Sunday, 23 October 2011

In the steps of Adam Dworski

If all goes well, we should soon been moving in Pottery Cottage in Clyro. It's an old cottage that dates back to the 17th century and was originally part of the Baskerville Estate. The name Pottery Cottage is quite new though, given after the potter Adam Dworski lived there. Several pieces of his work are cemented into the exterior walls of the cottage. Thanks to the Pottery Studio for the short biog of Adam Dworski below, and this mug, which I bought so we have a piece of his work inside the cottage.

Adam (Adaš) Dworski was born in 1917 in Rijeka, (which is now in Croatia) at the beginning of a very turbulent period in the area's history.
In 1954 he married and settled in Wales, starting Wye Pottery in Clyro, Radnorshire (now Powys) two years later. He had been an accomplished skier and founded a mountaineering society in his native Croatia, and felt at peace amongst the mountains of Wales.

He is primarily known for his decorative work although domestic wares were also part of Wye Pottery's output. His use of rich colours on his flatter pieces, plaques and plates, which often gives them a 'jewelled' or 'stained glass' appearance contrasts with the subtle tonings of his more sculptural pieces. Although undoubtedly a very fine artist, he preferred to think of himself as a craftsman.

His work is sought-after and he holds the distinction of having been chosen to supply two pieces for Sir Basil Spence's new Coventry Cathedral, and a black Madonna for Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King.

When he was in his eighties and the exertion of throwing and firing clay became too much for him he took to graphic arts, using pastels and acrylics. Towards the end of his life he and his wife, Paddy, moved to Burgundy where he died in March, 2011.

Pinpoint: Penpont

View of the River Usk from a barn window at Penpont
On Sunday I popped into 'A Festival of Colour' at Penpont, organised by The Great English Outdoors in Hay. It attracted some big names such as John Gillow and Olivia Dell, both world textiles importers, and had some fun demonstrations and hands-on stalls including big knitting with giant needles, block printing, land art, and traditional spinning. The setting is beautiful, and we'll definitely be going back next spring now that I've seen they have a small campsite in the grounds.

Productive weekend

Our half term got off to a creative start with a visit to The Potteries around Stoke-on-Trent and the boys had a go on a potter's wheel at the Gladstone Pottery Museum and remarkably managed to made a pot each. Then the cockerel printed sheet is from my hurried blockprinting on fabric at at the Textiles and Garden Fair at Penpont this morning.

Victorian bottle kilns at Glastone Pottery Museum

My lovely Pa is working in Chester this week, so we met him in the grounds of Wedgwood for a picnic. Here they are, three pairs of little legs running off to play hide and seek in the woods:

As always, I'd forgotten to charge my phone, so sadly no pics of Sethie and Bo aprons on, standing on a tower of wooden blocks turning their pots. They did look super cute. After the pots have dried out this week they'll paint them and I'll show them off on here.

It's half-term so I've planned something for each day. Today's outing was to The Courtyard Theatre in Hereford. We met up with Ollie's Aunt Sally and she and I went to The Nutcracker while Ollie and the boys went to a puppet show of The Ugly Duckling. Tomorrow: Cantref Adventure Farm in the Brecon Beacons.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Pot and potters

My first pot, ready for firing. I'm quite happy with it. I managed to even it out, gave it three slip coatings and decorated it, fiddled with it too much, scraped it all back, reapplied slip to the upper part, decorated it again. I think it will look quite different when fired and the parts with just a single coating of slip shows. I'm away next week, so will post a pic of the finished, fired pot in two weeks time.
Here we are, the Friday afternoon class, with our tutor, Martin Craddock. We were photographed for the local press today, so I asked the photographer to take a snap with my iphone and it really captured the spirit of the group.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A strange reaction

Ollie will tell me this adds to my list of oddities: I discovered today that I'm allergic to hyacinth bulbs. My order of 'Woodstock' Hyacinth bulbs arrived from Sarah Raven's Garden this afternoon and I took them out to check them. Then it began. My face and neck are covered in a red rash and I'm itching like crazy and my cheeks and ears are burning up. So Ol will be in charge of hyacinth planting. I'm hoping to force them for Christmas along with some miniature paperwhite narcissi. Our furniture may not have arrived from Argentina by then, but we will have a Christmas tree (currently growing outside our bedroom window at the cabin), and some gorgeous indoor plants.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Plant therapy

I've always known my Mum as a townie, living on the edge of Leeds, the third largest city in the UK. She's not made for the city though, and lacks confidence in social settings. What a difference if you plonk her in woodland, or walk with her along a hedgerow: she won't stop talking. It's not surprising, as my maternal Grandfather was the head gardener at Cricket St Thomas in Somerset, and then at Lord Digby's home in Cerne Abbas, Dorset, so plants and the countryside were her friends in the absence of peers. The advantage of this, for me, is that Mum is a great help at plant sales. On Friday we went to Hergest Croft Gardens near Kington. Mum told me about each plant, what to buy and what works here and not there. Unfortunately, I fell hopelessly in love with the Purple Bell Vine (pictured above), which wasn't for sale, but I'll definitely be buying one in the spring.

