A pottery studio in St Civran, France


Welcome to this blog about the quiet rural life in the Berry Province of France where I have tried to open a pottery studio to hobby potters.
Your comments will be appreciated.

19 December 2006

24. LIMPING

After the roof was insulated in the autumn of 2002 the gaz heater was still not heating the place properly. I borrowed an old wood stove from a friend on a farm. It was installed by Hadrien again slash hammering the wall to get the smoke pipes out. As some fire wood was needed I ordered a big heap from a forester I knew in another village. By the way wood is still measured in 'cordes' i.e. roughly the equivalent of 3 cubic meters.

It came one day cut in logs half a meter in length and split ready to fit into the wood stove. It was mainly oak. Good stuff really.

In my rush to open the gate and make ready to clear the front yard to have the wood delivered and stacked I put my right foot in a hole on the uneven ground and twisted my ankle badly. It hurt like mad.

For days on end I had to spend time with my leg resting on a stool level or higher than where I was sitting. First I used crutches to walk around and then I just limped around. It took 6 long months to heal and 2 years for the 'shadow pain' to subside altogether.

16 December 2006

23. A client's order

One day the phone rang and a lady from Paris sayd she needed hundreds of plates, beakers, mugs, platters, ashtrays and other things urgently... before Christmas, say. I blocked the phone receiver and asked Hadrien at the potter's wheel if he felt he could make a few hundred plates before Christmas.

He didn't choke as I would have. Just said: 'sure!'.

As the order was for white earthenware bisques some new clay had to be purchased and stored beside the red one I already had. Everything was cleaned and any red stuff removed from the shelves and instruments. The studio became a hive. The young lady came to visit to see how her order was getting on.

It looked like it wouldn't be ready in time. The winter weather was setting in and the clay just wouldn't dry. I took a lot of raw potteries inside my living room hoping to dry them faster in front of the wood fire. To no avail. The atmosphere was damp and cold everywhere.

Eventually the order was ready for delivery in January 2003. Packed nicely in the boot and on the backseat of my old Ford I drove with Hadrien to Paris. The young lady seemed happy. She was going to decorate all this and fire them in a kiln she still hadn't purchased...

The challenge had been fun but it didn't pay for the time and effort. The studio was simply not geared for production.

12 December 2006

22. INSULATION

The barn where I set up my pottery studio was covered in clay tiles. Ideal for ventilation of hay or grain underneath and cooling in summer. But not for potters shivering under as the cold weather was setting in. I soon realized that the roof needed insulation.

A quote from a builder was astronomical. It needed high scaffolding and quite some time to be done, he claimed. I simply couldn't afford it. The threat of closing down was on again. Then Hadrien said he could do it no trouble... He turned up with a long ladder. I borrowed a gun stappler from a cousin of mine. He went to the local Do-It-Yourself shop, got some insulation material, put the bill on a business account he opened in my name, came back with it and went up the ladder.

It took him two days. I did have an insurance but if anything had happened to him I would no doubt have ended up in jail... This job was not really included in his contract for apprenticeship.

07 December 2006

21. Hadrien

At the end of the summer 2002 I realized that the trickle of customers coming to the workshop would soon dry up. As local interest in hobby pottery was none existant it looked like I would have to close down until the following summer.

I couldn't resign myself to that. I asked the young fellow who used to help me with my garden if he was interested to learn how to throw a pot. He shrugged his shoulders and said 'why not'. The idea was to have an apprentice to be able to start a production. I enquired with the employment agency who had a special contract to offer. I was to train him for 6 months at no cost provided I would employ him at the end of his training. It suited him as he would keep getting social security allowances all the while.

His progress was amazing. After a couple of months he seemed to have been a potter all his life.

Here's Hadrien in October 2002 as he started at the potters wheel.

He would concentrate and absorb what I was teaching him like a sponge.

And here's the same guy two months later throwing a vinegar jar like a professional

04 December 2006

20. MOTHER-IN-LAW

Becoming a grandmother is one thing. It is a landmark in a life time, a point of no return. But somehow it has a pleasant public image and it triggers the motherly string again hugging babies and all that.

Becoming a mother-in-law is like having a car accident. You thought it could only happen to others. The public image is appaling. Whatever you do or say is taken down as evidence against you! You've not been warned. You're not prepared.

I was not prepared for what happened when my son, his girlfriend and baby grand-daughter came to live with me in the one room house attached to the pottery studio.

It lasted four months. In October 2002 they moved out to their own premises in a nearby provincial town.


Here's me as mother-in-law half asleep in an armchair.

01 December 2006

19. Water supply and drainage

When I first bought the place in September 2001 I knew I would have to renew the drainage system. So next to the concrete closed tank that had become obsolete, I had a brand new sewage tank installed at the back with a sand filter dug in the front garden. It worked perfectly well for the house.

The barn turned pottery studio had no water supply or drainage at all. The water supply was to come from the kitchen and a plastic pipe was run along the ditch dug for the sand filter. I also had a sink put in with a tap on it. But...

We could not use the water at the tap as it didn't exit anywhere. In July 2002 finally, as the project had been approved and financed by the village 'mairie' (townhall), a ditch was dug across the road. It enabled the water supply at the studio to exit and flow onto an already existing sewage system.

Here are men at work to allow the pottery studio to be connected with existing drainage across the road.

Camille is washing her hands the first time we were able to use the tap in the workshop.