We all did ceramics at Corsham as it was expected that later we would teach children how to make pottery. I had a beautiful kiln when I taught in Stevenage Girls Grammar school . The building was brand new when I became the art teacher so I had the chance to plan the whole layout. The only drawback with the kiln was that the Art room was on the second floor up a very steep stair well… the men delivering it were not best pleased.
Clay is a material that you know almost instantly you hold it in your hand that you are either going to enjoy or hate using. I knew instinctively that I loved it. Our tutor was a lovely tall, gangling gentle man called James Tower. Most potters of that time were influenced by Bernard Leach and his study of the eastern tradition especially Japan. With James we looked more to the British tradition of Staffordshire figures and of Thomas Toft and slip ware. I made some large plates and bowls decorated with slip ware and a harvest jug but above all I liked making little figures once again inspired by my museum studies.
James Tower made sculptural large assymetrical pots and bowls using a white lead tin glaze (now banned) over a dark ground and used sgraffito (scratching) to make organic patterns. His pots were sold in art galleries (Gimpel Fils) and really considered as sculpture. We were also encouraged as a group to make outdoor home made kilns. I can remember staying up all night in the summer tending the kiln which made an unearthly sound like a soft hooter almost as though it were breathing. There was one huge drawback in the course though, the men were vastly favoured over the women…only the men were taught to fire the proper indoor kilns so when I received my school kiln I hadn’t a clue how to fire it. The story of my life learning on the job. The year I left college another new student arrived from my old school, his name is Peter Lane and he is now one of the leading potters. I also have the proud distinction of having taught ceramics to Jane Perryman who is now known all over the world for her ceramics…she is also a distinguished expert on yoga.