abstract painting on canvas

Batten down the hatches

With Covid 19 swirling around, we are all having to prepare for a difficult situation, in different ways, and with varying consequences – I’m thinking in particular of the galleries and staff that exhibit my ceramics and who are facing a bleak few months, and of all those involved in the leisure, culture and retail industries. But we are all in the same boat.

ruminant from Rouen made in 1882

“Battening down the hatches” means to fasten the entrances to the lower part of a ship using wooden boards. When bad weather was imminent, the hatches were covered with tarpaulin and the covering was edged with wooden strips, or battens, to prevent it from blowing off. Sailors called this ‘battening down’.

There in the wood a Piggiwig stood with a ring at the end of his nose (Paul A. aged 9)

But I confess I am no sailor. My priorities include getting the essentials into the Covid Cupboard (red wine, beans, caviar) in readiness for any eventuality. However,  it may be that after 2 or 3 months we will be over the worst of it, and though it could be a distressing period  it is also an opportunity for all of us to do those things we have kept postponing year after year. Perhaps it is time you sat down and read all of Dickens, or took up knitting or the harmonica, or both. Ever thought of perfecting your stone skipping, or tapping maple trees, or inventing a cocktail?

Sneaky Pete cocktail

How about downloading a birdsong app and learning the tunes of every garden songster in the UK so that when we are released from any lockdown  we can burst into the countryside, the parks and gardens, with a new and receptive vigour? The robin, in my opinion, turns out to be a surprisingly refined singer – click here.

the Trini Lopez of the bird world – photo: Zhang Xiaoling

The obvious suggestion from a ceramicist is that you should try your hand, if you haven’t already, at making something out of clay, but I know most people cannot afford and do not have the room for a wheel or a kiln, which is why at this point I would have promoted a visit to a ceramics community project such as CUP in Hereford. Alas, for obvious reasons, it is closed until further notice but will reopen with the “all clear” and with great fanfare. Keep an eye on its website for updates – there is nothing to stop you buying a bag of earthenware clay to play with at home, specially with kids, who love it.

Dalek – by Paul A. (aged 9)

And children, and adults, love it because clay appeals to basic impulses, the pleasure of building form or shape-making,  – a base material, malleable, sensuous.  The hand is everywhere – pulling, thumping, pinching, squishing, rolling, painting, – playfulness which, once harnessed to technique, leads to objects being made and to a whole world to explore. Very satisfying. Look at the individually expressed  interpretations of animals made by different people of different ages and backgrounds

Waving vase – stoneware

Once you have made your cups, bowls, animals, Elvis Presley figurines, and they have dried, you might consider joining CUP and learn how to blunge, dunt, engobe, frit, pug, slip and wedge.  Potters are the only people, other than children, who play with mud.

This why they seem so earthed and so calm.

Dear readers, pottery is good for you: it is a creative outlet, it reduces stress, exercises the hand and wrist, encourages sociability and generally improves your quality of life.

ochre vase with black lines – stoneware

I hope to be delivering new pieces to the various galleries who sell my work, though that trip has been postponed until further notice. We are not being encouraged to go out and visit places, so may I suggest you go online and have a look at what they exhibit; it is one way to support them. If you click here it will take you to my web page with their links.

a valuable stash discovered buried in the back garden of a Covid hoarder

For now, things depend on a whole army of issues playing out, and on Saint Spyridon, the patron saint of potters. Daily life will get better and we’ll be back having parties.

Bumblejig will hold a party – acrylic on canvas

2 replies
  1. Stella Richards
    Stella Richards says:

    Did you know that the robin has two songs – an upbeat spring version and a melancholy autumn one? So listen out for the optimistic robins this spring and by the time they turn melancholy, we’ll hopefully have turned a corner.

    Thinking of you all in Ledbury. Wishing I could visit. Love to you all xx

    • Peter Arscott
      Peter Arscott says:

      I didn’t know that, Stella. Some of Sheila’s lore has rubbed off on you. And the American robins – do they sound more Elvis?


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