3pm!  But there's a freshness that encourages me to get on with the new seasons makings with enthusiasm.  In a way, I feel my pottery years begins in September and ends the following August, tired but content.

I haven't mentioned Doods yet - she's had a very strange and rather sad change - she's grown up suddenly.

She's been acting the puppy for a full three years, tearing around the place uncontrollably like a maniac that has been totally delightful - but suddenly she's become a proper dog.  I can take her for peaceful walks where she actually stays by my side willingly rather than chasing up trees after squirrels or plunging head first through the undergrowth after imaginary deer.  I know I ought to breath a huge sigh of relieve and count myself lucky that I no longer have to chase her half a mile when she's spotted another dog or decided to hide in the bracken, but if I was to be totally honest, no, I'm missing that daft puppiness!

There again, she's sat curled around my feet as I write this, a contented quiet dog, enjoying not being called back under control fifteen times and hour and not being the cause of Mum tearing her hair out in exasperation.  Can you hear her snoring from there?

Its really quite tranquil :-)

Till next time, take great care

Maggie and the Doods

 

 

august 2022 - hiccup month

Well, it's been a funny few weeks since the New Forest Show, broken legs, covid, orange bucket and heat exhaustion to name but a few interesting little turns on the way, let me see if I can untangle a few of them for you, perhaps chronologically would help...

Er, maybe not, it sort of goes, I did Ellingham show, last one on my current list for the summer, the plan was to see if there were any smaller events that I could late book for.  We were in the middle of the heat wave and I measured it at 33c at the show but I don't know how accurate that was.  I was okay because I brought a linen scarf and an orange bucket and I knew how to use them.  The scarf was dunked in the cold water from the bucket, wrung out tightly and draped around my neck like an wearable fridge.  Never done it yourself?  Try it, I learnt it from re-enactor folk who were always cool as a cucumber despite layers of wool clothing in mid summer!  Then next, I stood in the bucket of cold water, but others were dropping like flies in the heat so I began to share my buckets of cold water, most were okay but one chap had to go home, I hope he's okay.   Can I add here, a huge thank you to the various groups of scouts who manned the standpipe tap all day so well, keeping everyone as cool as they could.  Brilliant job!

So I think I'm doing well, then my poor little grandson breaks his leg falling off the bed :-O I get covid and my grandson also goes down with chicken pox all at the same time!!!

I went over to help with my grandson but instead my daughter is looking after me too!  Honestly the last thing she needs is me on top of everything else so I'm trying to be as little trouble as I possibly can, but  the Garden Gnome is in the at risk category, and as I was at my daughter's anyway.  It seemed a good idea not to take it home to him.

So, has there been any pottery made, well actually yes, but do I have photos... er, not really, you'll have to make do with dodgy drawings :-D

And has Ellie-doods been up to anything?  I really don't know because she's at home keeping the Garden Gnome company.

talk again soon

keep safe

Maggie and the Doods

july - the new forest show

My resounding impression of the New Forest Show – DUSTY!

Very, very dusty!

 

Held this year on the 25, 26 and 27 July, slap bang in the middle of the New Forest AND during one of the longest droughts we've had in a few years, three days of heavy vehicles thundering back and forth produced clouds and clouds of dust.  There were time when you could hardly see across the car parks.  I dusted down each piece of the pottery on the stand three times a day and every time someone bought something it was given a good clean again :-O  

The visitor numbers varied between 75,000 and a 100,000 depending on which keen rumour spreader you listened to, all I can be very sure of was that there were a lot of visitors, thankfully. But the fly in this ointment was that although there were plenty of customers, few were buying – my daughter noticed it first, whereas pre covid, all the visitors would be loaded down with carrier bags of goodies that they had bought, this year perhaps only one person in 30 had a bag!

My sales figures were down, not disastrously, but noticeably.

But lets face it, the New Forest Show is so much more than profit and loss.

Locally, its a real institution to attend annually, I have the happiest memories going back to my childhood and with the pottery trading there since 1985. Everyone has something to add to the show and we all come and meet up maybe for the first time since the last show!

So, what's it like to trade there?

