Studio informationa chronological look at Alan's work


This section details Alan's education and introduction to pottery.

Newlands Park Training College, Buckinghamshire 1954 - 1955

Splendidly situated in vast grounds, woods etc. Large studios for art and craft, a pottery work and a biggish Charles Vyse gas kiln. No art and craft tutor appointed for a year so I taught myself to use the electric pottery wheel and fire the kiln, but only in oxidation as there were no instructions with it and I knew nothing about kilns. When a tutor was appointed he left me to get on as I wished as he was a painter and knew nothing about pottery.

I only made thrown vessels there and some modelled portrait heads in clay. I made some tea pots (no photos) and some rather silly pots on three legs. There is another photo of a large jar with another pot next to it. I enjoyed making pots with lids and knobs. I also liked making tall, very slender vases with tall thin necks.

They were made in a smooth white earthenware body, quite a lot of turning was involved. All were glazed using any of a batch of ready made Wenger glazes I found in the stockroom. They were high gloss, high lead glazes, (no one worried much about that then!) in quite attractive transparent, delicate colours. I knew nothing much about glazes, or the capabilities of the kiln. I only fired it to 1060 degrees but probably it would easily have done stoneware. It made an alarming roar and I was nervous of it with no one there to advise me. If I signed the pots at all it would probably have been “WOL”, my nickname at the time. I don’t suppose any of these pots still exist!

Some of Alan's own notes
Examples from Coursework

Goldsmiths College, South London 1955

I was granted a special course at Goldsmiths College, South London. Allowed choice of any available Art school classes. Chose fabric printing, etching, painting / life drawing and pottery. Pottery class were run by Kenneth Clark, Gordon Baldwin teaching other students but there as an influence. Here I was introduced to “pinch” or “thumb pots”, bowls made entirely in the hand from balls of clay, gradually opening the clay by pressing in with the thumb, turning the clay, pressing in again, then thinning the wall between fingers and thumb, constantly judging the thickness as thinning proceeded purely by feel. One can do it with one’s eyes shut. Ken Clark had us doing it, discovering how to adjust shallowness or depth and curving in the form, opening out again, whatever. He then had us trying out decorative techniques, scratching, grooving, impressing with various tools or objects, screwheads for instance, building up patterns from design elements.

We tried out ways of surface treatment, scraping, burnishing etc. We also made tall coil pots, making them taller by building them up in sections, joined rim to rim as the clay grew supportive enough. I think I made one about six feet high, just for kicks. I don’t think it was ever fired. The kiln was big, but not that big! Getting things fired was a problem, there was always a backlog, all the firing was done by David Garbett, the technical assistant so one was at his mercy.

We took notes on a few rudimentary decorative processes, under and over glaze brush treatments, sgraffito, wax resist. I only remember a single glaze being available, a white tin glaze fired at earthenware temperature. We decorated purely with brushed on oxide mixtures to get blacks and reddish browns, and I learnt to use the effect achieved by brushing on a solution of copper carbonate, brushing off the coating when dry, as one judged necessary, to pick up texture on the bisque fired clay, pick out incised or impressed patterning but also, with a thin deposit, to colour the clay surface with a semblance of the “toasted” look gained in reduction firing, which was not available to us. We also learnt inlaying with coloured slips. That was about all! We only had one day a week in the pottery, unlike other classes.

On leaving Goldsmiths, Alan began a series of postings teaching pottery in Secondary schools across south east London from 1956 through to 1958 before committing full time to the Forest Hill studios.

Some of Alan's own notes