Betweenmas by Tamsin Arrowsmith-Brown

It's one of those through-and-through horrible days in London. I'm looking out of the window at grey skies, soaked slate roofs and big juicy raindrops splashing against the glass. I actually quite like these days, as long as they are relatively isolated and I am in a warm, dry house.

It is 'Betweenmas'; Christmas is over and we're still a couple of days from New Year. I love this bit, it feels like a pause for reflection and rest before we hit the fresh new year as our revitalised and newly (all over again) determined selves.

This year is no exception for me. A bit of fortunate timing has meant that on the 3rd January I will begin a new part-time job which I'm very excited about. The excitement is on several fronts; the job has the potential to be both interesting and satisfying but it will also provide me with some much missed financial security. I'm not sure yet if and how I'm going to talk about it in this blog, but what I can talk about is the anticipated impact on my ceramic work. 

The intention is that having some steady income will free me up to be more creative and take the pressure off trying to pay the bills through selling ceramics. It is a delicate balance trying to make a living from something you love so much and the weights of influence are quite heavy. More than anything I want to make lovely pots. I want people to want and buy these lovely pots, if people don't buy them they are wasted. But I don't want to compromise the work just so that people will buy them. But if people don't buy them, I will have to stop making them, so best to make things people will buy. And the studio rent needs to be paid, and the mortgage and the electric and the clay.... But more than anything I want to make lovely pots. And on we go. 

As I started to try to say in my last post, in this slightly desperate search for income I have found myself jumping from project to project, frantically making work without having time to properly reflect on what I'm making. Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of the work I've been making and selling I just feel like I haven't had time or mental space to properly consider the body of work as a whole or think about where I want to take it next. I'm also aware that having my head down at the wheel, I have missed opportunities to look around at others' work and find inspiration that way. So I'm very excited to have some freedom to do so.

Progress may be a little slow in the beginning. I am genuinely excited about this new job and want to give it the energy it needs, which at the start will no doubt be extra measures since it's always a challenge starting a new role and this one is new in every sense - they have just created it within the organisation, so there will be some carving out to be done. However, it is only three days a week so there will still but plenty of time for other pursuits. 

But another big project is in the offing - The Shed. I have been talking about building The Shed since moving to Wood Green over a year ago. I should really start to call it The Studio since it's going to be quite a lot fancier than a shed and will in fact be my new garden studio. We have drawings and (since last week) permission from the council but I have done next to nothing about getting quotes or finding a builder to construct it. So that is priority number one now that I have a bit more financial security to pay for the loan needed to build it. 

So, as you can see my new year has a great deal of novelty and potential. Let's see what happens!


Forgive me blog, for I have sinned by Tamsin Arrowsmith-Brown

It has been two and a half years since my last post... Wow. Where did that go?

It hasn't been uneventful, but that's no excuse. I was always a sporadic diary writer as a child, starting with determined enthusiasm, only to fall swiftly and soundly out of the habit until I was re-inspired by a character in a story, generally in some cheesy American teen movie.

So let's try again! A great deal has happened. Ceramic Art York and Ceramics in the City, for which I was preparing, went really well. I was astonished by the positive reaction and the welcome from the ceramics community. Everyone says that they're a lovely bunch. It's really true. Something I have found time and time again since my first shows is that one of the key pleasures of attending a fair or an exhibition is the other exhibitors. As I attend more and more, I add to the bank of familiar faces of potters and crafts people and they have become my friends. So while shows are hard work and exhausting, they are also really fun.

Other key events are moving studios (twice) and moving house (once). The Craft Central building in Clerkenwell where I did my apprenticeship with Helen and then shared a studio with Janet Stahelin Edmondson, has sadly been taken over by the developers. Craft Central is now in a fabulous new space called The Forge in the Isle of Dogs. 

The Isle of Dogs being a long way from Wood Green where I now live, I have moved into a studio in Finsbury Park which I share with the wonderful mother-daughter duo Olivia and Sally McGill. It is a 20 minute cycle from my house and is proving to be a fantastic, creative and supportive space to work. I also work about a day a week for Helen in her new home studio. This is a multi-faceted blessing since it helps to keep the wolf from the door (the pottery career wolf is quite big and menacing) and it means I get to regularly see her which is good because she is my friend, but also because she is still my mentor. She has always been and continues to be incredibly supportive and ambitious for me. I get in trouble if I'm not being ambitious enough for myself! 

