John Bellis b.jpg
John Bellis

In times of tranquillity, I can recall some scenes from my childhood that gave me a sense of belonging to a particular place. The houses in my village were constructed from a dense red brick, and many had patterned decorative panels somewhere on the facade. The air, sometimes fresh from Ruabon Mountain, often carried the residue from continuously burning domestic coal fires. I remember, too, the network of railway links that snaked to the half dozen local brickworks that made use of the clay deposits, which often seemed to outcrop alongside coal seams. Later in life, when I had already become enthralled by throwing pots, I was told that an uncle of mine had worked at one of the potteries in Buckley.

 

My formal pottery education took place at teacher training college and at the studio pottery course at Epsom School of Art. I also worked as an assistant with a couple of London based potters. I later established my own studio and built kilns in Surrey and Dorset.

 

Upon returning to live in Wales, and after following a different career path for many years, I have been able to set up a workshop in the countryside again. The clays I use are from Devon and Cornwall, some of them processed in Stoke-on-Trent. The form and shape of work is largely determined by function, but inspired by medieval ware, the Leach tradition, and the heroes and heroines of British twentieth century ceramics, and rural potters from many countries. The pots are largely wheel thrown and fired in kilns using gas or wood. I enjoy testing local wood and plant ash to assess their suitability as glaze ingredients. The kilns I use are constructed from hard and soft firebrick using designs illustrated in the many kiln building books that are now available, thanks to potters who have been willing to share their knowledge and experience.