A Life in Ceramics – Jon Barrett-Danes

Ceramics was always something my parents did, and when I was growing up it was just something that was happening around me. Although I did have an interest, I was far more interested in other things as you would expect from a teenage boy.

Most of my school days were in Abergavenny and It was not until much later that I began to realise that ceramics had been in the family since the early 1900’s.

Ted Baker, my great, great uncle on my father’s mother’s side, was the man who I now understand to be the driving force behind the success of the Upchurch pottery. Upchurch Pottery in Rainham (rainham-history.co.uk) 

I bought my first pottery wheel when I was about 14 and I still have it!

One of my first money spinners which I made on the wheel were joss stick holders. I sold them in the gift shop run by my then girlfriend’s Mum in Crickhowell, Powys. 

 My influences throughout my college days were the creamware catalogues of Wedgewood. Those, and also the beauty and proportions of Roman and Greek vases, were both inspiring and influential on my work. And to some extent this still exists to the present day. But I now mix this up with the fluidity and humour of cartoons.

I used to make mainly functional domestic ware and was completely fascinated with wood fired and salt glaze and building kilns. After trying out a few different jobs, I chose to get a teaching qualification and got a job at Portsmouth High School (GDST). There I taught Art and Ceramics up to A level for about 15 years. During this time, I further developed my work and this has culminated in me making animals. Since the first pigs came out of the kiln, things have changed quite dramatically in the size of some of my work, which of course has its problems. 

I joined the Sussex Guild in 2014. I had been to some of the Guild shows on and off for years but it took a while for the penny to drop and for me to realise that maybe I, too, could be part of this organisation. So I applied and was successful!  

The range of my work has increased over the years as my understanding of retail has got better. I have gone from a couple of sheds down the bottom of the garden to a good-sized workshop which I rent on a farm near where I live in Midhurst.  

I have recently started doing workshops in animal modelling and also ceramic throwing courses. There seems to be a good level of public interest in those areas, so I will see where that takes me. Pottery Courses – Jon Barrett-Danes 

At the moment I am working on getting a body of work together for all the shows I have booked during the year. Plus I’m getting the preparation done for the future teaching courses. That seems like more than enough for one person.  

A Life in Ceramics - Jon Barrett-Danes

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