A fortnight or so ago now, the inspirational Alf Jenkins took me to meet the wonderful Neil and Karen, who farm over on the far north-west side of Clee Hill from Clee Hill village. Neil’s grand-father made bricks from clay on their farm and the beautiful Victorian era brick kiln, lovingly restored, still stands and is a wonder to behold – the last of its type in the West Midlands. Neil showed me some steens (pancheons) that he has – one stored inside the kiln, with it’s eye on the sky above – letting in shafts of morning light, and a couple in the basement of his farmhouse amongst the cider jars. These are steeper sided than Mr Button’s or the Buckley pancheon that I have – perhaps more for cream settling than baking? Neil very kindly gave me a bucket of his farm clay and we went to a ditch in a neighbouring field to collect some clay where recent digger excavations had exposed some beautiful blue material. I took both away and am in the process of firing these and glazing the results as a further project linked to this unique and evocative place (see upcoming post).
In making a new range of pancheons – or “steens” as they are called in the Shropshire and across the West Midlands, I mixed ingredients from the Clee Hill for glaze tests as I did with my first explorations in 2014 (a mix of local wood ash, the clay I use from Cleehill village & dolerite or “dhustone” dust from the quarry on the hill – see below), experimenting with different percentages again just to check what results were possible. This time I also added small quantities of quartz and I noticed a slight chun effect forming with one of the mixes. I have been absolutely delighted with the results that this mix can achieve – an exquisite speckled blue / silver, on a background of deep, dark brown flecked with green. It is exactly what I have been looking for. That combination of mixing local ingredients with local forms (see next post) to create something useful and beautiful.