The Isaac Button Country Potter film night proved to be a wonderful evening. Over 110 people came along, many bringing pots and stories, memories….connections. It was a real testimony to the man and his craft, graft and personality. Tales of collecting pots via tram and wheelbarrow, a specially made “button pot” where a slot allowed the purchaser to pop in a button to an otherwise sealed Button jar, the unbelievable challenges faced by those trying to save Soil Hill Pottery for posterity, the pots Isaac made for a young student to decorate for a project towards his Fine Art degree…. John Hudson gave a fascinating and inspiring talk at the end of the film – giving the perfect background and local perspective to the film and setting things in context. Given that the film is without sound-track – for those new to it – this was invaluable. And poetry too from Graham Mort. Thanks to everyone who came from far and wide.
Sadly – on an earlier walk up on Soil Hill – I saw that the kiln, was still standing when I visited last in 2015 (albeit with partial roof collapse) is now flattened. So much for “listed” status!
Bones under winds’ keening,
The drenched burial place
Over-cried by curlews.
An atrocity of moorland,
Roof sagging, kiln crumbling,
Carcase that gales fast on.
This cider jar
Still brimming with darkness
From his touch.
From, A Halifax Cider Jar
by Graham Mort
The site of Isaac Button’s workshop, just after the flattening of his old kiln
We are showing the beautiful, evocative film Isaac Button Country Potter at a special film night at Dean Clough, Halifax on Wednesday 23rd November 2016 – starting at 7.30 PM (gathering around 7 PM)….. Filmed between 1964 and 1965 by John Anderson and Robert Fournier, we will be showing the full film in best digital format, on loan from the Yorkshire Film Archive. It should be a great evening, with John Hudson a potter from Mirfield (with huge knowledge and experience of the local ceramic traditions in the area – and beyond), coming along to say a few words and a chance for those gathered to share their own stories / connections. We have invited artists, potters, farmers, teachers / headteachers, lecturers, bakers, archaeologists….. hoping they will come along to explore the links between them all on the night.
RSVP please to let us know how many might be coming along – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to everyone who came along to Dean Clough in Halifax for the opening of the Autumn / Winter shows – including my show in the Link Gallery; Lost and Found (which now runs through to January 22nd 2017). It was great to see many of the people who helped me with the project; Mick – who let me dig his clay, Aaron and Victoria – who let me photograph their favourite baking bowl, John – whose knowledge for ceramics / pots and their uses over time with a connection to food is an inspiration……. It was great to have family and friends there (thanks for making the journey you all). I am also very grateful to Vic Allen at Dean Clough for giving me the opportunity at DC and to the Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) for agreeing to lease me the wonderful Isaac Button photographs taken by John Anderson in 1964…..
And on this…. We are hosting a film night on Wednesday 23rd November (7.30 pm) to show Isaac Button Country Potterby John Anderson and Robert Fournier (1965), which we have also leased from the YFA – who have been incredibly helpful and supportive to this end. If you would like to come along – do let us know.
During the same trip to the North East – clay hunting (see below), I stopped just north of Halifax at Soil Hill. I parked on the eastern slopes and walked over the hill, following tracks and bridleways until I came across Isaac Button’s old pottery. It was instantly recognisable from the film clips and blog posts I have seen on other sites. The first evidence I saw was the curving leat, carrying water from the south, carefully terraced into the hillside to the pottery. The chimney at the eastern end of the brick structures is still standing (rebuilt in fact!), but the kiln is in a very precarious condition and I was informed will be taken down to 1m in height as part of the building works now transforming the old brick workshops into apartments. This will be sacrilege to many – and yet the young lads I met who showed me around (on a brief break from their construction work), were incredibly helpful and fascinated by the history of the place themselves. I suppose if money had been raised to secure the site and make a museum of this iconic location – perhaps there could be a different story. But as it is – the place is changing it’s function and character – as is typical of so many old / vernacular buildings in our landscape. The site is littered with shards of broken pots – pancheon rims, lead glazed pieces….. The visit really made me stop and think – this wild, windswept spot was where Isaac Button dug and processed, by hand, his own clay, throwing up to a thousand pots a day, mostly for sale on a local market (for pennies – the stuff had to be affordable).
Between Halifax and Newcastle I stopped briefly at Littlethorpe – and peered into the Littlethorpe pottery buildings. It was late and the place was closed. I’ll have to return some day soon – famed as it is for it’s production of planters and garden pots produced from a local seem of clay.