When Heather Grant got in touch to tell us about the ginger jar she’d made from issue 19, she also mentioned that she’d just had a new studio built. We wanted to find out more and, luckily, Heather kept a diary of the build. This is her story…
“I’ve been a subscriber to ClayCraft digital from the beginning and love every copy. I received my wheel for Christmas three years ago but, for various reasons, I have had to read my magazine and wait for my own space to start my pottery adventure. Well now I have it; a room in the garden of my own where I can lose myself for a few hours on my days off.”
Monday 13 August 2017
Well, today is the day. Oeco are coming to build me a pottery studio in our garden! I have been dabbling with pottery for the past three years but have always made too much mess in the kitchen, or frozen in the summer house. Now we have a new house and – after a lot of greenery was cut back and taken away – have found a garden.
At last, we have the space to build a dedicated pottery studio!
I was informed that the lads from Oeco would be with us mid-afternoon, so I head off to my pottery lesson, not wanting to miss out. However, at 3.15pm I receive a phone call saying that they have not only arrived but already have the base in place, and want me to confirm they have it in the right place! I rush home and indeed it is put together and they are waiting for me to decide the final position. My finished studio will be 5.5m x 3.5m and 2m away from the boundary so it doesn’t require planning permission and won’t be used as a bedroom so there’s no need for building regs.
Decision made, they secure the base and carry on, working hard into the evening. The floor is reinforced with extra steel supports and concrete pilings in the areas where my kiln and pugmill will be placed, as they have a combined weight of 215 kg!
Tuesday 14 August 2017
Bright and early the next day the lads are back on site. Today we are celebrating my eldest daughter’s birthday, so I won’t be around to supervise. Hey ho! I’m sure they’ll manage! I leave my camera with Andrew (my husband) and off we go for the day. I come back to amazing progress, the walls are up, the roof is on, the electrics are in and the insulation in place.
The outside of the building is clad in Western Red Cedar, which has a lifetime of about 50 years with no maintenance, although the colour will change to a silver-grey over time. The design is a standard one, but I’ve added an extra window on the back wall (for increased ventilation), an extra glass panel to the corner for extra throwing light, and a 63amp consumer unit to cope with my kiln. The kiln will be wired in later by my own electrician.
The speed with which my studio is growing is amazing, due to the fact that the lads are putting in the hours and weather is glorious.
Wednesday 15 August 2017
The roof, floors and walls are all insulated, so I will be nice and cosy during the winter months, although there is a panel heater included too. As soon as the walls are completed, the plasterer starts work inside, making a beautiful job of the walls and ceiling, while the wooden cladding is placed on the outside of the building and cut to size. The shed is now turning into a garden room. One reason I chose this particular company was for the plastered finish to the walls. With safety in mind, and the possibility of dust quite high, I thought a wipeable surface was preferable to a wood-panel finish.
Thursday 16 August 2017
The attention to detail is obvious, and as the finishing touches are added to my studio I am feeling excited and can’t wait to get my wheel and pugmill installed. The lads finish their work on Thursday morning after three-and-a-half days of intense work. The building is finished and ready for the plumber to fix the sink unit and connect the water. I have a self-made water filter inside, leading outside to a large dustbin that I can then empty onto the garden.
We just have to wait now until all the plaster has dried and then we can paint my pottery room.
As the weather is still being kind, we manage to finish the painting over the weekend and start to place the essential items inside. The next event is the arrival of my kiln. I found a reconditioned model on Potterycrafts’ website and ordered it without giving too much thought to the logistics of moving it from the drop-off point (the kerb outside the house) to the pottery (60 yards away and up two steps). With the help of some sheets of formica found in the garage, and my wonderful husband, we move the kiln across the gravel and into the pottery.
It’s all taking shape!
My kiln is a dominant feature in my studio; the advice seems to be, ‘buy the largest one you can afford’, which would have been 150 litres. ‘Just right’, I thought. Then this reconditioned model came up. It’s 190 litres but around £800 cheaper than the 150-litre one, so my business head kicked in and I am now the owner of a beautiful shiny beast!
My pugmill was a gamble, purchased from an auction site, but it’s perfect and arrives by very careful couriers from the south of England. The pugmill is a necessity to me as I was diagnosed two years ago with MS. As a result, physical exertion will temporarily give me blurry vision and, of course, fatigue will set in. There’s no point hand wedging my clay and then not be able to throw because my eyes are playing up! This was another reason I decided to invest so much in a dedicated room. When faced with things such as this you have to keep learning, keep moving and keep on going forward.
Finally, it’s all finished, the kiln is wired in, plumbing is working, and I can restart my pottery adventure.
I’ve been spending as much time as possible in my lovely studio, my pottery skills are improving every time I throw, and my tutor and ClayCraft are a massive help in encouraging me to practice and try new styles and techniques.
I’ve been taking lessons locally to get myself back on track, and today I have had what I feel is a great success. I weighed out 4lb of clay – a massive amount – and I am not sure how, but I firstly managed to centre it and then actually made a ginger jar and its matching lid! I am so surprised; I thought I’d lost it a few times and then it just came together. By following the instructions in last month’s magazine, I got there, and I’m so excited I wanted to tell you all!
I will turn the bottom when it’s leather hard and maybe even decorate it. I’ve been practising and cutting nearly everything I’ve created in half to see wall thicknesses and structure, but this one I will keep.
I haven’t settled on ‘my’ style yet, but I know that I want to make usable domestic wear that, as William Morris said, ‘is beautiful and functional’.
I am very lucky to have such a super building to work in. One day I might have enough to fill and fire up my kiln!
This feature first appeared in issue 20
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