A new, open access ceramics studio where members can happily work with clay….
‘Be warned, once you get clay beneath your fingernails, it’s there for life.’
New open access ceramics studio ~ Inchbrook Mill, near Nailsworth, Gloucestershire
Local potter, Tom Knowles-Jackson, best known for his success on the Great Pottery Throwdown in 2016, has realised his dream of a member’s maker space, accessible to all, that rivals any other in the country. The open plan studio is flooded with light and calm with rows of orderly workbenches and the gentle hum of the potters wheel. Part time professional makers, serious hobbyists and beginners work side by side in a community environment. It’s a positive and exciting new venture….right on our doorstep!
Tom had his ‘lightbulb moment’ whilst visiting Turning Earth, a ceramics studio in East London, during the filming of the Great Pottery Throwdown – a seed was sown….’I thought, I could create this. There are only a handful of studios of this kind in the UK and very few in a rural environment. It became a possibility.’ The journey to realising The Clay Loft has been quick and focused, ‘It’s all happened pretty quickly really. I had a strong vision for what I wanted to achieve and once we’d found the location it was a done deal.’ It is now housed in an 18th century dye house on Gyddynap Lane, just outside the busy market town of Nailsworth, ‘I liked the building from the outside…..but I loved it from the inside! The views are stunning.’
The impetus for creating The Clay Loft was threefold – firstly to create a larger studio for himself, secondly to provide studio space for other enthusiasts who cannot afford to invest in their own and thirdly to provide opportunities for young ceramics graduates in the locality. ‘The more people who get clay between their fingers the better. Setting up your own studio is a huge investment – I want people to come to The Clay Loft for member support, access to a huge array of equipment and a qualified on-site technician who can help and advise.’ Membership is for anyone who can work independently (there is a compulsory induction for new members) and is completely flexible.
Indeed, members of The Clay Loft will have access to nine potters wheels, four kilns – a Paragon Firefly test kiln, a top loading electric 250 litres, a front loading electric 450 litres, a glaze test kiln and a gas reduction kiln (subject to booking, additional charges apply – it resides at Tom’s home along his other seven (yes, seven) kilns. There are six potter’s wheels, including six Shimpo Whisper wheels, a Cowley training wheel, an Alsager professional wheel and a Wenger standing kick wheel. Not forgetting the whimsically named Shimpo Whirlers and the Griffin Grip, Pug Mill, slab rollers and tools.
You will be the proud owner of your own personal storage shelf, have access to the communal kitchen, internet, forty litres of kiln space per month at set firing temperatures and unlimited use of house clays. It’s a functional, well designed place with a hint of zen – maybe it’s the fine Sake cups which Tom uses to serve espresso or the ornamental horse hair brushes he collects from the Far East.
Natural glazes ~ Glaze Technology
Not forgetting the glazes – Tom is passionate about using natural, local materials to blend his own glazes – you might catch him scavenging wood ash from bonfires or wood burning stoves, ‘There’s a real science to glazes, the alchemy or magic of changing the molecular structure of the raw material. The myriad of possibilities at every stage of the process is very exciting. Happy accidents are what we live for!’ Glaze Technology is an unusual extra facility on offer, enabling you to prepare and experiment with your own blends.
There are currently two highly qualified graduates working as part time technicians at The Clay Loft – not only can they develop their own ceramics careers, they are there to offer expertise to other committed ceramicists and potters. Tom has already created four private studios next to the main studio and what is clear is that there is more to come….a gallery perhaps, corporate days, talks and masterclasses run by specialists, studio sales and charity initiatives. He’s got the vision and drive and is clearly dedicated to his craft – as he says, ‘Be warned, once you get clay beneath your fingernails, it’s there for life.’
The Clay Loft Grand Opening will be on Friday 4th May and will be open to visitors during Select Trail Open Studios event on 5th, 6th, 12th& 13th May from 11am – 6pm. There will be ceramics for sale and a warm welcome.
There are different membership packages available ~ check the website for details.
Workshops on offer:
The Friday Club – membership for Fridays only from 9am – 4.30pm
1 – 2 – 1 Throwing tuition, Beginners, Intermediates, Introduction to throwing and holiday workshops for children. Check the website for more information.
The Clay Loft is open six days a week from 9am – 9pm for members and closed on Mondays.
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