“Oh, is that a sheep?” I muttered as I walked through the farmyard, in East London. I had found myself on a farm, but not a farm in the middle of the countryside, nope. I was in East London. Nestled between Limehouse and Stepney Green was Stepney City Farm!
Of course, we weren’t here to muck out the animals (saving that for another time), we were here for a different London experience. A group of about ten had formed in a large studio, which looked out onto the farmyard; and it was here that we got our aprons on. We were ready for our pottery workshop!
Now, the last time I had done pottery was Year 9 and so ‘beginner’ was definitely a word I would use to describe my potting abilities. The workshops are run by Jess, an experienced potter who had actually taken up the craft after her father. One of her students, Ryan Barrett, won ‘The Great British Throwdown’. She has a whole range of hand-thrown, bespoke tableware and she even has her own book on the complete pottery techniques!
Laura, our instructor, explained that we were going to make three pots using the potter’s wheel. Easy, I thought to myself. She started with talking about the basics like how the wheel works, how much clay we would need and how to secure the clay to the wheel. Next, we got onto the fun part. She effortlessly moulded the clay into a perfect pot shape using different hand techniques and strategies until she cut away the pot from the wheel and it laid elegantly on her board. After the 20-minute tutorial on how to mould the pots, we all felt confident enough to give it a go ourselves. We all sat at our wheels, clay at the ready and went through the instructions, altogether, one-by-one. When we were actually making the pots, we realised we needed a lot more skill and muscle than we thought! Pushing and moulding, I started to build my clay into a more pot-like shape. However, I was getting a bit cocky and it was only seconds after that my firm fingers shredded the edge of my pot. Turns out I’m not such a good potter after all.
It didn’t matter though as I could make another one! You have three pots included with your workshop; however, you can also pay £5 per pot for as many extra pots you may want. The pots get fired and glazed after the workshop and are usually ready for collection within about three weeks. After the disastrous first attempt, I actually completed my second pot (with a little help from Laura) and it didn’t look too bad. Maybe there’s hope for my potting career yet!
Several squished and completed pots later, I had a collection of three beginner looking pots in front of me, but I felt proud of every single one. I had learnt and built on my technique, with the lovely help of Laura and the two hours had whizzed by. It was such an incredible experience and not one that you often get to do. It would be a hugely fun experience to give as a present (starting think about Christmas already) for a friend, partner or relative. But more than that, when we are trying to actively avoid plastic during gift giving, you can give something of real value and cut the waste. A green, eco-friendly present (perfectly suited to the location), and an amazing experience.
I had so much fun and loved doing something a bit different with my evening, which, as the nights get darker is always good to find. I walked out of there with clay on my trousers and a big smile on my face.
Check out the pottery class here>>