Sense of place:

A central theme in my work is the focus on place; on the landscape, the environment, the economy and culture and from this – the connections between people, locally available materials and function (for example, tools / buildings / fuel etc.). All human activity has an impact, and yet over the centuries, it seems as if there were occasionally systems that established some kind of balance between the natural world and our actions. Take the countryside of the British Isles for example, where until the development of more industrial approaches to farming following the second world war, the fields were characterised by species diversity – of plants, invertebrates, birds etc. I’m not suggesting this was a panacea – something usually has to give. Some kind of balance also seems to have been established in the management of woodlands for coppicing, creating fuel for firewood and early industrial activity. The coppiced woods created opportunities for a wide range of flowering plants such as bluebells and wood anemones and particular butterfly and bird species – whilst also creating a carbon neutral source of fuel.

Whilst it may seem almost impossible to re-create these systems to serve a world with a growing population of 7 billion people, it does inspire me – and the whole concept of sustainability deeply underlies my work. How could these more balanced systems inform our future actions and innovation? It also means that as I explore landscapes, with ceramic materials in mind, I know that I need to think carefully about the relationships that I will have with both people and place, if I am to stay true to my own values and commitments.



My photographs fall into two main categories: landscape and human. I attempt to capture the sense of curiosity and fascination I have for the landscapes I am exploring as I search for clay and glaze materials. I want to convey the beauty a place has; it’s form, the light, the natural habitats and living things there, the layers there are – historic activity now only hinted at by a bank, ditch, soil heap…. and also the materials present that I may be able use to make small batches of ceramics. As I explore these places, I also wish to record the people who help me, either with the offer of access to materials, or in allowing me to capture their specific connection to the work I am pursuing – recently that has been through baking….. The photographs set the context for my work, setting the scene that the pots alone cannot achieve.


My connection with pancheons starts with a visit to the Piece Hall in Halifax, in 1985. There was a stall selling these beautiful, functional bowls for a few quid a piece, and I came away with two – one for my parents and one for me. I have treasured this bowl ever since. During my meanderings and exploration of Isaac Button’s old workshop site north of Halifax, I found rim shards from broken pancheons identical to mine, scattered around the area and along the bridleway that led down from the site (which was then being converted into apartments – or so I was told). The classic still photograph taken from John Anderson’s 1966 film, Isaac Button Country Potter, shows Isaac carrying a ware board with five medium pancheons – again identical to the one I bought all those years ago. Given that these forms were not stamped with a makers mark – I can only guess – or hope that, mine is one from this iconic workshop.

My pancheons are made primary from locally sourced, hand-dug clay (earthenware and stoneware), and echo the traditional forms associated with bread making, dairying and general home use (washing etc.) that were made in the centuries before plastics, pressed steel and other cheaper, more durable alternatives became widely available. They come in a variety of sizes, most commonly with a diameter of 35 cm and a height of around 15 cm.

Film Night Success

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.


Soil Hill

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