Welcome to the Gallery

Imagine is set in the Suffolk village of Long Melford.
This is an attempt to record the daily trials, tribulation and pleasure of running an art gallery.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Apparently, it was a bad time of the year that I had decided to travel upon
The weather had been pretty bad, rain, snow, rain, ice, more snow and on the evening before I set off
Yet more snow.
Still it could have been worse according to the media,

"Whiteout Britain"
"Planes Grounded"
"Country in Ice Grip"
"Chaos on Motorway"
"Country on Flood Alert"

There is no doubt about it when it comes to "doom & gloom" we really lead the way, everything was predicted except "Plague of Locust," give it time it will come.
But I was committed, car was hired, rooms booked, clean socks, pants and 'wellies' were packed,
So off I set early on a Sunday morning before the world awoke [or at least my household].

I must admit once I have managed to leave a warm bed and a house full of sleeping dogs I find that there is nothing nicer than watching the sun rise on a beautiful day.
Travelling West and then South.
By the time I was driving through Somerset the day really was looking good, the morning mist rising over the lowlands while everything else was bathed in a glorious light.
It was a day that it felt good to be alive on, I felt very fortunate to be making this journey on such a day.
In fact I was happy to be making the journey, I felt that I was "slacking off work",
although I wasn't really because the trip was to collect new art for the gallery plus cement some new
relationships, which was essential for a very important and ambitious exhibition that we have planned for the middle of the year, an exhibition involving around twenty world class potters.
Even so there was still a feeling of guilt being away as there was so much to be done back at the gallery.

I stopped for the night a few miles outside of St. Ives in Cornwall.
I could have carried on and had my first visit, plus a bag of chips by the sea which would have been nice, but I just wanted to sleep.
The family hasn't had a holiday or any time off except for Christmas for over seven years, and I spend
seven days a week in the gallery, so it is trips like this that give me the chance to "switch off"
from the daily routine and as normal it makes me tired.
So I was in bed at a time when I am normally still in the gallery writing letters or doing paperwork.
Sleep, it was lovely.

The potter John Bedding was the man that I had come to visit.
So my first call of the morning was to his amazing gallery, although it should be called a museum.
He shows [for sale] probably the best collection of ceramics in the country, it certainly equals the collection in many museums.
Although I had come to admire the work by many famous potters my real purpose was to discover what beautiful pieces of his own might be tucked away somewhere, before I went off to meet with him.
I made a wish list of my choices then set of through the deserted lanes of St Ives
Out of season this famous artist location is a strange place, the tourist shops are closed or empty and
in reality a little of the magic is lost along with the vibrance, in fact it seems very much like anywhere
in the country with the exception of the sound of the sea in the background.

I visited John at his studio which is in the towns old gaol-yard, which forms a complex of studios that John owns and lets to other potters, all of them exceptional craftspeople, it is a magical place.
From inside that "gaol" some fantastic, original ceramics are created, but I will mention more about that in a later post when I will show some of the work by Sarah Dunstan.
I would like to talk of her, her work and my meeting with her now but as usual the time is late.

So, I did meet with John Bedding, who for me is one of the most forward thinking potters of our time. Despite not being in the best of health he "once again" captivated me with his explanations of his working methods and future plans. Some of his ideas really are ground breaking but it is not my place [although tempted] to talk of them, which is pretty good when I consider that he is slightly more ancient than me. This isn't a man who tells second hand stories of Bernard leach, he worked with him,
although he doesn't talk of this or of any of his important associations.
He is a quite talking man with lots of energy and enthusiasm, I like him a lot, and his work.

Of course, it goes without saying that he let me leave St. Ives with my choice of his pots.
So to shorten a too long a story, after a visit to the pottery that once belonged to Bernard Leach I returned to my hotel for another long nights sleep.
Next morning found me driving up to Devon where I met up with old friends and craftsmen.
I would have visited more and I had promised to call in to see Philip Leach but the day was passing too fast and I had one more important visit [for future exhibition] to make before leaving the county.

