Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Can you sue yourself for poor working conditions?

Kiln is firing right now and I can't get into the pottery (read on, you'll understand why!) I thought I'd write on the blog!

I often find myself saying that I produce my pots in "my pottery at the end of the garden".
Perhaps I am romaticising it a bit, trying to perhaps make it sound better than what it really is!

Don't get me wrong, I love my pottery. It just sometimes staggers me just how I manage to work in such a tight space.

Here is where the magic happens!

To the left side of the shed is my workspace:

This is to the right of my work space:

Smack in the middle of the pottery is the kiln!
And to the right of the kiln on the back wall are more shelves, followed by more shelves and my wheel on the right side of the pottery:

However, when the time came for me to set-up my own place, I had some very specific limitations in deciding where I could have a pottery. Namely funding of course. Ideally, I wanted to be free of monthly rent; keep the set-up costs to a minimum; and have a space I could retreat to any time of day, any day of the week. I also had to recognise my building and diy prowess didn't go far beyond patch plastering and making interior spaces look pretty. This coupled with the fact I had no family (okay, dad) around to help construct a space from stratch.

A flat pack shed was the answer to all my prayers...instant erected space right in my back garden accessable any time I wanted. The major constraints to this choice besides price was the specific space I had between my fence line and the edge of existing pavement in which to squeeze the shed into.

In the end, I settled on a 10 x 5 foot shed which just fit into the spare garden space.
In the beginning, pre-kiln, it seemed very spacious. I knew all along that this wasn't going to be permanent. That once I proved to myself that I could make a "go" of this whole pottery business and actually bring in some dosh, I could "graduate" into a bigger premises at a later date, ideally on the dream property Joe and I would move to outside London with our 2.1 kids...I digress...

What I didn't appreciate was how quickly the kiln swallowed up the space ( I knew it would be a sizeable chunk, but nothing like putting it in situ to make that a big reality!). AND, trying to store experimental pieces, work in progress, clay, raw materials, reclaim batts, glaze making equipment, files and the essential mini radio (to name a few) really packed this baby up tight!

More surprising to me is just how much this lack of space really impacts of what I am able to make and how much of it I can realistically produce. I don't think it is such a big deal at the moment considering I am starting out and not selling much at all, but I already have ruled out production ware as an option simply because I wouldn't be able to manage it in the space I have.

Another notable impact of my "intimate" space is the sense of isolation it can bring to the whole potting experience. On any given day, I am actually very content out there working on my own listening to the radio and doodling along. I think the idea of isolation comes to the fore when I am actually at events suddenly realising that opening up to and meeting others is harder for me than it ever was before. I can predominantly attribute this to this solitary existance for a bulk of my day; a life experience that is very different to the bustling social schedule I used to manage easily in younger years.

I try to counter-balance this alone time with nights out with other potters/friends, being really good about keeping in touch with others and attending training events and shows. It is only now that I have had plenty of time to reflect on my set-up that my once fervent belief that it is okay to be one with your art is now being challenged. In fact, I now consider that shared spaces, whether rented or owned can be very inspirational and helpful to the creative process, networking and building relationships.

Ironically, I began my journey in clay believing that becoming a successful potter was born primarily from one's ability to master the wheel, develop own glazes, and be the best at making what you make - essentially, a skill based scale. Now, (and yeah, it is so obvious to most!) I am realising that being a successful potter is just as much about who you surround yourself and involve yourself with - assisting and sharing information and ideas - than just your own personal development with clay.

Every day my challenge is making the best out of my current situation. Lemons out of lemonaid as it were. Going with the flow and working within my constraints, all the while pushing boundaires and making plans for how to proceed when I have the chance to expand and include others in my set-up. Staying involved and keeping in touch, sharing my (albiet very limited) knowledge with others and learning something in return.
Ahhh, nothing like a night forced away from the pottery to gain some perspective!!!


  1. Hi ya, cool blog. I love the pics. I had no idea kiln's were so shiny, now for some strange reason I want want.

  2. Hello Jami - I love the title for this entry! Your shed is looking so much more fuller than the last time I was in it (which was over a year ago I just realised). It looks fantastic - so busy and productive. I would also not let has anywhere near the kiln if I were you....

  3. I'm very impressed... This morning I sold my electric wheel, it was sad. I love to hear how and where you've made you work oasis. I wish you the very best!