I’d always fancied having a go at pottery. Nothing to do with Demi Moore in Ghost, obviously. Nothing. At all! :) I guess it’s really the appeal of making something by hand from scratch… the feel of clay on fingers and palms (or what I imagined clay would feel like, never having actually made anything with it before).
Without wanting to sound like a pretentious idiot, it was the idea of making a connection with the material as well… the free feeling I thought I might get if I tried it! So I tried it at Enigma Pottery in Frome, under the watchful eye of experienced Potter and Pottery Mentor, Jenny Barton.
She makes beautiful ceramics for the likes of Babington House, Acorn Vegetarian Kitchenand The Bath Priory, as well as for a whole host of private clients. I thought if anyone could give me a taste of what it feels like to create something really cool from clay, it’d be Jenny!
As it happens, Jenny runs ‘taster classes’ as well as a whole host of other workshops for all ages - pottery parties, workshops for adults, classes for kids, seasonal one-off’s like Easter Egg painting and Christmas Decoration Making, as well as one-to-one tuition where you can either make something by hand, or have a blast on the potters wheel! She does it from her Somerset studio and gallery-shop (shown above), so I popped along one sunny Friday morning to see whether pottery would be for me!
Jenny’s studio’s at the bottom of a pretty walled garden at the back of her Grade II listed house on Frome’s Vicarage Street… and it’s a bit of a secret warren!
There are two studio rooms up top - one where the classes take place around a large communal table, and another filled with shelves of Jenny’s commissions and work in progress, as well as her potters wheels. It’s an inspiring space - an earthy, get-your-hands-mucky, clay-filled haven that makes you want to crack on and create something great!
Follow the staircase downwards and you enter the heart of all things firey! It's kiln HQ, with several of them sitting there ready to do their baking hot work… and yet more pots, plates and student creations of various shapes and sizes (including the biggest ceramic cactus I’ve ever seen!!) waiting for their turn in the basement kilns.
Anyway, firing was a long way off for me and once I’d popped my pinny on, I was ready to see what I could make with my two hours of pottery time. As a complete beginner, we decided it would be a small ‘coil’ pot made entirely by hand - coil because basically you make individual coils of clay and build them up, one on top of another, to eventually create your perfect pot - or at least that’s the idea :)
I joined the table of Jenny’s Friday morning regulars, who were creating everything from pottery ducks to door stops. There was one mighty fine cockerel being sculpted too, who kept cropping up in pretty much every picture I took!
He was being lovingly shaped by a twinkly-eyed lady, Suzi, and the entire group joked about their weekly sessions being like pottery therapy. I could see what they meant though.
As I started rolling out my ‘grogged buff’ clay sausage shapes, and carefully coiling and sticking them together to build my very first pottery creation, I felt a complete sense of calm. It was lovely to escape the constant thoughts fluttering in and out of the mind (and my huge to-do list), and simply focus on the feel of the clay and the desire to make something from the heart - a little pot that would never be perfectly symmetrical. A little pot no-one else would look twice at, but one that would mean something extra-special to me. One that would be cool for nicknacks and would be remembered for relaxing a mind that tends to jump about all over the shop!
So, here's the final question. With Jenny’s help, have I gone potty over pottery? (see what I did there? I know. Sorry!!) Well, the answer is… I think I just might’ve. As well as being great for the mind, the class was really good fun and so I’ve signed up for a six week block to make a ceramic pumpkin for Halloween.
If that doesn’t scare off the ghosts and ghouls, nothing will! I’ll keep tweeting my progress here and hopefully I’ll actually make some :)
I’m secretly hoping Jenny might let me loose on the wheel for a try too!
If you fancy having a go yourself, whether you’re just visiting Somerset and want to try a two-hour taster or you live locally and fancy joining a class, you can contact Jenny on 01373 452079 or 07791 699770. You can also email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.
Jenny's Enigma gallery shop, facing directly on to Vicarage Street, is also a bit of an understated, undiscovered treasure trove. It houses an eclectic range of her work, so if you’re looking for tableware, cookware, handmade tiles, special occasion plates and lots more besides, check it out. Pearl Lowe did and Instagram reliably informs me she’s a fan! Go Jenny!