Well it starts with weeks of making enough stock to go, I can easily take £5000 worth but this time I only managed £3700, those who follow my IG account know, I've been working all hours but that was the most I could do :-D

About a month before, I put up the stand on my lawn to see that it fit the space, I'd booked a 3m x 3m but because it's a corner spot I also get the dead space of the corner itself for free!!!

I don't have my beautiful old van, Oswyn, now, just a little Nissan called Alfie, so I had to make three trips, first one on the Saturday with the framework and doggy pen. Then again on Sunday with the tables and then arrive for real on the Monday, complete with Grandson, the camping kit and all the stock to finish the set up.

Yes, I said the Grandson! 22 months worth of burgeoning terrible twos and a triple handful BUT he was amazing and actually helped me put up the delicate porcelain soap dishes and spoon rests.

A good nights sleep under canvas and up early to open up ready for 8am start.

There's a lovely camaraderie between us all in the craft tent, we've all been doing the event for years and spend the time nattering about shows we've been to and how well (or not :-D ) we've been doing. People start to drift into the long marquee ten minutes after opening and there's a gentle buzz in the air. Music is playing outside and the sun lights the marquee roof.

Ellie-Doods sat herself up on my seat behind the display and watched on the visitors going by and my Grandson played with newly bought wooden toys, while my daughter and I got on with the selling.

Exhausted we collapse asleep by 8.30pm ready to do it all again on the second and third days .  

And by the end, we're exhausted but have to turn around and take it all down again, pack it back into Alfie the Nissan to come home then start thinking about the next show at Ellingham :-D

That's it for this month, hope you like it, let me know what you think,

bless you all, 

Love

Maggie and the Doods

Opps there's been a bit of a hiccup! Totally my mistake, sorry!  I've only just realised that the last couple of emails didn't get to everyone – so sorry, hope you can catch up now :-)

number 5 - oh dear! so busy!

Wow, the times flown by and I'm so late posting this, sorry!

What happened?  The Summer Season happened that's what!

There I was quietly toddling along in the pottery daily and then I decide it's time for me to get back out there and book a couple of events.  Great, I thought, then I sat down to look at my work calculator tables (years and years worth of results from past events to give me a good idea of how much stock I should take) and suddenly I realised that working 24 hours a day just wasn't enough :-D

So all my experimental pottery is now shelved and hard decisions have been made as to what is actually going to become my stock list.  And it might surprise you that, after all the work I put into painting mugs, that they haven't made the cut!  They were massively time consuming so they have had to make way for the more time economical pipelined mugs.  EllieDoods is delighted - when I was painting the mugs, I would be sat still for hours at a time, but the new designs have me walking about a lot more and she loves to just follow me from one part of the pottery to the other like a shadow.

Happily, back on the list are sgraffito vases and mugs, thanks to a new twist on the very old method of decorating where you scratch through one layer of colour to another underneath.  It's been made much easier now that I use wax resist over the second colour, a trick I learnt from a fellow potter on Instagram.

I really believe that Instagram has been the biggest change to potters since the invention of electric kilns.  There are still a few potters who hug their secret glaze recipes close to their chests, but more and more of us are becoming generous and offering help, inspiration and yes even our beloved secret to the world on Instagram.  

When I started out in 1972, potters weren't so forth coming, I'd attended a foundation course lead by Betty Jones but after that I was very much on my own, gleaning additional learning mainly from books and experimenting!  Can you imagine that now :-D  By the time I started Folly Pottery in 1982 I had a lot of experience under my belt but even so it was a very isolated job to have, working long days on my own with just my then 'pottery dog', Duchy, for company.  Duchy was great, much like EllieDoods, a real character who loved to sleep in the space under the kiln on cold winter days for the warmth it gave off.  Later Mum came to work with us and from then on we batted pottery ideas against each other and made our pottery with very little outside influences at all.

Now, I can chatter away all day, if I had time, to hundreds and hundreds of lovely pottery fans all around the world, every one of them with wonderful ideas and different skills.  Just knowing that there is this amazing interconnected community of like minded people, potters and pottery lovers, simply never fails to amaze me.  When something goes wrong, or have a success to share or I need a little help then there is always someone there. 

