John Christie | The spiritual, elemental quality of wood-firing

John Christie at Contemporary Ceramics Centre
"At art school, we had made three or four pieces a month - David [Frith]could throw fifty pieces before lunch! "

"Fifty years! 

I left art school in 1970 and dug trenches for gas pipes for a living. A friend that I had made in Liverpool where I had been at college, had a brother who was a potter and they kindly found me a job working for David Frith who was a well-established potter in North Wales. This was a great bit of luck for me. At art school, we had made three or four pieces a month - David could throw fifty pieces before lunch! I found the discipline hard, but it has stood me in good stead over the last forty-seven years and I am grateful for the skills I learned there - which I continue to use daily. 

John Christie Vessel
"I formed the notion that it was only necessary for potters to make the pots that were closest to their hearts to guarantee success. Later I would have to temper this philosophy."

Patrick Adamson - the potter brother of my friend - had worked (with Clive Bowen) at Yelland and Branhams, and was in the Wenford firing crew. He shared my obsession for clay and glaze but had considerably more knowledge of traditional English country pottery, and huge enthusiasm for pots and potting. We worked together in Pantasaph, North Wales, for eight years making slip-decorated earthenware, galena glazed, wood-fired. There is a strong slipware tradition in North Wales centred around the Buckley potteries, the last of which had only closed just prior to the second world war. We were lucky in that the pots we wanted most to make, sold well. I formed the notion that it was only necessary for potters to make the pots that were closest to their hearts to guarantee success. Later I would have to temper this philosophy.

"It [woodfiring] has a spiritual - elemental - quality that is wonderfully exciting, spiced with danger and discovery. "

The first wood kiln that we built in 1971 was a little kiln for Raku. The design of the kiln - scaled up - is the same as the stoneware kilns that I have built since. From the start, wood-firing with its gift of transformation and unpredictability has gripped me. It has a spiritual - elemental - quality that is wonderfully exciting, spiced with danger and discovery. 
John Christie Vessel
"I am always just on the verge of the great discovery, the fifty-year break-through."

I continued to wood fire when I moved back to my home in Scotland in 1983, following the well-worn path through ash glazes and soda firing. I continue to search after universality rather than individuality. After fifty years of making, my enthusiasm for the hunt remains stronger than ever. In my seventies, I am freer than ever to experiment. Each firing is a test. I am always just on the verge of the great discovery, the fifty-year break-through.

John Christie
I continue to collaborate with other potters whenever possible.  In Wales, we had up to six people working full time in the pottery.  Now I like to work with one or two, sharing ideas and aspirations, to our mutual benefit. " John Christie 2018


Comments

  1. One of the most generous, humble and authentic potters in the UK. A must for any real pottery enthusiast to meet at least once..

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