Another big happening was having some mentoring from the wonderful Kyra Cane, organised by the CPA and Adopt-A-Potter. She has been fantastically generous with her time, advice and support, going way beyond the bounds of the agreed mentoring structure. I now have a constant Kyra angel on my shoulder, and a real Kyra at the end of the phone, which has really made me pull my socks up and I think (I hope she would agree) that the impact on the improvement on the quality of my finished pieces has been marked.

My aims for next year are to continue to refine my work. I have always been a person to try to do and be a million things but I have realised that too many shapes and patterns and colours just adds confusion to my work. I feel like it needs a bit of clarity and space. So I'm going to try settle on a limited collection and explore some new approaches to decorating and see where it takes me.

For the first time in ages I had a proper day off yesterday. So I hot-footed it down to the galleries. I started with The Cezanne portraits. Like most people I am mostly familiar with his landscapes and it was interesting to see the same approach for a hillside being applied to a skirt. It was also really inspiring to see the bold, immediate marks he made. Something that is bubbling in my mind is a bolder approach to mark making. I've lately been admiring the freshness and liveliness of the work of Katerina Klug, Sylvia K and of course the fabulous Kyra Cane, amongst others, and will try to channel some of the confidence of their mark making in my development work.

I also went to the Women's Hour Craft Prize at the V&A. What a wonderful group of crafts people they chose. I was particularly keen to see Andrea Walsh's work. Her pieces are so calm and contemplative. Her exploration of light and dark and texture is just wonderful and very much chimed for me with the fantastic Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius at the Design Museum which was so good I went twice. Interestingly, for a person who is a little obsessed with light and generally can't get enough of it, I was in both cases mostly compelled by the dark pieces. The places where the darkness seemed to reflect on itself and intensify where dark, matt surfaces met and faced away from the light were hypnotic.

There is much more to say but I will leave it here for now and hopefully not leave two and half years before the next update.

Decorate, glaze, decorate, glaze... by Tamsin Arrowsmith-Brown

The last couple of weeks have been consumed with decorating and glazing all of the bisqueware that I've been filling the studio with. I've also been helping Helen with the mammoth job of glazing all of the slipware that we picked up from Katie and Lauren. So it's been quite a hot week in the studio!

We tend to set off the kiln at around between 4-6 in the evening which means that the kiln is ready to open after about 2pm the next day. This always makes for a steamy and tantalising day of open windows and obsessive checking of the temperature gauge to see if we've reached the required 200 degrees to be able to open it up.

As we've been doing a lot of mass glazing of slip cast pieces we've been trying to speed up the process by allowing the glaze to dry overnight. This makes the glaze lovely and soft and much easier to touch up. However our tiny studio is already groaning under the weight of all of our pots so having boards of glazed things hanging around steals precious space.

I have one final bisque fire to do now, which will include a large jug which I'm praying doesn't crack - here it is just thrown

The freshly thrown body of my jug

The freshly thrown body of my jug

I've also made some little water beakers but I fear they may be too small. 

The probably too small water beakers, straight from the wheel.

The probably too small water beakers, straight from the wheel.

All of the other preparations for Ceramic Art York and Ceramics in the City are coming together, just a few final admin bits to complete this week.

I got some lovely press last week too.


Nerves by Tamsin Arrowsmith-Brown

It's the start of another week of preparations for Ceramic Art York and Ceramics in the City. 


I've kicked it off with a swim which is a glorious way to begin. This week is the last throwing week before the shows, so I'm planning on making some bottles and possibly a large jug as the one I currently have doesn't pour too well which vexes me.

I've also got a bit of glazing to do for Helen and tonight I'm off to meet my friend Anna to photograph some pots for a possible bit of press which I'll share if I'm lucky enough for it to come off.

Last week saw a big bisque fire 




The top layer of a very full kiln

The top layer of a very full kiln

So there's a lot of decorating to do which is equally pleasing and daunting.

