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Faithfully Linking Old and New.

Abersoch Pottery is a small organisation in North Wales, near the tip of the Llyn Peninsular, by the sea. We’ve been around for thirty years, but have recently become more active. Abersoch Pottery is non- profit making. Any excess of income over expenditure is donated to a local charity, the Felin Uchaf Community Project (see Links).

The ethos of the pottery is to maintain traditional craft, but not to get stuck in the past. Whenever it seems faithful to tradition, we like to link the old with the new, developing old traditions in a modern context. For example, like the ancient Chinese potters, only wood is used to fire the kiln, but the kiln is insulated with modern ceramic fibre. The ancient Chinese would have given their eye teeth for this material – it makes the firing process far more efficient, greatly reducing the amount of fuel burnt. The ancient Chinese were famously thrifty – nothing was wasted. If they could have used a material that halved the amount of wood needed for a firing, they’d have jumped at the chance.

Why use wood? Environmental reasons are a factor – wood is a carbon neutral fuel (the same amount of greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere as it decays as when it burns, plus of course the tree from which it came played its part in reducing greenhouse gas).

But environmental reasons are not in fact the primary reason for using wood. Firing stoneware pots with wood gives them a unique surface finish. Many experts believe that the surface of the pots – the glaze – gain a richer colour, and a greater depth of colour, than can be achieved with other fuels. There are more details on this in the sections of this site on ‘Wood-Firing’ and ‘Ash Glazes’.

As well as using traditional firing techniques, we also use traditional glazes. A glaze is just a thin layer of coloured glass on the surface of a pot. The earliest glazes were made from wood ash. If you heated the ashes from your log burner to 1300 degrees centigrade, they would turn to glass – of a sort. It’s thought that this fact was discovered by a messy Chinese potter who contaminated a pot with ash from the kiln fire-pit while placing a fresh pot in the kiln. Who knows, but ash certainly makes a wonderful glaze. Happy Accidents, bless ’em.

We are, in a small way, exploring this old tradition (of Happy Accidents? Yes, certainly, but also ash glazes) by focusing on the different types of glazes produced by ash from different types of trees. A glaze made from gorse ash is very different to a glaze made from beech, as can be seen in the Main Gallery. There is a more about ash glazes in the ‘Ash Glazes’ section of the site.

The third and final way in which we are currently trying to link old and new was inspired by the Book of Kells, with its wonderful Celtic knot-work and interlacing motifs. We are trying to re-create some of the motifs from the book in clay. This is very much work in progress. The results so far can be seen in The Book of Kells Plates Gallery.

Abersoch Pottery pots are available from a local gallery:

Oriel Plas Gly-y-Weddw Arts Centre
LLanbedrog
Pwllheli
Gwynedd
North Wales
LL53 7TT

Tel 01758 740763
Fax 01758 740232
enquiry@oriel.org.uk