Gerry Grant

Gerry Grant
On The Wheel

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Repairing the kiln

Gerry dressed in CSI gear is repairing the kiln this week. He is removing the old saffil fibre and replacing it with new panels. Then he is going to give the kiln a new floor and we'll be all be ready for another 10 years.....

A good clean out!

This week we made the decision to get rid of all the old slip casting moulds we have used over the last 40 years. We have tried to rehome them but have found it hard. We had lots of block and cases which you use to make working moulds. The Art department from York St John's University took a few and we have had to hire a skip to get rid of the rest.
We also have thrown out all the old moulds we used for making emblems on the outside of pots - everything from Snake Lane Run emblems to Millennium ones. What memories.....

Here is Gerry holding one of the hippo planters made from one of the moulds.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Building and firing kilns with children!!

Right from the start we were keen to get children interested in clay work. They are our future ceramicists and potters!
We went into local schools and worked with the teachers on  projects with the children. In the 1970s we even built and fired kilns with them.
 This is a wood fired kiln that we built at Fangfoss. The children stoked it all day and we unpacked it the following day. We had made little pots with glass in the bottom. It had reached a high enough temperature to melt the glass.

This is a sawdust kiln we made at Leconfield. The children put their pots in and filled it with sawdust and let it burn down. It just reached the point where clay turns to pot.

We even made kilns out of biscuit tins. We got the children to punch holes in biscuit tins, put their pots in and fill it with sawdust and light it. The pots fired, but the children were really excited about the melting oils on top of their tins. The heat had made wonderful patterns from the original pictures....

Of cousre this would not be allowed today. Health and Safety is ruining the childhood experiences of children. When I put these pictures up on facebook, recently, several of the then children (adults now) said it was one of the most memorable things they had done at school.

Developing the slip casting processes

After a couple of years of making pottery boots, Gerry heard of a pottery called Scarborough pottery that was closing down and was selling off all its equipment including their moulds. We decided to go over - it was actually in Filey- and have a look. Everything was going up for tender - block and case moulds, working moulds, and other pottery equipment, so we put in a quote, not thinking we would be close and we got the whole lot. It seemed that we were the only ones who bid anything.
That was when we started slip casting in a big way.

Some of the moulds we bought were from Hornsea pottery originals. In the 1950s and onwards, Hornsea did little vases with rabbits and deers on the side of them. We got them all!

We also got the moulds to make mugs which proved to be very popular. One of the mugs was an elephant where the trunk formed the handle. Another was a crocodile with the tail being the handle.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The move to slip casting

The next development in the pottery came by chance. A wholesaler called John came into the pottery brandishing a pottery boot that he had bought from somewhere and asked if we could make something similar. He said there was a huge demand for them, and the larger ones could be used as planters.

Gerry had done a bit of slipcasting at college and decided to "give it a go". With the help of CoSira - a government body giving help to small businesses in rural areas, Gerry went on a course where he learnt to make the models from which to cast the moulds.

Not long after we were making hundreds of boots - small ones, large ones, black wellies, green wellies with a real brass buckle and hiking boots - complete with a set of proper metal studs. Marks and Spencers gave us an initial order for 100 Green wellies but we never saw them in the shop and they never repeated the order.
Gerry with one of the boots.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The formative years

1977 was a good year to set up a pottery. The whole country was into self sufficiency and the good life and adored anything hand made - so much so that almost anything sold! There was no competition from China and Sunday Trading was unheard of. But what made it for us was the fact that it was also the Queen's Silver Jubilee - 25 years of her reign.
The whole country was in celebratory mood and parish councils, village schools and organisations wanted mementoes to commemorate the day. So....they came to us. We began to make mugs with embelms on. The emblems were made from moulds which Gerry had made. Soft clay was pressed into a mould, removed and left to dry a little, before being stuck onto the side of a mug.
 A pint Jubilee mug - bought back from the Oxfam shop in Pocklington , 2 years ago!

Throughout the year we were kept busy making souvenirs for the Jubilee, and then the year finished and we were left wondering what to do next.

Gerry realised he was quite good at doing this and saw a gap in the market for hand made souvenir pots, with an emblem on, and of a good quality (though looking at the badly designed mug above - you wouldn't have thought that!). It wasn't long before this became our "bread and butter" in the pottery. We were able to make a living doing this sort of pottery. Gerry didn't have to go out and supplement his income  - making pots full time is what he wanted to do and this was a means of doing it.
A plate for a tourist site in Orkney.

A goblet for the Jorvik Viking Centre

At the same time he made larger items more suited towards the gallery market. We still do this split today. We make pots for the Jorvik Viking Centre, Iona Abbey, Durham Cathedral, Mousie Thompson, St David's Cathedral and smaller craft outlets throughout the UK, while making larger - perhaps more "arty?" pieces for exhibitions and galleries.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Tales from the old school!

The original fireplace in the Infant's Classroom

This is the fireplace that was used in the corner of the smaller classroom. The boiler was in the main classroom and the heat circulated through the large pipes until it reached here. Unfortunately, sometimes it had grown cold by the time it got to this classroom. Former pupils remember the fire always blazing and the teachers desk being quite near to it!

The children had to pay school subs of 1p per week (I don't know how long ago this was, or when the practice stopped) and those that paid were allowed to sit near the fire. Those that forgot had to sit at the back!

This is the original cupboard that stood next to the back door, leading out to the toilets. It was known as the inkwell cupboard, and it was the job of the ink well monitor to fill up the ink wells every week. The ink well monitor at some particular time was the head teachers daughter, so one of the pupils decided to play a trick on her. He placed the large bottle of ink right on the edge of the shelf so that when the door was opened the ink fell out all over her.

Obviously the  teacher of the class was furious and severly punished the pupil, but decided it was so great an offence that a letter should be sent to the boy's parents, who lived in Bolton at the time. She gave the letter to the boy, who threw it in Fangfoss Beck on the way home. The  teacher, wondering why the pupil's parents hadn't responded, decided to pay them a personal visit. So after school one evening she set off for Bolton on her bike.Unfortunately it was icy, and  she fell off her bike breaking her arm and ending up in hospital. The pupil thought he had got away with it but he hadn't. Not knowing what her son had done, the pupil's mother thought it would be a nice gesture to go and take some flowers to the teacher in hospital - and that was when the truth came out! The pupil was expelled for a while - and according hto him it wasn't the first or last time!