This was to meet the potter 'Harry Juniper,' a truly amazing man.
He is aged 80 but going on 16.
Visiting his pottery I was staggered by the shear amount of pots he produces, and most of them
Harvest Jugs, and what surprised me is that they are affordable.
None of the "they take so long that's why they are expensive" stuff for this old boy,
He just works and works.
His only complaint was that he "needs time, that's all I want, time".
That would be interspaced by his most frequent comment "isn't life grand?"
"Isn't it a wonderful life," "just more time"
was what he kept repeating. It was a wonderful visit.
He took me into his home. "Nobody gets to come in here," he told me.
Showed me all of the photographs of his work since he started life as a potter, aged 14, recounted stories of his life and career, and even showed me his personal collection of ceramics.
Just one piece by John Maltby.
"The only man I purchased a pot from, after all why should I buy them I make them".
After too many hours and in the dark evening I reluctantly left him, but with the promise o
 "Harvest Jugs to follow in May".

So I drove up through the remainder of Devon, across the Severn Bridge [in horizontal rain]
into Wales then north to arrive late at night outside the ancient town of Ludlow.

After a "not so long" nights sleep I travelled into the town to meet with another potter Andrew Crouch.
This is an episode I will revisit as I don't write fast and it is getting too late to be sitting in the gallery.
I must be the only shop that is still lit and with an occupant.
[if you're passing call in].

Finally, I arrived at my last destination the pottery of Mark Griffiths.
Slight problem here, Mark had gotten the date of my visit wrong and he had left for the coast of Wales.
I was determined that I was not leaving his pottery without a car full of his pots, so I drove into town got some fish and chips then returned to sit outside his door in the hope that someone would arrive home.
At long last. His son arrived home in the evening.
After I explained my predicament and my purpose he invited me in to
"Help yourself".
That's just what I did and I loved every minute of it.
In my mind I could hear Mark saying "not that one, I'm keeping that" but as he wasn't there I did what a man has to do [well if he has a gallery] and took every pot I liked.
Now "that's what I call shopping".

Two days later back in the gallery Mark called for a chat.
Everything was good, and when he told me the prices it got even better.
Believe me, anyone who comes to purchase these pots is going to get a real bargain, fantastic pots by one of UK's best potters at prices we can still afford.
I like Mark, even if he does forget things.
Like my bloody visit.

Above are a mixture of a few pieces that I returned with from John and Mark.


  1. Beautiful pieces. I never did get out of London and driving along the countryside with you was wonderful.

  2. Hi John, It's one of my ambition to visit Harry Juniper. Where is he based? My brother has a house near Ilfracombe so I could use that as a base if he's near enough. Does he have a studio or shiop that is open to the public. Please give me some details!!

  3. Donna.
    You must get out more.
    The thought of travelling into London scares me.
    It seems strange that having spent most of my life in London I would now feel like the nervous tourist.
    It has made me realise that now it is villages that I am more at home in,
    It must be an age thing.
    Which is odd because as you appreciate I am only eighteen.
    Well in mind.

    Merci Beaucoup, Anne

    I never thought that you would like ceramics.
    But, I do not know nearly enough about you, which is why I must visit this year.

    Hello Margaret
    Well considering that you are the person that educated me about Harry, then the least I can do is tell you how to find him.
    I will send details in an email.
    At the moment I have enough trouble avoiding telling people Margaret Brampton's address without sharing Harry's.

  4. Nice post John, I used to love early starts watching the sun come up on near empty roads, and the pots look great.

  5. Thanks Paul

    You were one of the people on my list to visit, but alas my ambitions are getting too much for my tired body.
    You were in my thoughts as I passed near to you on the way down to St Ives, but as I just wanted to get there and sleep I decided to visit you and John Leach on my return.
    Best laid plans as they say.

  6. Great pots and great story, John. Just getting caught up on blogs right now. You told me about the trip, and I'm glad to see some of the pots. Actually, Mark contacted me by email not long ago with a critique of the type of wood kiln we're thinking about building.

  7. Has Mark sent you pictures of his last kiln Hollis?
    Not a pretty sight.
    He told me that it was the 24th he has built. I think he spends more time building kilns than he does potting. But seriously, he does know what he is talking about, plus he makes everything sound so easy.
    He keeps telling me to come and stay "and make some pots".
    If I ever make another it will be with him.

    I haven't forgotten about the bowls, just distracted.
    I will write to you this week.