I went back into education in 1983 because neither Mum nor I had learnt to use a potters wheel before and it turns out 39 years later that I find I had been taught wrongly, centring by pulling towards me rather than locking my elbow into my hip to hold my hand solid and still!  How did I find that out?  From a kindly Instagrammer who reached out with a DM when she saw I was struggling with arthritis and almost ready to quit pottery for ever.  And there's no end of times that I reach out too, offering info that I hope will be helpful, not sure it always is but I live in hope.

 

EllieDoods has been having a great time with huge family gatherings.  There are eight dogs in the family!  So when the family all get together there tends to be gatherings of doggos too.  Now they don't all get on, the majority are Labradors, Doods is excepted by them as her D&A test results came in that she was exactly 50% Labrador and there are no other poodles in the family.  There are however two Jack Russells and they don't always see eye to eye  with the labbies, even if they stand on a box!  But they all muddle along reasonably well and Doods, joker in the pack that she is, seems to have wonderful times.

(Yup I did say D&A test results - poor Doods had a bit of a personality crisis when our vet insisted that she wasn't a labradoodle so we bought Doods a D&A test for her first Christmas, and sure enough, she is a first cross labradoodle, Mum was a Labrador (we met her) and Dad was a poodle, half miniature and half toy, which explains her diminutive size.  She's a happy labradoodle now and our vet finally conceded to mark her down as one on their records  ;-)  )

So it's onwards and upwards with the pottery now, I'm working a steady 30 to 35 hours a week on a schedule that should net the right amount of pottery for each of the shows I've booked at the right time - hopefully and it all seems do-able.  What do you think of the new items?

 

love Maggie and the Doods x

 

 

number 4 - hand building

Well now! that's been an odd sort of fortnight!

Firstly, Spring arrived, the clocks went forward and the days were long, sunny and hot. Then just as I got out my sandals and sunglasses, snow storms hit us in freezing flurries!

In between whiles, there was a furry of a different type, the restock of the shop! No time for making pottery as days were set aside to pack off parcels. A huge thank you to everyone who bought a mug, I hope you got the one you wanted and that they have all arrived safely, the long distance travellers might take another couple of day but should be with you soon.

And finally - I've been unable to throw! Bit of an issue for a potter but also an all too regular occurrence, after all we do deal with glass in the form of glaze on a daily basis. The usual thing is, as a glaze melts in the kiln it can slide down a pot's surface and onto the batt (shelf) or it's stilt (it's personal little stand). Then once cooled, it solidifies into glass and permanently melds on. The only option is to break it off.  All the potters reading this will be nodding their heads and knowing that when you break them away from each other, they leave lethally sharp edges. We NEVER leave these on the pots, always grinding them off and making them totally safe. But before that, the unwary potter unloading her kiln should have learnt by now to watch out for them!

I sliced my thumb quite badly this time and it took  d a y s  to heal up.

It's a cut – it's okay surely! 

No, not for a potter! 

The problem is that clay is made up of the tiniest little razor sharp discs bonded together by ( insert here - loads of really interesting science here that I failed to learn at uni) water. These discs, known as platelets, aren't sharp enough to actually cut your skin but – look away now if you are squeamish! - they do have the nasty habit of sliding in under the skin as you throw and the clay is forced past your cut. Then embedded under the skin, they can happily cultivate infections,

A friend of mine lost a finger back in the 80s because of this which is why I don't throw with a cut on my hands – ever!

So here I was kicking my heals, masses of exciting new ideas for the next round of mugs, but unable to throw a single pot – what should I do?

Mmmmm – hand build of course :-D

One of my fascinations lately has been forget-me-not hearts but there was a problem with them. Previously I have made them of porcelain and it's always been very difficult to paint each tiny petal and all those little edges, it drove me mad. My whole pottery ethos at the moment is to make my processes more efficient and 'difficult to paint' isn't on my agenda :-D

Answer: colour the clay before I make the flowers, so I experimented with adding clay stain to the porcelain, mixing it in really well and then settling down to make the hearts. 

Would you like to see how I made the little hearts?

All that ultra efficiency also left me with time on my hands to relax and enjoy the weirdo weather.

