IF you are potty about pots or crazy about ceramics, then September offers plenty to do and see. Top local names from the world of pots including Clive Bowen, Sandy Brown, Philip and Frannie Leach will be firing pots and demonstrating their skills at the North Devon Festival Of Pottery.
A week of potty events promises demonstrations, children's activities, masterclasses, films, workshops and a kiln opening. The festival is a celebration of the pottery tradition of North Devon and its links with New England.
"The wood firing of the bottle kiln in Victoria Park on the Friday will be a unique event in itself," said organiser John Edgeler. "Where else in Britain can you experience such a public spectacle, once so commonplace now a great rarity?"
"At one time, all local communities had a local potter, and so an appreciation of how everyday pots were made was common knowledge: nowadays people get their crockery from a catalogue or retail shed, and that memory has been all but lost."
There are plenty of opportunities at the festival for budding potters who have always fancied dabbling with clay.
"The opportunity to get up close and personal with clay is now all too rare – that's why we are giving people to have a chance to have a go on a wheel and be shown how it's done," said John.
Throwing pots is not only a great North Devon artistic tradition. It was a major source of employment and income for the area for hundreds of years. In 1607 a working relationship was set up between North Devon and Jamestown.
"Local people have perhaps forgotten the very close links established in New England from the 17th century through trade," said John. "Many of the early settlers and subsequent plantation owners there were townsfolk of Bideford and Barnstaple. We want to celebrate these great traditions and connections. That's why we are helping a leading potter and academics to travel over from Virginia to visit Bideford and Barnstaple to take part and share their skills and knowledge."
The festival came about after Philip Leach, grandson of Bernard Leach of St Ives fame, showed an interest in some 17th century Devon-made pots, which were discovered in Jamestown in the Thirties.
"Philip, who is leading the kiln firing of pots which take their inspiration from these New England examples, approached me in spring 2012, with the idea of putting together a themed firing, and it just grew from there," said John.
"We are hoping that this Devon acorn will develop into a fine Anglo-American oak, and a major show is planned to bring home all the best decorated historic Devon harvest jugs from around the country – and across the pond – in two or thee years' time."
Fabulous Virginia potter Michelle Erickson will be giving a talk at Barnstaple's White Moose gallery on Thursday, September 19, 7pm. There's also a day of demonstrations by Michelle and a top potter from the Netherlands Niek Hoogland at Bideford Art Centre on Friday, September 20, 9am to 5pm. There's a wood firing of festival-themed pots led by Philip Leach and Nigel Lambert at Bideford's Burton Art Gallery, 7am to 5pm. While in Bideford's Pannier Market there will be food tastings, folk music, dance and tile decorating from 11am to 5pm. An international pottery symposium at Bideford Arts Centre will also include demonstrations by ceramicists Maggie Curtis, Joe Finch and Harry and Nick Juniper on Saturday, September 21, 9am to 5pm. It will be also be a chance to see a video about Harry Juniper's long career in pottery.
At the Glove Factory in Appledore on the same day there will be a contemporary mark-making masterclass with Sandy Brown while in Bideford's Victoria Park there will be workshops for families and children between 1pm and 5pm. At the Burton Art Gallery on the Saturday there will be throw-a-pot sessions with tuition from West Country potters.
On Sunday, September 22, 2pm to 4pm there will be a kiln opening led by Michelle Erickson and Philip Leach at the Burton Art Gallery.
North Devon Festival Of Pottery runs from Monday, September 16 to Sunday, September 22. A festival brochure can be picked up at galleries and art venues across the region. Details: 01242 602319 or visit http://anewenglandcargo.word press.com.