Feeling at home

It doesn't take long for life in a new place to fill up. Aside from the routine of Crocodiles and the early morning/late evening ferrying of Ollie and his bike to Hereford station, the boys and I are swimming twice a week and enjoying longer and longer walks after school walks in the Wye Valley as the weeks go by and they get used to tramping about in the cold. We were up on the Begwyns three times this week, in thick cloud during the week, but bright blue skies yesterday. My mum was here for the week, so we've been up and over the hills, rummaging through the second hand furniture shop in Kington, going to plant sales and farmers markets, and tucking into freshly baked bread at Talgarth Mill.

Pottery class in Crickhowell was a bit of a slog on Friday after a late night out at Brilley Supper Club (enjoying food in the style of Simon Hopkinson and the company of an eclectic group at the home of Marya Fforde) followed by a 6.15am drive to Hereford. However, I did manage to work my pot into a less uneven shape and decent height, so next week I will return with more enthusiasm and make my first attempt at decorating it. We were back in Crickhowell on Saturday for a harvest supper at a friend's farm, in armchairs huddled around a campfire in the barn, watching the sun set over the hills. Then the beautiful drive back there this morning for the end of term performance of the church Breakfast Club in the village school. We're nearing completion on Pottery Cottage, so in any spare moments I'm busy doing research at the library, nosing around friend's cottages built around the same time, and lining up builders for work in November. More on that very soon, once we've signed and paid for it!

Monday, 10 October 2011

A walk in the woods on the Wye

It's getting pretty wild up on the moors now, so we've taken to the lowland and we've been walking alongside the Wye.  As ever, Bo will perch and pose and beam at any camera pointed in his direction, while Seth does this:

Pottery week two

Pressed moulds last week, coiling this week. I turned out quite a wonky pot, but as Martin said 'It is even in its uneveness', so I was happy enough.

Time for a tisaniere

Very happy with my beautiful new glass teapot, pictured here stuffed with fresh rosemary.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cross-country commute

Today Ollie returned to student life. He picked up his second-hand MPhil gown from the college porter this morning, and (obviously not wearing said gown) cycled around town on the racer he's had since he was sixteen, turning up where he was told to be, signing cheques for tuition fees, squash club, weekly lodgings.

 Christ's College, Cambridge

It's a bit of a shock to our system. We're used to doing what what we like when we like, and being together most of the time. Thankfully we're not used to a regular, fat salary, so at least there's no big change there. So, it's just Sethie, Bo and me Monday to Thursday each week from now on. We survived on our own in India and Argentina for longer stretches than this, so I'm sure we can cope on our own here, and his research should take us back to Argentina next year, so I'm not complaining. Seth's loving Ollie's new bike rack for the car. He's worked out that he can lift himself up onto the bars and from there climb onto the top of the car, and slide down the windscreen and bonnet onto the floor, which he does over and over again while Bo looks on in complete awe.

BA talent

We were at the wedding of BA friends Ignacio and Emma last weekend (thanks to a successful set-up by Ollie at an asado two years ago). Our much loved friend, Matt Chesterton, wrote this poem for the ceremony:

You say papa,
I say potato,
You'd rather eat a plate of chops
Than look at a tomato.
I drink my tea from a china cup,
You suck yours through a straw.
But hand in hand we'll face all storms
From the same side of the shore.

Your country's rather large,
My country's quite petite.
You've never seen the Klangers
Or eaten Shredded Wheat.
I never ordered frennys
From a branch of Pumper Nic.
But if your candle ever wavers, love
I'll be there to shield the wick.

I prefer the mountains,
You prefer the coast.
I can make a souffle rise,
You're mystified by toast.
You drive a Mini Cooper,
I just drive you round the bend.
But you'd need the Hubble telescope
To see where our love ends.

I contain multitudes -
But so, my dear, do you!
And multitudes proliferate
When multiplied by two.
You say we never differ,
I'm afraid I must demur...
But hand in hand we'll face all storms
From the same side of the shore.

Another non-Argentine friend from BA, Tiffany Shield (now in London, soon moving to Beijing) is selling two original photo walls of Buenos Aires street art. The photos are arranged to give a snapshot of stencil graffiti around BA in June 2007. They tell a story of the cultural and political climate of the time, from Palermo to Recoleta to La Boca. Each photo is colour printed and mounted on thick MDF, framed 4x5 in sturdy white 1m x 1m frames behind 3mm glass. Price is £850 for the set or £500 each. Any takers?

