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October/November 2013 Potter of the Month - Mary Rich

1.  What general skills & techniques do you use ?

I throw all my work and some forms are altered when leather hard.

 

2.  Tell us about your experience and knowledge.

I went to Bournemouth College of Art in the late 1950’s and studied Pottery and Painting for the National Diploma in Design.  David Ballantyne was the Head of Department, assisted by Peter Stoodley.  They were both very inspirational teachers.  After College I was fortunate to be offered work at the Crowan Pottery in Cornwall which was run by Harry and May Davis.  The whole workshop was powered by a water wheel which turned all the wheels, ran the plunger and pugmill and pumped water for the house.  The domestic ware that was made there was stoneware and porcelain of very high quality and it was a fantastic opportunity to learn how a workshop was run.  After Crowan I spent a summer working with David Leach at the Lowerdown Pottery near Bovey Tracey in Devon.  Needless to say I learnt a huge amount here also, as David was using earthenware, stoneware and porcelain at that time.

The early sixties were exciting times with many new designers, shops and Galleries appearing.  Also, property was amazingly cheap compared with today, so in 1962 I started my own studio in Falmouth.  I decided to make saltglaze as I had been introduced to it by David Ballantyne.  It was a very steep learning curve as I had never fired a kiln on my own before, but having built a gas fired kiln with some help, I started and gradually became familiar with the ‘once firing’ process.

In 1969 I purchased the house at Cowlands Creek, where I still live, and built a studio and a big oil-fired kiln.  I stopped salt glazing in the early 1980’s when oil became just too expensive and I changed to a more conventional propane kiln and concentrated my work on porcelain.

I now find that I have been working as a full-time potter for over fifty years, and during that time have been inspired by David Ballantyne and Bernard Leach, who was very kind and generous with his knowledge – his ‘Potters Book’ was a constant companion in the early days. There are so many potters whose work I admire, but Lucie Rie just has to have a mention.  I was also inspired by the very early lustres produced in Mesopotamia with their fabulous decoration.  Chinese pots too, from the Han Dynasty to the Imperial Wares, Y’Ching teapots and dragon jars and many many more.

 

3.  Which clays do you use ?

I now only use porcelain (Valentine’s Royale), fired to Orton cone 10 in a reducing atmosphere

 

4.  What has been your proudest piece that you have produced and why.

High temperature firings are always exciting as glaze results can never be taken for granted, so I’m afraid I always think to myself “could be better” !

 

5.  What are your future ambitions ?

My future ambition is just to keep on going !

View Mary Rich's gallery

Visit their website: maryrich.co.uk