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My first apprenticeship was a short Summer in 1994, in-between the 2nd and 3rd years of my degree, under Ray Finch at Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire. I was somewhat overwhelmed by the history of the place and all that had gone before, both in Ray’s time at the helm and Michael Cardew before him. I helped with general workshop production including kiln packing and firing of the large bourry-box wood-kiln and Ray’s salt-kiln.

I threw and decorated Winchcombe beakers, many of which were harshly criticised by Ray’s keen eye and reclaimed forthwith! They look simple enough, but with my then limited skill-base, not so easy to get right and to dimension. He was a generous and softly spoken man, with strong opinions on what made a good pot. His words were few but always to the point. I remember him commenting on a batch of handles I had just applied, that “…it was the inside profile that counts.” He drew my focus to the empty space left in-between the handle and the body of the pot, rather like the importance of the pause between two notes of music. He went on to describe the proportion and curve of the D-shape profile I needed to improve upon.

Between 1995 and 2003, Petra and I worked as part-time apprentices to Mick and Sheila Casson. During this time we were involved in many aspects of workshop production. Principally clay-making and preparation, slip and glaze mixing, packing and firing gas and wood-fired salt kilns, along with general studio and gallery chores. Also building and rebuilding kilns of various type. Alongside the apprenticeship, we assisted with the full renovation of the studio from where we still make, and we began making and wood-firing our own pots.

It was a precious time and our working relationship with Mick is one that we cherish. The experience and breadth of skills that we learnt, were roots in establishing a greater confidence and independence in our own practice.

I continue to support the principal of apprenticeship in my own work. Over the last 8 years I have invited one or sometimes two undergraduates as summer apprentices. With support from the charity ‘Adopt A Potter’, local artist Sheila Herring completed a two year apprenticeship with me between 2009 and 2011. Anastasia Simmons completed a two year apprenticeship between 2012 and 2014. Once again the first year was financially supported by the fantastic ‘Adopt a Potter’ scheme.