19 July 2011

story from Brier Hey Pottery

Brier Hey Pottery is the studio run by David Constantine White. David is my mentor. Well, I call him so. He was the key person who made me realise that we are allowed to pursue our passion. 
It goes right back to the summer in 2000, when I first met David. I was a full-time student then, who just finished a Diploma study in Ceramics. With my tutor’s suggestion, I took off a long train journey to POTFEST in Penrith, annual ceramic festival. Among over 100 potters, I stopped at David’s stall. His colourful and almost painting-like approach to the ceramics were so fresh to my eyes. His style of Majolica was nothing like what I learnt at college. My heart began to whisper ‘I want to know more’. Following this curious meeting, I later visited his studio in Mytholmroyd. This was my first time visiting an artist’s studio so I was excited and scared at the same time. So many ‘real’ questions after questions popped in to my head. 
Things did not stop there. Of course, it is hard for any student to get a pottery related job or start their own business soon after the diploma course, and there are many other reasons to hold it back in your life. In my case, I started to work as a social worker but thanks to David, I also started to help in his studio voluntarily here and there on my irregular days off. I found myself enjoying simply being in the clay world. This has led me to a paid assistant job in his studio, which I still did on irregular basis on my days off. I’ve learnt so much by just being there. Things you have never learnt at college. Making clay dug out locally, mixing low materials in a large batch, maintaining the studio, tips in glazing and decorations etc etc. It was a very fortunate experience.  
Sadly I had gradually reduced my working time in his studio as the demand of my career as a social worker with long hour and shift work did tire me out without a proper day off. 2 hour journey to his studio on my days off (although it changed from train journey to driving) did kill me. I was also about to give up the hope, as it seemed to be so long away for me to be able to work in a creative business. Eventually I stopped working at his studio, instead I was developing my career as a senior social worker leading a team. Nevertheless I’ve kept in touch with him and visited his studio occasionally. I suppose I could not completely destroy my creative soul. 
So you can imagine how grateful I felt when I got my current job as the pottery workshop instructor. My life has totally changed since. I feel the experience at his studio has finally paid off. Looking back at those experience in his studio, I have realised that so much stuff has soaked into what I do now. Yet I still do have lots to learn. David is still my mentor in distance. I ask every time I have questions at work and more recently my own studio work. The words cannot explain enough how lucky I am.  
This summer, I have been returning to work in his studio on a regular basis, like a short term apprenticeship, making most of time off my degree course. There were several reasons that I wanted to do this, but mostly I needed the positive influence of someone who does what they truly love in the present. All my energy spent on the fundraising project, last minute course work and the show, have turned into a complex feeling that is somewhat overwhelming and now added with recent homesick, I was struggling to motivate myself. I needed to kick my backside. I am glad that I’ve made this move. A huge thank you to David, again. 

David is currently working toward POTFEST in August, followed by a similar event in France. I am sure I could share more stories here soon. xm


  1. I love nothing more then having a privilege to be with and work with inspiring people, they always make you feel like you want to keep on striving to be better and better at what you do and that's just the best possible thing in anybody's life.
    I'm so glad you've found David, I hope we all get lucky and find 'our own David' once in our lifetime.

  2. You are so lucky to have found someone who could spark this fire in you and keep it going. This is such a wonderful and inspiring story! Gives those of us still struggling to find our way, hope!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us! You are blessed to have David in your life!

  4. How wonderful to have someone to encourage and help you to find your way doing what you love. I hope your homesickness eases soon, it is so hard to cope with at times. Take care.

  5. I like the picture of David in his studio. It looks big! Nice to see another in the clay who likes overalls too ))
    I have never worked with another potter except for in clay class. I did learn so much just by watching others. One lady made many miniture teapots, which she said were Japanese, to be used at a ceremony for one special cup of tea.
    made out of one small ball of clay, the hole thing. very fascinating. Have you heard of this?

  6. Thanks for sharing this..it's always inspiring to see someone's workspace. How nice to have a mentor :o)