Q1. When did you start teaching workshops?
Q2. Tell us about your workshop space/ surroundings.
Q3. Tell us about the variety of courses on offer?
My sessions are relaxed and I aim to put all new students at ease, as this leads to greater confidence. The element of fun is essential, when mistakes happen it is understood to be part of the learning process, we can have a laugh and move on, improving all the time.
A good old chat alongside the tutoring helps me understand each student’s individual needs and skills.
As the alumni of the beginners courses have grown over the years, I now offer an advanced throwing workshop where previous students can develop their skills further. I generally discuss with advanced students how they want to progress and what they would like to make. So far we have made wool bowls, plates, vessels with handles and even a Japanese tea pot!
Q4. Tell us about your team.
Q5. Describe a typical month as a maker/tutor.
Our main business focuses on designing and making our own products which are decorated with Rachel’s surface pattern designs. The courses now run mainly at weekends although we will offer them on other days, as long as there is over 2 students attending.
We attend the Harrogate Home and Gift Trade Fair in July and a lot of time goes into preparing and also fulfilling orders afterwards. We love going to this event as it is great to spend time with other designer makers and small business owners, as we swap advice, knowledge and funny stories!
Q6. Do you also craft in your spare time, are there other crafts that you enjoy?
Q7. What advice would you give to other people looking to teach their skill?
There are lots of people who excel in their chosen discipline but are not necessarily great teachers. This is something we often hear from people who attend the course who have experienced this on other courses, prior to attending one of ours. We have had lots of people who have attended our course and have been so enthused with the skills they have learnt that they have set up small studios at home and come back periodically to gain extra skills. Finally, small groups are essential, as this enables you to give quality, one to one tutoring, which leads to great outcomes. It is very easy to lose track of progress in larger groups, especially as with throwing on the wheel, disasters can happen very quickly if you take your eye off the ball (of clay!)
Q8. Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration professionally?
There are many potters/ designers who have inspired me over the years. Keith Murray, Walter Keeler (who came in to teach my year group at University as a visiting lecturer), Kevin Millward is a good friend who has always been open with his knowledge of ceramics and happy to share it. Grayson Perry is an excellent contemporary role model and we really enjoyed visiting the exhibition of his, that came to the Potteries Museum and Art gallery in 2019.
The ceramic and arts community in Stoke-on-Trent is vibrant and very well established and continues to grow. There is a great misconception that the industry has disappeared but this is far from the truth. It may not employ in the same numbers, as it did in the 80’s, however, there are many smaller firms that form part of this, along with some of the bigger names.
Q9. What is the funniest thing to ever happen on one of your courses?
There are plenty of funny moments when you are teaching a group of students, especially when people are initially coning up the clay! We have had some hilarious family groups come to learn together and it is very interesting seeing their low key (or in some cases very high key…) competitiveness on who makes the best pot!
The best thing for me, every time I teach a group, is the enthusiasm from everyone and the desire to learn a new skill. I have had some occasions where people on courses have kept in touch with each other with a WhatsApp group and come back for an advanced class together.
When students return it is often like seeing an old friend again and we really enjoy a good ‘catch up’ chat!