I’ve just visited Berryhill fields in the centre of Stoke-on-Trent. It’s one of the green lungs of our City, a country park between Fenton, Longton, Bentilee, Sandford Hill and Bucknall.
I took some lovely photos of the view, including the TV mast that dominates the skyline. The white blossom along the pathway up from Arbourfield drive is floating like a pure white cloud alongside the path.
I’m worried that this green lung of the city could disappear. The local Conservative and Independant council wants to build 1300 houses on the site, this despite there being a covenant on the land to prevent this. In fact there have been protests over its use in the past. I know we need new housing but why destroy the environment. Yes there are industrial patches around the site. Why not build on brownfield sites in the city instead?
In a world where pollution and environmental degradation are on the increase we should preserve what we have left of our green spaces.
I was up there with Labour councellors and candidates. We were filming and taking photos of the parkland to raise the issue with the voters in the upcoming local elections
I had the pleasure of being invited to a behind the scenes visit to our city archive today. I had been asked if I wanted to go along by a friend who is doing an art project about the pottery manufacturer.
We went up to the third floor of the city library and were shown round the back of the reception desk into the staff only section. There the city archivist showed us some of the fading pages in the ledgers. They were images of pots that various pot banks made in the history of Stoke-on-Trent.
There were pattern books for tableware and tiles ledgers with the cost of making the ware and details of workers. The old pottery firms did not collect a lot of details and a lot was thrown out when they closed down. But once we had been in the air conditioned archives we were allowed to sit and (very carefully) look at selected pattern books including prints of tiles to surround hearths, doorways and floors. Some were mundane but others were breathtaking. Art nouveau and art deco masterpieces.
They are the trademark or manufacturers mark that you find on the bottom of cups, plates and dishes that shows who made them.
This can be useful in identifying the manufacturer, whether they are antique and if they are worth anything. Sometimes they even get forged! People have added things like the Clarice Cliff signature onto modern pots to try and fool people into buying them as originals.
Some pots have simple marks on their base to identify them. Others have complicated patterns and writing.
The people who live in the potteries (Stoke-on-Trent). Have a habit of looking underneath pots to see if they have recognised which pottery made them. I think it’s called the “turn over club” but I may be wrong…..
We visited Middleport pottery in Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent today to see “weeping window” a memorial made of 11,000 ceramic poppies placed on a bottle oven in the pottery. The poppies are some of the ones that were on display previously at the Tower of London and have been travelling around the country for the last couple of years. You are supposed to book a visit but as the number of people going to see the display has reduced we were allowed in without booking. We had to park on a designated car park as the local streets have parking restrictions at the moment and you could get fined.
The poppies commemorate the worth anniversary of the 1st world war,”the war to end all wars” which sadly did not stop humans fighting over and over again as they have since our ancestors first fought many thousands of years ago. Many if the poppies were made in Stoke-on-Trent so its good to see them come home although there was a fight to get them.
The display of poppies cascade down the oven, spreading out on the ground, representing blood and the fallen soldiers that were killed in the war.
I drew the scene but had to slightly shorten the bottle kiln to fit it on the page. I also struggled to represent so many poppies. We then visited the rest of the pottery, including the steam engine although it was not working today. There was quite a crowd so I only sketched it briefly.
On our return to the car park there was a large poster with the poem by John McCrae written in 1915. I decided to draw my own version of a poppy to go along with it.
Middleport pottery is very interesting, there is a museum on site, plus artists and ceramicists with their own studios. The tea shop was very busy but we managed to get a table. There was also a display by students from clay college who are doing a two year full time course to learn the skills of pottery making before they are forgotten.
Although the weeping window display ends in mid September the pottery is well worth a visit. It’s surprising how much goes on round here!
I went to a model train show last year and while my partner was looking at the model trains I decided to draw a Morris Minor that was parked outside. There were a few of them there and I had a chat with one of the owners. It turned out the people were from the Potteries Morris Minor owners club. They love their cars and the Morris I drew was beautifully presented.
I decided to do the sketch before I realised I had not got anything to sketch with, I had a tiny sketch pad but no pencils… so I used what came to hand which was a black biro. The drawing was going well, but the biro ran out. Thats why part of it is blue. I could pretend it was reflected sky, but that is a lucky result if running out of ink!
Morris Minor cars are iconic. Thet are beautiful. They are classic cars, their shape is streamlined in that old fashioned way. They came in different shapes, my favourite is the Morris traveller. It looks different because it has wooden spacers between the metal panels. I wish I knew more about them!
We had a lovely sitter tonight called Debbie McAndrew. She is an author and play write and also sometimes acts. She wrote a brilliant play called “dirty laundry” that was on last year . It was set in the past and was about the history of the potteries.
We had an entertaining session drawing her and discussing all sorts of things, including how she got into the theatre and acting and how the group got into drawing and painting.
I really enjoyed the session and think that I got some relatively accurate portraits from it.
I used pencil, charcoal pencil and black ink to do the drawings. The sketches are in a small sketch book with good thickness cartridge paper.
I like drawing in these books. There is enough room to fit the drawings in, and they are small enough to hold so that it is not a struggle to hold the book. Other people were using A1 or A2 sheets to draw or paint on but I prefer the smaller size. About A5.
Anyway I shall just leave you to decide if you like them…
Things are changing at the old Spode factory site.
Old buildings that don’t have much historical merit are being demolished and older buildings , or more architecturally important ones are being released from their imprisonment in brick, mortar, chip board, steel and concrete.
Like an archaeological dig tipped 90 degrees, new surfaces and entrances are being uncovered. Courtyards with windows newly on view. Stacks of saggars piled on shelves up at those windows, small or large, flat or square ….the weight of the saggars must be tremendous. I wondered if the shelves are rotting and if they could collapse .
I remember seeing a film called “solarus” or “solaris” once years ago. By Tarcovski? A Russian film maker. The character’s moved through a post industrial nightmare, and I can’t help thinking Spode uncovered would make a brilliant film set.
A recent film called “jawbone” was filmed at Spode. They recreated a boxing gym in the China halls there. So many new views. ….
walking along the new pathway to the studios there, I wonder at the air we are breathing in, dust everywhere…how do we know there is no asbestos or other contaminants?
The feral cats of Spode can be friendly. A grey and white Tom cat was hanging about next to the Hulton art pottery. We were told that someone is thinking of rehoming him. He had water and food….my partner wanted to take him home. But we already have two of our own cats. I think he will be OK. I have nicknamed him Maurice. ….