Slab Building Course with James Oughtibridge, Holmfirth

Wow, what a fantastic 3 days!

Day 1

James gave several demonstrations of his method, then we made maquettes.  Actually, I only made one piece.   Spookily, I’d just held up 3 ovelapping strips intending to join them, but thinking they looked rather good as they were, when James came over and suggested I kept the overlap stepping them out to create shadows. Why’s it spooky?  Because I’d made my first slab vessel in May 2016, and the tutor said my slip decoration looked like tartan, so I designed some curved tall vessels based on kilt form. I made a search to find ceramicists using similar forms, and found …….. James Oughtibridge.


Should mention the food – delicious. Oh yum! Lunch gave me a chance to chat to other members of the group.  All women and all very affable.  Three were local and are regulars at James’s night-school classes – lucky them. Another, Anna Simson is also doing an MA Ceramics at Bath, so it was interesting to discuss work and inspiration.  She is an experienced and working ceramicist making functional and sculptural wares. She also manages the Victorian Works Studios, which provides workspace, courses and exhibition space in Chalford.  Wish I’d known that when I visited Pangolin’s Jubilee exhibition in the summer.  How does she find time for Uni and extra courses? Seems we both like Karl Blossfeldt and Rob Kesseler – although Anna has actually seen RK talk.


Talking about ‘ Annas’, James says he was running a parent and child clay class on a residency at a local school, and offered to show a mum and her daughter how to make a pinch pot.  The mother listened carefully and followed his instructions.  He was amazed at how well she did and asked if she’d done it before.  ‘Yes,’ she replied,’I’m Anna Lambert.’

Day 2

I started refining the kilt sculpture and made a sort of egg – two press moulded partial semicircles joined together.

Class by James (2)

We were fortunate to be assisted by Rebecca Appleby today.

IMG_20170318_130911 (2)

Chatted to Rebecca who was full of useful insights and information.  She says her Eureka moment came while she was asked by Gallery Oldham to display her work alongside Gordon Baldwin’s, who is her idol.  At the time she was working as a school technician. They also asked her to give an artist talk with two other ceramicists.   It was sitting there, between Ken Eastman and Dave Binns that she realised it was time to take her art seriously. Another lovely lunch and a G&T with James and the group in the pub after class.

Day 3

Took my knife to the egg – sooo satisfying.  Thought I’d better show development for the crit with Dave, Wendy and Anna on Thursday – we are so lucky to have our Ceramic Triumvirate at UCLan – so I constructed a large pleat and inset a honeycombe. Not the most aesthetically pleasing piece, but a great exercise for learning. Another info-packed demonstration on refining by James:


And back to constructing the egg, and refining the kilt.

It was rather sad to leave on Sunday evening, but I’ve taken a lot away with me. The freedom to attack my work with a knife is an inspiration.  Learnt lots of little things too, like how awesome heat guns are, making joints without slip, reinforcing with internal ribs, how to use my dinky Mood Tools surform, recycling David’s circular diamond drill bits, using slab strips for coiling – sloiling, perhaps?  Phew!  Not to mention all the insightful info from James and Rebecca about how survive life as a ceramic sculptor.

And I have my Mini Oughtibridge – I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist it. Jame’s first sale of his Ceramic Art London batch.



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