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In the world capital of ceramics and heart of the potteries Valentine Clays, a family run manufacturer, has been supplying clay bodies and raw materials in Stoke-on-Trent for the past 35 years.

Valentine Clays is proud of its close working relationship with the studio potter and ceramic community. Read more about us here.

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Potter of the month

NAME: John Mathieson
Learn more about our Potter of the Month with an insightful interview.

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1. What general skills & techniques do you use? (e.g. throwing etc)My work is a mixture of slip casting and hand sculpting. I make my own moulds currently from old poison, apothecary and scientific vessels. 2. Tell us a bit about your experience and knowledge:I have a degree in Graphic design and spent time as a bookbinder and milliner before I settled into working in the greeting card industry for over 20 years, so I have only come to ceramics relatively recently. a. Where have you studied and learnt your skillsI took up ceramics at my local college on a night class but never imagined I would or could be selling my work to the public.After a year I enrolled on a second night class at Derby University run by Josie Walter and Andrew Mason. A University Diploma in Ceramics, one night a week in ten week blocks.It was an amazing course and opened my eyes to a whole new 'ceramic' world I didn't know existed and it is fair to say changed my life.The course introduced me to so many techniques and styles of ceramics, I enjoyed them all but really enjoyed throwing and disliked casting with a vengeance! The irony of that being my chosen discipline now is not lost on me. Through the course I go to meet so many inspiring potters like Jack Doherty and Ruthanne Tudball whose kilns we helped fire ( how brave are they to let students loose on their kilns?) Being part of the first Soda firing weekend at Whichford pottery with Jim Keeling, Mark Griffiths and John Jelfswas to have a lasting impression and just made me hungry to know more.Sadly the course closed after two years but the connections I made there kept my interest in ceramics going and was the reason I bought my kiln from Potclays at the International Ceramics Festival in Aberystwyth. Ceramics was now well and truly under my skin.However it would still be another two years before I booked my first event to see if I could sell the pieces I was creating. I really did not expect others to feel the same way about my love of bugs, corvidae or poison bottles!My first show, Pots In The Pens 2014, was a great success and really did become the start of something very special. I feel very lucky over the last five years to have been able to follow my dream and now show at many of the ceramic fairs up and down the country including Earth & Fire and Art in Clay, the two I set my sights on when I started out. b. How long have you been a potterDegree Art/Design(ceramics) Bath Academy of Art, Corsham Witshire.1973/76. Repetion thrower (dog bowls) at Seaham Pottery 1976/1977c. Who has inspired you along your pathI think it would be a talk by Paul Scott that made start to wonder just how much of my own artwork I could bring to my ceramics and that in turn was the driving force for me to keep making and learning.    3. Explain your work a. Processes involved e.g. clays used, firing range etc For the slip casting and hand sculpting of my work I useValaentine's  Casting Slip - Black Parian Body fired to 1200°, Casting Slip - White Parian Body fired to 1220°, Casting Slip – Special Porcelain fired to 1248°, Parian Body fired to 1220°I sometimes use gold lustre but I am currently using 24ct gold leaf which is more sympathetic to the parian clay surface.All my work is fired in a Fuego 230volt single phase electric kiln. b. What has been your proudest piece that you have produced and whyThe piece I am most proud of so far is my large condensing flask with tripod. It was a challenging piece to cast but also to fire. It tested my skills in understanding how different clays fire..or not ! and how the shape of a vessel can change everything you thought you knew. Many attempts were tried before everything fell into place and I was happy with the results. I had to create my own kiln furniture to get a perfect shape for the piece, not something I had needed or thought about before.I was extremely pleased when it was used on the front cover of the LUSTRE 2018 catalogue.   4. What are your future ambitions?I have made two trips to Iceland in the last three years and this year I will be making new work based on this most inspiring country.I will be bringing in new shapes to my work and for the first time making my own templates to make the moulds from.The colour pallet will still remain limited, as Iceland in winter is a very black & white place. I am looking forward to challenging myself with new making techniques and ways of bringing my ideas out through the clay.There will still be ravens too.....but lots more besides.  Jill uses Castin Slip – Black Parian Body to create her pieces  

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