Despite being on the edge of town, my heart is still in the country and my subconscious registers the changing of the season, the buds forming on the flowering trees and the shoots of young hedgerow plants. The snowdrops held on for ages here along the mild southern coastline but they've been replaced with woodlands full of wild daffodils, beautiful and so showy that you often miss the first bright stars of the celandines and the brave early primroses.

Ellie-Doods loved the milder weather while it lasted, chasing around the Forest like a mad thing, her hip dysplasia only really causes her any problems if she's cold and wet, then it's the associated arthritis that's the fault. Otherwise, she's happy and healthy, just like our vet said she would be if we kept her weight down and kept her well exercised.

She's also taken to getting bored, where she used to sleep quietly in the pottery, now she's up on her hind legs, nudging me to quit what I'm doing and come and play. At the beginning of the week when I was still able to throw, it was nigh on impossible to get any work done. Twice she actually got up on my lap and I wished I had been able to reach my phone, she looked for all the world as though she was throwing the pot!

Oh oh oh bit of a stop press – I've booked the New Forest Show, it's a big deal here as it used to be my best selling show of the year pre Covid. It's our big agricultural county show with something like 100,000 visitors, every one of which seems to come through the craft marquee :-D So I better get my skates on and start making pottery – QUICK!!!

That's it for this week, thank you so much for visiting, it's lovely to see so many of you turning up each week.  Over 150! It blows my mind!

Bless you all,

Have a great couple of weeks

Love

Maggie and the Doods

( by the way - I've had a bit of a glitch with the gallery this time – wiped everything – opps!  Oh well, luckily there wasn't much left and I'll have it sorted by next time I promise. In between time, if you'd like to see what's left in the store its https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MaggieFollyPottery and don't forget to get your 10% discount, use code BLOGGY2022)

number 3 - disaster zone!

Welcome everyone, and thanks for returning, it's really great to have you along.  I'm trying a different layout this week because mobiles don't handle the old layout so well and I think over 80% of you read on your mobiles.  Let me know what you think :-)

It's a busy old fortnight!  All about finishing the new painted mugs and getting them through the kiln in time for the next update.  With the sun warming the studio making it feel so spring like and the Doods dozing at (or on!) my feet, it's been easy to stay at my workbench and paint each day.  I haven't painted work like this for years so it's been a little like starting from scratch and relearning how the paints flow onto the chalky-like surface.  Each mug takes me about an hour so I've been really loosing myself in each one's painting process.  Once they were all in the kiln, I had time to sit back and worry, after all each one of these mugs was a prototype and very vulnerable.  And to be honest, I was right to worry as only about a third of the batch survived - but hey, that's pottery!

And to be honest, I was right to worry as only about a third of the batch survived - but hey, that's pottery!

Pottery is a very grounding process, some call it humbling. Sorry if I'm repeating myself, but you never quite know what will come out of the kiln and so over the years you learn not to expect anything until it's finished and in your hand ready to go. And even then you could drop it on a hard floor! 

So when I started this new project, I really did expect a percentage of disasters!  

This one for instance is the seahorse mug I featured last time, but the background stain is far too strong and overpowered the painting completely :-(

Even so, nothing is really a disaster and you learn more from your failures - and there was a lot of learning going on this week!

 

This sweetie has the background applied too thickly, so it's chipped off!  Guess I get to keep this one :-)

 

But it's not all doom and gloom! Take a deep breath and move on, us potters tend to dust ourselves off very quickly, there's another batch on the shelves waiting to go into the kiln and no time for moping about!

And this beauty is just about as gorgeous as I hoped for.  THE peacock butterfly mug!  She's not perfect but pretty darned near so!

and the sunset Savanna ones have come out beautifully too - with the same background slip that cracked up the brush holder!

These were so lovely to paint, and I really drifted off to warmer climes with the sounds of crickets and elephants...

I'm happy too that I decided to make some mugs and some cups, this one fits in the hand just lovely!

and the colours have been so vibrant, this deep sea blue has been used on a couple of the mugs.