I also popped in to Iliffe Yard on Monday to pick up some of the bisque dailyware that Helen's working on. I've never done any slipcasting so the whole process is a bit of a magical mystery to me.


Some slip cast mugs in progress  

Some slip cast mugs in progress  

More slip cast ware

More slip cast ware

There were pots at the weekend too! We went to Norfolk to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary and while there dropped into the Sainsbury Centre which has some lovely Lucie Rie on display.

   Lucie at the Sainsbury Centre


Lucie at the Sainsbury Centre

I also got to hang out with my little nephew Freddie, always a pleasure!



The Fredster contemplating his Poppa

The Fredster contemplating his Poppa

Right, best get to the wheel.  

Making making making! by Tamsin Arrowsmith-Brown

The development of the Helen's slipware is going really well. We've started getting our first batches of bisque from the slip-casters and we've been glazing and applying the transfers in the studio. We're working out a couple of teething problems but the results are looking really great - I'll post some pictures when we're ready!

My own work is going well, I'm working on adding some larger pieces to the range which is going reasonably well, though I've been suffering with a few cracked bases. But I'm following Helen's advice and making sure that the bases are really well compressed and that I let them dry super slowly before firing. Fingers crossed!!

I also did a talk at the London Potters AGM to speak about Adopt A Potter and went to Hatfield 'Art in Clay' to man the tombola stand which was great fun! It was fantastic to meet so many lovely potters and see such a lot of amazing work. It was also more good research for planning my stand for Ceramic Art York ; )

SUMMER! by Tamsin Arrowsmith-Brown

Doesn't time fly when you're making pots? 

It's June already and a lot has happened since my last post. Ceramic Art London was a roaring success for Helen and a fantastic experience for me in preparation for York. And also for Ceramics in the City which I am also delighted to say that I got into!

Since then we have been very focused on developing Helen's slipcast range, preparing forms to be cast. They are all with the mould maker now, so while we wait for them to be ready Helen has time to prepare some work for some upcoming exhibitions. We've also just shipped out some collections  of Helen's work to the Affordable Art Fair and the Joanna Bird Gallery for upcoming exhibitions.

My focus has turned to working on making stock for Ceramic Art York and Ceramics in the City. I've sketched a plan of all the items that I need to make for York which makes me excited and terrified in equal measure! 

I'm also preparing for my first talk as a potter! I'm speaking as a representative of Adopt-A-Potter to speak at the London Potters AGM. I'll be alongside Kevin Millward who is going to do a demonstration, so I'm pretty excited to see that. 

Then in a couple of weeks I'll be off Hatfield for the Art In Clay fair where we'll try and drum up some funds and support for Adopt-A-Potter.

The clocks are going forward on Saturday by Tamsin Arrowsmith-Brown

And I can't wait. I love the light evenings; one of the great pleasures of living in England is the gentle extension of sunset from 3pm in the darkest dark of winter towards 11pm in sweetest midsummer. This mid-progress leap is my favourite bit. And with daffodils and buds bursting all around on my cycle to the studio, and the prospect of forgetting about bike lights for 6 months I'm getting increasingly excited about spring.

We're also bursting with productivity in the studio. Helen has made all of the forms for the two exhibitions coming up and is well underway in the process of decorating.


Helen's series of little pots for Ceramic Art London in progress

Alongside, we've been planning the logistical and marketing sides of the show, have been developing a new 'logotype' for Helen for use on our marketing materials and on the exhibition display. We've explored packaging options and have settled on a combination of some beautiful tissue paper and a Japanese paper to wrap them in. You'll have to come and buy a pot to see it though!

My focus has been on making some cups for my mum and also for Adopt A Potter, the charity that support me, to sell at their fairs this summer. The main challenge being consistent size and shape - as you can see I don't quite have the consistent height thing down yet...

I'm also making some espresso cups for a friend and in doing so experimenting with size and a new 'dip' decorative style.

My big news though, is that I got into Ceramic Art York in September! I'm so excited to be involved in my first ceramics show, though I am not a little bit daunted. Once all the cups are done, development for that will start in earnest, as well as preparations for our open studio in May.