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A Potter's Moll: Another Day In The Life Of...

So you think a potter and his moll lead quiet, contemplative, creative lives. Read Liz Robison's account of a recent day in the life of her internationally famous husband, potter Jim Robison - then ask yourself whether you could ever muster the energy to be a creative artist.

Do please visit Jim's Web site http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

I realise that apart from my first column where I outlined something of my role as a Potter’s Moll, I have mainly talked about skiving off with the potter, rather than what’s been going on here at the studio and gallery. It occurred to me that outlining all the activities that happened here on one Friday in January would give a pretty good flavour of what we get up to here.

Early in the morning Jim spent time on the phone booking flights and hotel for his annual trip to a US ceramics conference in March, which takes place in a different city each year, this year’s city being Louisville, Kentucky. He manages to squeeze in a week with his family in Independence, Missouri on the same trip. This is especially important at his mother is a frail 91 year old

Then there was a phone call from the editor of a book he wrote a while ago asking if he would be at the conference so she can arrange a book-signing while he is there. This led on to talk about Jim applying for British citizenship which she, originally from USA has recently done. You can now have dual US/ British citizenship, but when Jim first came to England you had to choose. It would make travelling in the European Union easier.

By coincidence this phone call was closely followed by a visit from a woman from the bank to talk about HSBC can help small businesses. On the way out she decided to help us personally by buying a copy of the book mentioned in the previous paragraph. (It’s called Large Scale Ceramics, if anyone is interested!)

Two books arrived by post on Friday which I had meant to order for Jim for Christmas but had misplaced the phone number. One was a collection of essays about Ray Finch, the elder statesman of British Craft potters, who works at Winchcombe Pottery in the Cotswolds. The other is a smaller but fascinating celebration of Sid Tustin, a potter who worked at Winchcombe for 51 years after leaving school at 14. As well as fine photos of the work, there are wonderful black and white photos of workshops and potters going back to 1927.

Another job for me today was to reply to a request for a Work Shadowing placement in June for a student from the 6th Form College where I worked before I retired. There’s a nice sense of continuity because a staff member will visit to supervise the student so we will be able to catch up on some college gossip. (I read recently that whether something is defined as talk or gossip depends on whether you are giving it out or listening!)

Educational links are important and Jim does quite a lot of work with teachers and in schools. It was a bit annoying, though, recently when several pupils from a local high school bombarded him with separate e-mails to get help with an art project. I expect the teacher had not spelled out the brief carefully enough, nor told them what kind of language to couch the request in – Jim was rather non-plussed to be addressed: ‘Yo dude!’ However, it all turned out in the end – a mother brought two boys for an informative visit (though one of the girls who was supposed to accompany them was ill and the other declined to accompany the group as she was ‘too shy’!

Also on Friday we had a visit from a staff member from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to photograph and arrange transportation for a big old dough mixer Jim has had for years that he used to use to mix clay. It has become a bit of a white elephant, so when the Sculpture Park people rang asking for advice on how to make a wall of clay for an installation by the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, he was able to offer them the mixer if they would take it away. (More room for some other supplies or to fill up the space, if I know Jim.)

At noon Jeff Beaumont, a local painter, arrived to replace his stock. His pictures are scenes of interest around the Holme Valley. In the afternoon two walkers passing by popped into the gallery saying they have often seen the sign so decided to have a look and see what we have on offer, which they seemed to like. And then at 4pm somebody came in to buy a last minute wedding present.

For the last couple of years Jim has done an August workshop at Penrith in Cumbria as part of the Potfest there. Today there was an e-mail to say that they are not running the workshops this year – followed by a phone call to ask him to do a workshop in London at the same period. Swings and roundabouts is a phrase that comes to mind.

Bookings are beginning to come in for the courses that we run periodically in the studio – the glaze and surface decoration course at Easter is full. As the applications come in it is fun to see ones from newcomers, but equally satisfying to see the names of others who are coming back for more. Just an ordinary Friday, then. Anyway we were able to leave our helper, Moz, in charge on Sunday and take a trip to Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. Jim thought it was exciting to see canoeists shooting the (very rapid) rapids in the river. One capsized and then bobbed up again. I just shivered. The weather wasn’t marvellous but the Dales worked their magic anyway.

More from me in a fortnight.


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