I'll put on a series of videos so that you can see them a bit better, this new layout is better but the photo size is a bit limiting.

the whale

this whale swims right round the mug, and I'm really pleased he came out with such a presence, he's really there!

the elephants

along with the mugs and the cups, I threw a couple of tankards, this is my original tankard shape from way back in the 1980s but the shape sort of become contemporary again, weird how fashions just seem to go round and round :-)

and the irises

it's hard for me to have a favourite, but honestly this one's so gorgeous, smooth deep glazing, bright colours and sits so nicely in my hand.  I'm going to have such troubles parting with these, I'm going to want to keep them all :-(

So that's about it for this time, sorry it's all been about what's come out of the kiln, I promise more of a mix next time.  Meanwhiles, as promised, I've put a preview of what will form the restock on Friday, if you'd like something just let me know, the discount prices, for you my lovely members, are also shown.

Thank you again for sticking with us :-)

Until next time, stay safe

Maggie and the Doods :-)

number two - after the storms

wow! thank you for subscribing - it's lovely to see so many of you all :-D

Although the pottery survived the storms, my poor old Garden Gnome lost all his fruit cages and part of his greenhouse on the allotment, he'll have his hands full for a while mending it all. 

It means I've had extra time to get my teeth into the new design mugs and I think they are coming along nicely, I now have a seahorse one, moths, sunrises, sunsets, flowers and manta rays, but my imagination is really running riot with all the ideas of things I can add. I've put some early stages on Instagram but if you've not seen them, they are a thrown mug with a hand-painted design covering the whole body of the mug, my style. 

Suddenly I feel that there is a real connection between the painting side of my life and my pottery. And if I've said it once this month, I've said it a hundred times, this really feels as though I was born to do this. 

So it's been lots of early starts, kettle on and out to the back studio before breakfast again. 

Since the storms, it seems as though the birds think winter is over and have their eye on nesting sites, surely it's too early for all that!? They've been chitter-chattering outside the studio windows, flittering about like mad things. Mainly sparrows who live in great hoards in our high hedges and are seriously vocal at times. The 'gentle sounds of the dawn chorus' be blowed – it's an absolute cacophony! Yet, I find them lovely company and can procrastinate for ages while watching their antics. More signs of spring in the garden are the explosions of flowers which have truly lifted my spirits. Much to the Garden Gnome's disapproval, I tend to declare 'Summer' in our house somewhere about now. He'd rather wait until the frosts are over and the calendar says it's Summer – but no, that wastes so many months!

Both the kiln shed and the back studio look out on the garden, so I've been enjoying the aerial displays of the little sparrows as they bicker like mad for the best spots in the trees.

After 15 minutes of watching the sparrows, admiring the flowers and finishing my coffee, I've got the wedging done and I have a neat little stack of clay balls, all about 1lb in weight, ready to be thrown.

Although it's tedious, wedging is so very essential – to be honest, it's probably THE most important part of throwing a pot because without it you might not get to all of the other stages. Wedging looks a little like kneading dough but its purpose is to even out the clay in case of any dryer or wetter areas, to de-air it and to start to lay all the little platelets evenly around the ball – oh dear, I can hear you yawning – sorry - yes, it's boring, each ball has to be wedged 50 times. I do about 20 balls at a time, that's 1000 wedging movements! Tedious and very BORING....

So finally I settle to throw, starting with a couple of warm-up pots. These are my little gauges as to how my morning's throwing will go. This morning they went beautifully, slim walled, nicely balanced – Right! I'm ready to throw for real.

If you've ever watched one of my videos, you might have noticed that my wheel has a soft husker hum to his motor. Those who have one of the new whisper-soft wheels might say mine hums loudly, to which I'd say 'hey! I have double tinnitus mate, I don't even notice the wheel' :-D The thing is that back in my day, all wheels hummed and you knew, just from their sound, the speed and pressure being used, it was all part of the craft. Modern wheels are so very quiet – but where's the fun in that, where's the connection, the feel for it? My wheel, a gift from a very very dear friend, is an absolute treasure to me without which I'd be hand-building now! 

By the fourth pot a pattern is developing; fingers clean the wheel head as my other hand reaches for the next blob of clay, it hits the wheel head, add some water and both hands descend on it with my weight behind them to get the initial centre, add some water, it's coned three times (brought up to align the platelets and pull out any last little air bubbles) add some water, the right thumb goes in pulling the initial pot shape outwards across the wheel head, add some water, the hands work in unison to pull up the clay walls, add some water, check the height and shape, clean off all the water and stop the wheel!

