Monday, February 14, 2011

Talk at North Devon Arts

I gave my first talk last Wednesday night at North Devon Arts (NDA), at Broomhill Art Hotel near Barnstaple. I have been a member of NDA for a while and it was a really great thing to experience time in the ‘presenter’s seat’ for a change, having gone to many meetings and been an audience member.

I went to great length to prepare a good talk that covered both aspects of my Churchill Fellowship – the export of Pottery and the Manteo twinning connection. I wanted to disseminate what I had learned about the pottery trade and shared examples from all of the collections that I had seen. I also brought along some pieces from my sherd collection and it gave the audience a chance to handle bits of old pot, a bit like I did in America.

I brought some props with me and quoted from some books. My Manteo baseball hat was put on at one stage and the Manteo water bottle and plastic dumpster truck were held aloft!

What was particularly special was that as well as a round of applause at the end, several people came up to me afterwards and told me how much they had enjoyed the talk and enjoyed my enthusiasm. Also 3 lots of people came out especially to hear my talk, who haven’t been to an NDA meeting for some time.

All in all a lovely evening, thank you to NDA for including me in your programme and for the complimentary glass of wine and meal, which were both delicious.

My next talk booked in is on April 16th at the Friends of the Burton AGM.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

My North Devon Pottery collection grows a bit, in bits!

My collection of North Devon pottery was added to in January. I already have some complete plainware jugs with slip around the rim, probably 19th century, although this has not been verified.

I now have found some sherds on the coast, a mixture of glazed plainware (different colours but mainly olive green glaze) and a couple of pieces of sgrafitto. Very exciting, and some of it looks like the photos of the finds I was shown in America! It felt really great to be back on home territory and find equally old pieces on the beaches here.

I went to visit Doug Fitch in his studio near Crediton to show him my collection and to talk about my trip to Virginia and North Carolina. Doug was very intrigued by it all and enthusiastically showed me some of his collection – he has quite a collection of North Devon Pottery and is a huge fan and advocate of it. His own work is highly influenced, producing beautiful pots featuring slipware and sgrafitto.

One sherd, a chunky and heavy piece of plainware with a handle was Doug’s favourite and he couldn’t put it down. I was even treated to a demonstration on his wheel of making a pot with a pulled over handle over the rim, to explain how the rim of the pot represented by the sherd was formed. He also said you can tell the maker of a pot by the handle – the size of it is unique and depends on the maker’s hand size.

As always a fascinating visit and a treat. Thank you Doug for being so generous with both information and enthusiasm.

2011 so far...

I have been working on various things so far this year, writing my report for the Winston Churchill Trust, visiting the Museum of North Devon and Barnstaple to talk to curator Ruth Spires about their collection and adding to my own collection.

I spoke to Ruth before Christmas about my fellowship trip and what I discovered in Virginia and North Carolina. Ruth told me that someone studying for a Phd (Alice Forward of Cardiff University) was visiting from Wales in January so I arranged to come back again at the same time so we could exchange information, finds and notes. I actually visited the Museum on February 3rd – when I arrived Alice was in the covered yard at the Museum with David Dawson, who has 40 years experience of identifying pottery. They both had their heads buried in boxes of sherds and it was quite a sight as there are rows and rows of boxes and boxes of finds. Ruth told me that a lot are from an archaeological dig in the 80’s when the new library site in Barnstaple was being developed.

We all went into the main Museum and compared sherds – I shared some recent finds from the North Devon Coast and Alice had some wonderful pieces of sgrafitto ware from the Valley between Swansea and Cardiff. David identified a couple of my sgraffito pieces as being 17th Century.

It was fascinating talking to him as he can identify a pot’s form and size from a relatively small piece.

I will return to the Museum some time soon and take a look at their collection. I will need a few hours to spare as it is so large but it is quite a significant collection of pottery from Barnstaple and Bideford and area.