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Host: Jon French
Duration: 2 days
Places are restricted to a maximum of 10 to ensure sufficient one-to-one attention. Full information about our courses, including booking and cancellation terms, can be found on our website.
After 29 years of working for Wedgwood, Jon French is now running his own business from the historic surroundings of Middleport Pottery. He has demonstrated the skills and gift of a master craftsman to department stores such as Harrods, London and department stores all over Japan including Mitsukoshi, Takashimaya and Isetan over the last 20 years. He has worked and demonstrated across Europe and also the Middle East, Far East, China, Taiwan, Australia, the Caribbean and on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship.
This is an outstandingly popular two-day basic level course covering the basics of throwing using Shimpo Whisper potter’s wheels. On the first day you will learn to wedge, knead, centre and throw. Jon will show you the basic techniques needed for different thrown forms such as cylinders, vases, bowls and platters. You will learn how to apply pattern directly to the thrown surface and how different hand tools can be used effectively for this purpose. On the second day you will learn to 'turn' and refine your leatherhard pots using various hand tools.
Have you been inspired by the Great British Pottery Throw Down? Browse the range of inspiring pottery and ceramics courses at Potclays - we have been teaching beginners and practised professionals alike for over 35 years!
If you will be redeeming a CraftCourses gift voucher on this course, the voucher code must be provided at the point of booking.
What's included in the price?
Tool kit worth over £57, course materials, lunch & refreshments each day, preferential discounts against all of our products.
An extremely helpful and enjoyable course that I can't recommend highly enough. It really is suitable for anyone with an interest in learning to throw, from the absolute raw beginner to those like me with a little experience but desiring some clarification and additional confidence. It was a privilege to be taught by an artist & master craftsman with such extensive experience, but Jon is also amazingly personable, friendly, and encouraging to each and every student. In his demos, he breaks down the throwing & turning processes into easy-to-follow steps, illustrating how the sometimes over-mystified processes are actually really pretty simple, and just requires hands-on practice to progress at. Jon is great at pitching his teaching to each person's level of experience, and frames his tuition in a positive and constructive way that allows students to improve further whilst appreciating what they can already accomplish. In short, just absolutely top notch tuition.
Meanwhile, Potclays itself provides a friendly and welcoming environment in which to learn (though it could be a little difficult to find if you're not familiar with it - visiting it in advance to familiarise yourself may be worthwhile). Travel is a little tricky if like me you don't have a car, but Stoke's extensive railway links mean that it is do-able from most places via train and a 5-minute taxi ride from the station (under £5 with a local private hire). A pack of basic tools is included with the course, and additional tools etc can be purchased at a slightly discounted rate in the showroom - though there are thankfully no hard sells or sense of obligation to buy anything further, there is simply the facility to if you wish. Self-serve tea and coffee are available throughout the day, and an extensive buffet lunch is included, with vegetarian or vegan options available (you'll be asked to specify dietary requirements in advance).
Overall, a truly accessible course that will boost the skills and confidence of any beginner!
Thanks, Rory, for your in-depth feedback - it's much appreciated! Hope to see you again soon.
I would certainly recommend this course.
To have two days to experiment with throwing and turning was a great experience - although challenging at times! Jon was an excellent teacher, who was very patient and helpful.
Many thanks for your review Emily! We're glad you enjoyed the course.
A real good fun, hands on, clay throwing course with Jon French. I enjoyed the whole experience from the friendly staff, who provided the tool kits to the turning down of the more successful throws, of which there were more than I thought would be possible.
Very reasonable price for the amount we accomplished. Jon was very helpful and has so much knowledge to pass on to willing students.
I have already encouraged friends to have a go and will be going on future courses too.
The lunch provided was also a tasty treat.
Thank you for your comments Damon! We're very glad to hear you enjoyed Jon's course and we will pass on your feedback. We look forward to seeing you at Potclays again soon.
I enjoyed the two days with Jon French learning how to throw a pot from someone with a great deal of knowledge and experience. The class room was well lit, clean and spacious. All the staff were very helpful and made me feel welcome. The cost of the two day course was very reasonable. When I have practiced throwing at home I will be booking the intermediate workshop.
Thank you to all Potclay staff and Jon French.
I have to say that Jon French was incredibly supportive despite me being very much the novice amongst a class who with a few exceptions were all reasonably experienced potters.
