Potters and solitude

The view from Bradlow Knoll

Trudging up Bradlow Hill I noticed that the mayflower was in full bloom. What we call “mayflower” is actually hawthorn, a pagan symbol of fertility with ancient associations with May Day, and its blossoming marks the point at which spring turns into summer. This was a cheering thought, as a large vase destined for a gallery had cracked in the kiln the day before and one’s mind needed some distraction.


In the studio, the radio is always on, in part to accompany the ongoing work and to fend off any feelings of aloneness, though there is nothing wrong with a bit of solitude when making vases. As regular readers of this blog know, my team consists of Ziggy (a spider), Thelonious (a pugmill) and Saint Spyridon, (third century Bishop of Trimythous in charge of marketing) – all of them, possibly, not real.

Leaf vase

An important factor in converting aloneness into solitude is that it is voluntary, instead of imposed. As such, it becomes a creative and productive state. It helps concentration, but sometimes it can get to people. For example, a researcher at a station in Antarctica stabbed a colleague (non-fatally), though this may have happened because the victim was giving away the endings of books the attacker was reading.

Antartica. Photo Giuseppe Zibardi

This information is being given out freely by Peter Arscott Ceramics (PAC) because only the other day, seated alone at the workspace and eating a banana, a small unhappy voice was heard in the studio. Looking down at the banana in hand I noticed that it was looking up at me. Don’t tell me that’s not the saddest little world-weary face you’ve seen in a while.


“You shouldn’t be eating me, you know.”

“Is that why you look so sad?”

“No. It’s just that the monoculture production methods used to grow us can destroy entire ecosystems.  I bet you didn’t realize that the banana industry consumes more agrochemicals than any other in the world, except cotton.’

“Well I never.”

“And the low prices paid by supermarkets and the cost cutting by fruit companies as they relocate in search of cheaper labour, and the harsh conditions in plantations…’

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yes, and none of the other fruit in the fruit bowl talk to me.”


Despite feelings of guilt, I finished off the banana, then chopped up the skin and fed it to the inhabitants of the PAC wormery alongside the studio. At least they don’t talk to me, and the skin was put to good use.

Green wobble vase

Back on Bradlow Hill, my mind filled with images of cracked pots, Puritans on the Mayflower, talking bananas and Antarctic research stations, these gradually faded away as the birdsong in the wood took over. I recorded some for you – the loudest is probably a robin, some blackbirds and a chiff chaff, as well as a distant ambulance on its way to Worcester Hospital. You’ll need full volume to get all that.

Click here: birdsong

The bluebells were past their pomp, but the stitchwort was flecking the undergrowth with white, and there was a lot of campion in the hedgerows.


In parts of Africa the campion is used by Xhosa diviners: the roots are ground, mixed with water, and beaten to a froth, which is consumed by novice diviners during the full moon to influence their dreams.


Given that this type of campion cannot be found in Herefordshire, PAC recommends buying a good bottle of Ribera del Duero instead. The better the wine, the sweeter the dream. Perhaps the resulting pot, a very impractical and possibly useless wine decanter, is the result.

Droop decanter

Still on the subject of wine, over-consumption of the grape, even if it’s the Queen of Grapes, Tempranillo, can lead to moments of euphoria to be followed the next day by terrible remorse and anguish. In an unusual attempt at public information and to highlight the issue of the seductive lure of alcohol and its consequences, PAC would like to introduce the following piece:

Saturday night, Sunday morning vase

Psychoceramics is the study of crackpot ideas about human behaviour – get it? “Crack pots”?  (Also, Psycho Ceramics were a range of novelty ceramics made by US-based Kreiss company and manufactured in Japan between the 1960s and 1970s). However, PAC would like to associate the word with the more subtle art of depicting the mind or mental processes – psykho, (Greek) meaning “the soul, mind, spirit, or invisible animating entity which occupies the physical body”. PAC would like to think that the above is an example of psychoceramics, as is the next one:

Why? Perhaps because it is a “personality”. Whereas other pieces may highlight a particular colour to effect, or hint at landscape, or get across the idea of spring, or even jazz music, others have their own particular and less easily described temperament which is a bit more than just the sum of its shape, colours and brushstrokes. For example, we like the following piece because it’s a gentle play on a grid and geometrical shapes – it’s attractive enough, but what it offers is essentially decorative:

What do you think, dear reader? Is PAC barking up the wrong tree? Is it all too subjective for a theory? Have we been talking to fruit too often? Can bananas ever look happy? Did you know that the Latin name for banana is musa sapientum, which translates as fruit of the wise men? Please send us your thoughts.

psychoceramic or articeramic?

6 replies
  1. James Arscott
    James Arscott says:

    Ya big loon. Didn’t Josiah Stinkney Carberry invent the discipline of psychoceramics? I believe he’s still going strong at Brown University, even after 96 years. 🙂

    • Peter Arscott
      Peter Arscott says:

      Ha. I hadn’t heard of JSC until now. Thanks, an interesting if imaginary guy, like Spiro. I got this from Wikipedia: “Often lectures are scheduled where Carberry fails to show up, and cracked pots are put outside the libraries for donations to the Josiah S. Carberry Fund, which Carberry set up “in memory of my future late wife, Laura,” for the purchase of books “of which I might or might not approve.”


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