The rhythm is so absorbing that you drift off totally into the clay, almost feeling the tiny platelets shifting against each other as your fingers persuade them gently into a mug.

10 to 15 is the aim – I'm a small batch potter these days. I no longer have massive ambitions to make 50 pots a day, I simply wouldn't have the storage capacity to deal with that many in the new pottery. But 10 to 15, that hits the mark perfectly. By Tuesday, they have all been trimmed up to have slim walls and be nicely balanced. 

And now here is where things have changed in the last month or so. Usually, I would have added their handles and be leaving them to dry until there was a kiln load. These new design mugs have to have colour added before their handles, so I'm learning a new routine.  Adding this colour is almost magical to watch and a couple of people have suggested I might make a longer meditative video of it :-D Not so sure that's a good idea, but I've put a short video on here to show you what it looks like and I'll explain it all next time,

So till then,

Take care

Maggie and the Doods.


 

Next time – I now have a possible date for the Etsy restock - 25th March, so I'll put up some photos on the next newsletter (18th March) if anyone would like to buy one prior to them going live on Etsy. 

AND.... I'm trying to put together a proper 'how to throw a pot' video for next time :-DDD


 

number one

friday - hello and welcome

Hopefully you might already know a bit about who I am, but just in case. I'm Maggie, a potter living and still working, despite retiring twice, on the Dorset/Hampshire border, with the Garden Gnome (aka my husband) and my scruffy dog, Ellie-Doods.

From 1982 until 2016 Folly Pottery was in  a purpose built workshop beside the house, out on the western edge of the New Forest with our ponies grazing the lawn and pink roses around the door.

But forget that idyllic image quickly, because when we retired the first time round, we sold the house and pottery to move into town – not so sure if it was the best idea now, but there you go.  Now the pottery is split between a tiny garden shed (as seen above) and the sunroom of the house where all the throwing happens.  Although it's a much smaller space, it is warmer in winter and does still have roses around the door. Happily it also retains a rural pottery feel, tucked in and hidden as it is behind our high hedges and at least I don't have ponies gobbling up my garden flowers!

I usually work about 4 days a week with Ellie-Doods as my constant company, her and a good audio book or two.  The Garden Gnome (remember him, my husband Ray) likes to be on his allotment for most of his waking hours and honestly, I don't think I've ever know him so happy.  

So how does the pottery itself work - I think it might surprise some to know that I (and a lot of other potters) work to a reasonably organised regime.  Mine is in four week cycles.  The first week of each cycle is throwing time, the second is turning and trimming, the third and fourth account for all the decorating, glazing and firing, after which I start again at week one but with the added stress of the sales from the cycle before to pack and send off mixed in.

I love being a one-woman show, I'm CEO and finance director, head of marketing, despatch, customer services, website building and manufacturing, plus tea girl, glazer and kiln master!  Many hats!  Who has time to get bored :-D

Today is Friday and blowing a hoolie outside - proper winter coastal weather, so I'm taking a well earned day off, my feet up in front of the fire with Doods tucked up under my arm, making it almost impossible for me to write.   But I'm determined to get this newsletter thing up and running and todays the perfect day. 

Tomorrow I'll be back to the cycle, currently I'm in week three, so I'm decorating mugs ready for the kiln.  These latest mugs are all hand painted with animals or flowers and are beginning to make a nice new collection, but pottery is one of those annoying processes that 'keep you humble!'  You can never count on anything until it's out of the kiln and, trust me, I can still manage to drop it on a hard surface after that!  Because of that I'll hold judgement on these mugs until I can properly show you finished pictures!. 

So, for now, I'm going to snuggle down and let the wind rattle the pottery door without me!

Bless you all - 'til next time.

Maggie and Doods :-)

PS  If you've received an invite here it will be because you are a treasured existing customer, or have previously shown an interest in my shop on Etsy, or are one of my lovely Instagram followers :-)  Either way, you are all so welcome.  There are a couple of benefits to subscribing, firstly you'll see previews of my work here first and have a discounted price.  You'll have access to longer versions of my videos and the chance to ask questions if you would like, so I really hope you'll subscribe :-D

© Copyright. All rights reserved.