Design and good form!


We spent the afternooon at Potfest in the Park on Saturday. Set in the grounds of the country seat, Hutton in the Forest, Potfest welcomes somewhere in the region of 200 potters – many from overseas and with the best will in the world, you aren’t going to get any tat there!

With the current economic downturn in full swing I did wonder if it would be a bit of a washout….no disposable incomes left, travel not the cheapest and that’s before you get to the British summer weather!

When we arrived the field was near full….so much for a lack of casual cash to flash around. For this is no cheap affair if you’re a buyer. This is full-on art collection territory for some people. For others starting out, you can easily grab a good deal for under £20.

I was relieved to see on the list my favourites – Armin Skirde, Richard Godfrey and Peter Beard but saddened that Matthew Blakeley wasn’t about – I drink from his divine, celadon porcelain mug everyday, it gets me through the books!

Potfest is really good fun, you won’t hear the word ‘juxtaposition’ anywhere on the field. Neither will you find affected accents, heads cocked to one side, admiring the form and then discussing the direction, discipline and dissertations of years spent digging mud on a Vietnamese river bank. I’m sure you could find that conversation but this is Cumbria – call a spade a shovel territory!

All sarcasm aside, it’s the dirt which fascinates me. You take 200 people and see how they work differently with a lump of mud. Because that’s all it is – by and large. And it makes my heart sing.

I absolutely adore Richard and Peter’s work. I met Richard donkeys years ago when I had a ceramics shop in Preston in 1991. Richard’s work was the most spectacular explosion of colour and shape I’d ever seen and I ordered some in to the shop.

I waited anxiously for weeks until it arrived. I’d told all my best customers it was due and one got so excited when he saw it in the window that he ran to the display, stopped too slowly, hit the shelving and crashed about 4 teapots into one another destroying the lot!

Peter’s work is a different bag entirely. It’s purely sculptural, effortlessly elegant (get used to this phrase I use it a lot) and mindblowingly intricate.

Peter Beard Competition Entry

Both of them use slips (liquid coloured clay) and glazes in a way I can’t get my head round. Richard’s colour ranges grow every year and this year I went for tangerine and lime colours – acid surfstyle designs, and, oddly, a really soft texture to the transparent overglazing.

Having got married earlier this year, buying one of Peter’s pieces was sadly out  of my financial reach but just look him up. I don’t know if it’s still there but when the Lowry Hotel opened in Manchester a few years back they had a whole lobby filled with his work. It’s like mottled coral, rusting metal or even snakeskin on some pieces….and he’s another absolutely lovely guy.

Richard won this year’s open competition entitled Building Bridges (I think).

Richard Godfrey's winning competition entry Potfest 2009

Hopefully we’ll be able to attract some of these talents to the newroomsonline gallery section! In the meantime Potfest returns to the Pens at Penrith (junction 40 off the M6) in 10 days! See you there.


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