It was great fun, the staff at Potclays were very pleasant and helpful and all in all a very worthwhile two days,.
A nice lunch was provided and as much tea and coffee as you wished and as much clay as you could get round to using although some efforts went straight to recycling. Jon is an awesome thrower which rather left me feeling very incompetent but he encouraged and helped directly when necessary. A very nice course
A very enjoyable 2 days with Jon French, whose relaxed style was very conducive to a great learning experience. There was a range of levels of skill on the course, from people who had been throwing for a while to people who were starting from scratch, and he ensured that everyone made progress.
The staff at Potclays were friendly and helpful (as they always are!) and the lunch was fine, providing for gluten-free, vegan etc as required.
A few months of steady practice and I'll be looking to book the Intermediate course.
A very enjoyable two-day course with the very knowledgable, easy-going and enthusiastic Jon French. A lot of myths busted re wheel-throwing. Jon adapted really brilliantly to the different skill levels and had time for everyone. Group size of ten fine for individual tuition. Good lunch bag and looked after well by Potclays staff. Thoroughly recommend it!
I attended this course on 13th and 14th March 2017 and found it extremely useful. Since 2014 I had done some throwing on my own wheel both self taught and some other with minimal tuition. Kevin's no nonsense approach was like a quantum leap and was invaluable. I came away with the beginnings of better throwing. I also attended Kevin's glazing course in November 2016 which was excellent.
It was also a great pleasure meeting Cait and Richard from Throwdown.
I now intend to enroll on one of his intermediate throwing courses as soon as I can find the time.
I would also like to give a huge "thank you" to the staff at Potclays for a very enjoyable course.
I've been on a couple of courses (hand building and glazing) before at Potclays with Kevin and enjoyed them so much I booked the basic two day throwing course. I had thrown before but needed to brush on my basic skill and this was the perfect course to do this. Day one was spent giving the basics of clay bodies, balling up, getting the clay in the centre of the wheel and then concentrated on cylinders. Day two gave an overview of the previous day and moved on to concentrate on bowls. We also covered turning, pulled handles and plates on day two which was great. I can not recommend this course highly enough it was just brilliant. Kevin was more than happy to slow his demonstrations and repeat until each step could be mastered by everyone. The facilities were brilliant with plenty of space - and clay! - to keep busy for the full day. The staff at Potclays are just wonderful, nothing is ever too much trouble and you are made to feel very welcome on arrival and throughout the course. If you're new to throwing or just want to brush up your skills, then this is the perfect course for you!
A thoroughly enjoyable two-day course. I came away with a feeling of great satisfaction in having learned so much and been able to throw passable cylinders and bowls, under the expert and entertaining instruction of Kevin Millward.
The course is very well organised by the friendly and helpful staff at Potclays, for whom nothing is too much trouble.
The factory tour was a bonus, giving insight into what goes on behind the scenes to produce the different clay bodies, and to appreciate the hard work that goes into this production.
The only drawback is that it is not always easy to get a place on this course - but persevere - it's worth it.
It’s always refreshing to be taught by a tutor whose love of his subject is instantly apparent. In the clean, well organised and spacious studio our tutor, Kevin, began day one with cylinder making. After balling up the clay into perfect spheres he gave a very concise and well paced demonstration of centring, leaving us in no doubt of the importance of that particular skill. We all went off to give it a go and Kevin thoughtfully divided his attention equally between each person in our group of 10. On day two we made bowls and in the afternoon had the opportunity to either turn them or to carry on practising to throw. Throughout the course encouragement , enthusiasm and good humour never waned ... Kevin’s knowledge of ceramics, which he seemed delighted to impart, added a never ending supply of interest. Lunch was fresh, tasty and well considered and another bonus was a brief history of Potclays talk and tour of the factory. I left the friendly atmosphere with a real desire to get practising and return. I would very much recommend this course to a complete beginner or any person who has tried to self teach with out progress.
This was a fantastic course. There were 10 of us working on Shimpo wheels in a pleasant studio over 2 days. Kevin was just amazing - he demonstrated techniques and then we had a go. He then came round and gave us individual help. This meant that although we were a mixed ability group from complete novice to reasonably competent we all got to make good progress. On the first day we learnt to throw cylinder shapes and on the second we learnt bowls and turning. Kevin was a mine of information and full of anecdotes - we tried to to get him so spill the beans on the next series of 'Throwdown' - but he wouldn't tell.....
