We stock Andrew Pentland Ceramics in The Foodie Bugle Shop, and were intrigued to find out more about his training and work. Andrew is a potter and wood-fired kiln maker from Tyne and Wear, his beakers, mugs and bowls are made from clay and are celadon glazed in earthy, natural colours that complement their rustic, organic aesthetic. His wares are very tactile and warm, beautiful enough to be special, but affordable enough to be used as everyday tableware.
In our series of “Meet the Makers” we aim to tell our readers and customers a little more about the hands behind each craft, and this is what we found out.
Q: Andrew when did you start making ceramics and why?
A: After a brief introduction to clay during my HND (3d Crafts) I applied for the BA Glass and Ceramics at Sunderland University from which I graduated in 2000. My intentions were to explore both glass and ceramics but although I enjoyed working with glass, ceramics quickly grabbed my attention, and any initial frustrations were very quickly overcome with the overwhelming satisfaction of being able to turn a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel into something functional; this is something that still never fails to amaze me today.
Q: In your family is there a history of makers-crafters-artists-potters
A: My uncle, Jeff Pentland is a potter; he studied at West Surrey College of Art and Sunderland University and honed his skills whilst working at Harris and Sons Pottery in Farnham. He moved to Quechee, New England to work as head potter for Simon Pearce Glass and Ceramics, and has worked independently since 2000 making and wood firing large scale gardenware from his studio in Hartland, Vermont.
Q: Did the making of the wood fired kilns come before the making of the ceramics in your career?
A: The making of ceramics came first, but I quickly realised that I wanted to be in control of the whole making process from start to finish, and that is how I first became interested in wood firing. Around 5 years ago I was invited to design and build a wood kiln with a fellow ceramicist and wood firing enthusiast on a farm at Allendale, in rural Northumberland. We now fire as a small group of 4 potters, which allows us to share the experiences, and the highs and lows of our 12 hour wood firings.
Q: Making a wood fired kiln must be really physically hard and challenging for the nerves – can you talk us through it, gently?
A: After a small kiln building project at Sunderland University, the 50 cubic foot kiln at Allendale, Northumberland was a challenging but exciting project for me to undertake. The building of the kiln took place during evenings and weekends in 2007, which coincided with the imminent arrival of my second son and meant that there was a very important reason to get the project completed in time! The kiln has a 4 foot bricked, arched roof, and the removal of the wooden support holding the arch in place was a memorable moment as I had to be underneath the arch for its removal. As the support was removed; to my complete relief the brick arch did not come crashing down around me, but remained safely in place.
Firing the kiln can also be physically hard work as the kiln has to be continuously fed with wood for the 12 hour firing. Wood firing is definitely challenging for the nerves; we try to follow a plan or replicate a previous firing, but there are moments when things don’t go to plan. For example changing the air flow to increase the temperature in the kiln can lead it to stall and this can introduce anxiety when what is actually required are calm, considered actions. We often have visitors whilst firing, I hope that I hide my raging concentration whilst trying to educate guests of the relaxed nature of pottery! I love how organic the firing process is, and there’s no feeling like opening a freshly cooled kiln and looking at the pieces as they are unpacked. No two pieces are ever the same as they all have subtle differences of flashing, light ash deposits and glazed areas, which are all completely dependent on where they have been placed in the kiln and how the flame has passed by and between the work.
Q: Which other potters inspire and inform your work?
A: I am inspired by the whole studio pottery movement, and enjoy making unique pieces in small numbers. I admire and am especially inspired by the works of Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, Patrick Sargent, and current makers such as Anne Mette Hjortshoj, Svend Bayer and Ken Matzusaki. I watched Clive Bowen brush clay slip onto a bowl during a demonstration at Aberystwyth’s International Ceramics Biennial, and was humbled by his seemingly effortless skill. My work is meant to be functional as well as aesthetically pleasing and is designed, and made to be used and enjoyed every day.
Q: Your work is very functional, domestic and tactile. They are wares for using and enjoying. Do you use all your ceramics in your house on a daily basis?
A: I love to cook and most of my designs were created through a need for a certain product in the kitchen, to be used every day. My mix and pour bowls, for example were created one Saturday morning in the kitchen when my two sons asked for pancakes for breakfast and I realised how nice it would be to have one bowl where I could mix the batter and then pour it directly into the pan.
Q: What is in the pipeline; any new designs? What about plates.
A: I am always sketching and designing new products; my newest piece is a small pot with a handle; ideal for serving jams, chutneys and preserves. I do make plates and platters, although so far these have been to use in our own kitchen rather than for sale, but watch this space.
Andrew Pentland: www.andrewpentland.co.uk
Follow Andrew on Twitter: @AndrewPCeramics
The Foodie Bugle Shop: www.thefoodiebugleshop.com
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