Finally, our Argentine pal Julieta Diaz is the star the new film about Evita. Just before we left in March, Julieta's hair was dyed platinum blonde and I'd seen some fab photos of her on set. Juan y Eva is now on general release in Argentina, and you can catch a clip of it here:

Cow muck dogs and Welsh-speaking Patagonians

There seems to be a festival around here every weekend. Last week we missed the Hay Film Festival, and the screening of Patagonia, the 2010 Welsh-Spanish language film about the Welsh communities in Argentina. This last weekend it was the Brecon Food Festival (following on from nearby Ludlow and Abergavenny) and next weekend it's the Hay Walking Festival. I really enjoyed Herefordshire Arts Week last month. Many of the exhibitions were in private homes or workshops that wouldn't otherwise be open the public. I particularly enjoyed the Cabalva Art Gallery (photos below), just a couple of miles down the road, and the Wobage Pottery near Ross-on-Wye.
These sculptures by Sally Matthews were really fun, the frames made from metal, but stuffed with coire fibre, cow muck, copper wood, sheep wool to create these really life-like dogs climbing up the staircase. I love local potter Pat Birks work, and am very tempted to buy a selection of her majolica tiles as a splash board at Pottery Cottage.

Beetroots and cabbages

I just ordered some indoor 'Woodstock' hyacinths in a gorgeous beetroot colour to force into bloom for Christmas, and today the boys picked out this fab purple and green brassica (cabbage) plant while we went for a wander around Hay. I love these rich purples and crimsons standing out against the backdrop of autumnal oranges and browns. The weather is still pretty summery, and this morning we went for a lovely walk along Offa's Dyke, alongside the Wye (or as Bo calls it, the River Wine) at Hay. A few weeks ago I saw this red leafed creeper, which I would love to plant at Pottery Cottage. The owners of the house didn't know what it was, but I think it could be a vine. The leaves are larger, softer, and not shiny like a Virginia Creeper. Can anyone identify it?

Lucky eggs

It was very handy that we had a rare five day gap in bookings at our loft in Buenos Aires last week when Ollie had to make a last minute trip to sort out our residency. He enjoyed two nights there before we complete the sale of it next month. We've decided to ship everything back, so he was able to travel with just carry-on luggage, but squeezed these two green glass eggs for me (terrible iphone photo, they're really very beautiful). They were given to me by the Argentine antiques dealer, Horacio Roca, when I started out with doble M design. They were the first things he bought when he started out in the business over fifty years ago, and he gave them to me to wish me all the best. So here they are now, on our window sill in Clyro, willing me on to keep going with doble M design. First project is Pottery Cottage, which I can't wait to get started on.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Down the grapevine

The Observer magazine today had a travel piece about the Lebanon's 5000 year old wine industry. The photo captions read: 'Romancing the stone: The Temple of Bacchus, god of wine, in Baalbek' and 'Lebanese women harvest grapes from the Massaya winery' (see photo below).

I have a pile of photos that my Grandmother left for me, two of which mirror the contemporary photos in The Observer today.
The top photo is of the ruins of Baalbeck taken in 1944 by my Grandmother, Rhoda Manoogian, and the one below was taken in September of the same year of my Greek Great-great-grandmother, Yaya, and my Great-grandmother, Marika, picking grapes in the family vineyard in the mountains above Beirut.

Time to potter

A major perk of moving to a new place is that you have loads of time on your hands. Of course there is stuff to have to do, but you're not yet involved with people, so there's spare time and bags of enthusiasm to be exploited. I've always fancied taking a pottery course, so I signed up to a six week course with Talgarth-based potter Martin Craddock at the Arts Alive Wales centre in Crickhowell. The space is great. The venue is the former village school which has been reworked into a space that is flooded with light and has a really positive vibe. It's me and, as my mate Ismay predicted, five older ladies, but that's no bad thing: one of them brought some seriously scrummy homemade cake to have with our tea, and they were all pretty silent, which was very soothing compared to the noise I'm used to ALL THE TIME with Seth and Bo.

Glamping it up

So just over the hill from our cabin Emma Price runs Cosy under Canvas, a very glam camping site (especially compared to our usual camping experiences) consisting of two tipis and a dome, each with a wood burning stove, and beds covered in duvets and welsh blankets. Although all being well we'll soon be moving into a cottage in Clyro, I think we'll very tempted to creep back up the hill for weekends in the cabin or in one of Emma's tipis. We're quite smitten with this spot up on this hilltop.

I am so happy that the area we chose to move to seems to be full of enterprising people who have different projects on the go. There are plenty of freelancers, and parents who, like Emma, have come up with an idea, given it a go, and managed to make it work so it becomes a living.

For me it still feels a bit like we're on holiday, living in a temporary place, but the boys are happy as anything and I'm busy meeting builders and carpenters, and going to reclamation yards, saw mills and merchants, so we can hopefully get cracking on the renovation of the cottage later this month. More on that soon....

Autumn on the Begwyns

Granny Balch and her dog, Harry, came to visit us on Saturday. We all walked up the Begwyns, open moorland on the hills above Hay, and to the boys' favourite spot, the stone Roundabout, which is perfect for wearing little boys out (see final pic, crashed out on a campbed in the garden of The Radnor Arms in Llowes). Ollie was back from his three day trip to Buenos Aires with a new pair of bombachas de campo, perfect for striding over the hills, and with Gaucho, as Pampero has apparently been taken over.