An excellent lunch was provided and special diets catered for. We also had a very informative tour of the Potclays factory. A bonus was the ability to purchase from the Potclays well stocked shop at a discount.
We we well taught and it was fun and good value - a great beginners course.
What a fabulous, fun couple of days. I had never done anything like this before and produced numerous pots, which I was thrilled with! Kevin is an excellent instructor and all-round nice guy. His technical know-how is second to none and he is extremely helpful during the workshop. It is very hands-on and Kevin's guidance is great. I would ideally have preferred less in the class though, as he was often spread too thinly. The staff at Potclays were all very helpful and I would definitely recommend it to others. Thank you :-)
I have thrown pots before but thanks to Kevin I now know how to do it properly! He is a first rate teacher, gave some excellent demonstrations and spent lots of time with all the students individually, irrespective of ability, to ensure that everyone went away with a firm grasp of the key techniques. There was plenty of equipment and an inexhaustible amount of clay available and a lovely lunch was provided. In addition to throwing techniques we also learned a lot about the history of the ceramics industry and its current state. I would thoroughly recommend this course.
An excellent course! Kevin is a knowledgable and generous tutor. Having started on the Monday with no skills whatsoever, I can now confidently centre clay on the wheel and make a cylinder or bowl. The course was well equipped, each student had a wheel, plenty of clay and Kevin was able to help us all equally (and according to ability). Lunch was lovely and there was plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits. The staff were welcoming and helpful. I would definitely return for another course.
The 2-day workshop at Potclays cannot be praised enough. Kevin is an outstanding teacher and whatever your ability, thanks to his clear technical instructions and practical help, you will have made sufficient progress by the end of the course to be able to throw cylinders and bowls (the necessary skills for making any vessel). You will be inspired, and you may even feel confident enough to buy your own wheel and convert your shed into a studio. Moreover, if you haven't got that possibility - and if you live in the area - you can hire a unit a Potclays with a wheel for a reasonable daily fee (which I will do). The lunch is tasty and plenty, and the factory director James Otter will offer you an interesting personal guided tour of the factory. The staff too are very helpful with general and specific advice. Thank you.
Kevin Millward is an enthusiast and a great teacher. He gave lots of encouragement whatever level we had already reached. At the same time we were left in no doubt as to the rules of the game. His inspiring demonstrations and individual tuition on the basics fulfilled all my expectations. We were given an opportunity to fire our pots but the weather was so damp they didn't dry quickly enough to turn them the second day. The airy studio, with a Shimpo wheel for each student, warm welcome, tour of the clay factory with James, team spirit, good food and plentiful hot drinks all added to a memorable couple of days.
I have just taken my pots home and put them in my art/pottery room and low and behold they are much bigger than the others I have made. Therefore my objective on going on the course has been achieved. Let's hope I maintain the new quality and size.
During the course I realised I had been throwing incorrectly and corrected this during the course really quickly. I had also misunderstood a few basic principles and came home more knowledgeable about throwing and how process-driven pot making is.
I enjoyed the relaxed and supportive atmosphere. Being a retired primary school teacher I knew that Kevin really enjoyed his work (both teaching and potting), and conveyed that to his students. This can be inspirational and if done really well, out of the hundreds Kevin teaches, will produce future gifted teachers and potters.
The course was absolutely perfect for beginners. Duncan was friendly, clear with his explanations/demonstrations and didn't put pressure on you to feel as though you had to stand and watch every demonstration. There was plenty of hands on time so you could be on the wheel practising as much as you liked and Duncan was available at all times for one to one help. There was no shortage of clay and there was a 'recycling bin' so you could practise without worrying about wasting any materials.
I think there could have been an opportunity for us to fire and decorate our pots given the cost of the course. I loved throwing the pots and working with the clay but I now have 5 pots at home that I can't really do anything with.
I found the course really useful and excellent value for money. The staff were all very helpful as usual. The chance to go around the factory was very interesting and a real bonus to see how the clay is mixed. I would recommend the course to anyone wishing to learn how to throw. Duncan was brilliant, very clear, he worked at just the right pace and his enthusiasm for ceramics and education was infectious!
It would be difficult to improve the course other than having a few more sinks and water available for drinking during the course, perhaps a water dispenser?