Sunday, 10 March 2013

A Farewell

In what feels like a spectacular act of betrayal, I sold my wheel on Ebay. Just pause for a while, as I sob uncontrollably.
That wheel has travelled with me to foreign lands, it's turned tons of clay into pots that are in at least thirty-two different countries, it's entertained children, educated, demonstrated, and helped me earn my living. And, in all the time since I bought it in 1980, its never once failed me, never once broken down. I've looked after it, greased its bearings, adjusted its drive belt, but never once has it failed to do its job. Yes, I kinda bent the tray, whilst using a gas torch to stiffen a very big pot, but I've lumped it in and out of cars, trailers, trucks, trains, ships, and up and down stairs, we've demonstrated in museums, mediaeval halls, schools, town squares, castles, everywhere.
Heads of State,  tourists by the million, and secret-policemen have watched me and my wheel working together.

Why  sell it, then? Well, I'm moving, as many of my readers know, from the north of England to Texas.
"Can't you take it with you?", you ask. Well, yes, I could. But my wheel runs on a 230 volt AC supply alternating at 50 cycles/sec. And the U.S. power supply is fundamentally different. Yes, you can get 240v, but it's a completely different ballgame. U.S. 240v is from two opposing phases, unlike the european phase/neutral. And the clincher is that the alternation is not at fifty, but sixty cycles per second. I could get a step-up transformer, and feed it through that for the voltage, but the frequency would not work well with the electronics of the speed-control box.
Or so says a professor who specialises in speed control of electric motors.

The buyer is an enthusiastic potter, just starting out. He and a friend are planning to learn throwing, they're both hand-building at the moment,  but, chatting with him, I felt it was going to a good home. I chucked in a couple of bags of White St Thomas' Body (a stoneware clay), to get them started.

Back in the eighties, art residency in a school, funded by the Arts Council. A display, a demo, then project work with small groups of children. I wonder if any of these, adults now, parents, probably, remember any of it? I had a heap of roman pots that I handed around for them to touch, and hold, then I made facsimiles of each one, but the fun part was the kids challenging me to make odd things. A Caterpillar! A Car! A Bucket! A Princess!

Products of the wheel, on tour in Finland.

In my workshop in England

The wheel, resting, after a busy day in southern Finland, throwing clay dug from the fields behind the pottery, the floor's been mopped, It's time to go home on my bike, across the little bridge over the stream, above the micro-turbine hydro-electric station that powers the village. A mile or so uphill, to my home in an old wooden house, then a stroll down through the woods to the lake, and a leisurely paddle in my kayak.....

On arriving in Texas, I'll start looking for a new wheel. Potter-friends, your advice and preferences and warnings would be greatly appreciated. I want smooth creamy torque at low speeds, no lumpy acceleration, and fairly quiet would be a bonus. I'm wondering about the Shimpo VL Whisper?

I use water, I'm a messy thrower, so I like a big wheel tray to catch glop and trimmings, but that's something I think I can get around. I've used the old cone-drive shimpos, with their little trays, they're okay, but I don't like that fixed pedal, I'd get foot cramp after a few hours, I like a pedal I can shift about, lift  up, whatever.

Advise me, please.


  1. The advantage of kick wheels!!
    Good to see it going to a good home.
    I'm not sure who is near where you'll be in Texas...but talk to Hollis Engley, Dan Finnegan or others on my bloglist(and probably yours!!)....get on Clayart forum and ask!!

  2. Oh! Parting is such sweet sorrow! What a wrench! It's served you well and I hope its new owner treats it the care and love you obviously did.

    I thought I was the only person who got attached to and sentimental about inanimate objects!

  3. That makes me wish I had learned pottery! What fun!

  4. My daughter, the Water Baby has about 3 college pottery classes under her belt now. i wish she would get into it as deep as you have.
    I've never read a more sentimental post in my life. I cried at the end, I swear I did, and I'm getting misty all over again now.

  5. I have a 50hz/60hz story to share. I also have a story about the first quality tools I ever bought, a set of wrenches costing three weeks pay from my after-school job at U-haul. I could share that, too. Instead I will just say that I'm very sorry.


Spam will be reported and swiftly deleted. I will put a curse upon you if you post spam links.