Maggie at Folly Pottery

welcome to my new bloggy thing

My insights to the funnier side of a potters life and 'behind the scenes' glimpses into a different way of life that's not always as calm and meditative as you might think.  

Each new episode will be posted below on this page, newest first and so you don't miss an episode, can I ask that you subscribe, I will then send you one email when it is posted. Just the one email I promise, I won't swamp you with millions of the darned thing as I know myself how annoying that can be  :-)

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