How to Learn Pottery Cheaply, at Home

Pottery became a trend about a year after I started to learn and a lot of that was thanks to the BBC’s Great British Pottery Throwdown.  What I found at the time of my learning was that there were limited opportunities for classes in the UK and that what was available was somewhat costly and often over-subscribed.

After learning the very basic fundamentals, I decided I could do better on my own, in my own space, with my own wheel and as much clay as my household would allow (which still isn’t enough).  My advice to anyone wanting to learn on a budget would be to find a second hand kick wheel online.  I found mine on Gumtree for just over £100.  Note, though, that kickwheels are hefty, big objects.  If you don’t have the space for one, the cheapest portable wheel available to the UK is the Shimpo Aspire, at over £600 if you get the pedal rather than the handle (get the pedal!!!)… if you have the tools, though,you can make yourself a wheel at a fraction of the cost:

Then you want a thrower’s starter pack (ribs, sponge, throwing stick, basic trim tools), a cut off wire, and some clay.  The cheapest source of clay in the UK is Potterycrafts, which is even cheaper if you can get to Stoke and go to them directly.

As far as learning goes, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of throwing tutorials on YouTube.  I’m of the opinion that Simon Leach is the best teacher among these tutorials.  A lot of the videos purporting to be How To videos are actually just someone silently throwing, but Simon’s take you through step by step and were instrumental in getting me from hollowed out lumps of clay, to actual pots.  Here are two of his most useful beginner videos:

Showing the individual stages, hand movements, and evolutionary shapes of the form is so useful.

I would always recommend doing a throwing course at some stage  – but using vids like these should help get you over the beginners’ stage a lot more quickly.  It really is a steep learning curve but once you get over it, there’s no stopping you!

Recipe: Spicy Korma 🌶

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This week I accidentally stumbled upon a discovery:  how to make spicy veg korma.  I was following a pinterest recipe for an Indian spiced soup but had to adapt it due to a lack of some ingredients.  It came out spicy and korma like! 🙂

I then decided to use it as a sauce and add some veggies, and various other things.

Korma is one of those curries I haven’t eaten for several years, even though I like the taste! They are simply not hot enough for me and so I prefer jafrezi, karahi, and rogan josh, and have never bothered making one.  So I was delighted to come across what for me is the perfect recipe, in between making pots, of course.

Makes:  2 Servings

Time: 20 mins

 

Ingredients:

200mls Greek Yoghurt

50mls Single Cream

Half large Onion thinly sliced

Half Aubergine cut into small cubes

Half Yellow Bell Pepper cut into strips

1 Ripe Tomato, quartered into chunks

Ginger Garlic Paste (bash 3 garlic cloves with 2 inch piece of fresh ginger in pestle & mortar)

If you have them, dried or fresh curry leaves

2 tsp Turmeric Powder

1/2 tsp Chilli Powder

1 tsp Cumin Powder

1/2 tsp Garam Masala Powder

1tsp of Salt

1tsp of Sweetener (sugar, agave etc.)

Tablespoon of Desiccated Coconut if you want to sweeten further

Handful of Fresh Herb of Choice (I chose Basil & Coriander)

Cooking oil

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 190c. Drizzle your aubergine cubes with oil and cook in oven for 10 mins.  15 mins if not looking cooked after 10.  Bear in mind they’ll be added to frying pan later.

Meanwhile, heat a lug or two of oil in a non-stick frying pan.  I use Rapeseed oil, as per the suggestion of Meera Sodha’s Indian recipe book.  It’s supposed to be one of the least calorific oils, I think.

Fry garlic ginger paste for 2 mins on medium heat.

Add onion.  Fry for further 2 mins.

Stirring regularly, add the spices:  turmeric, cumin, chilli, garam masala

Add the curry leaves, if using

Add the salt

Stir

Make sure the onion is looking translucent.

Add the bell pepper, cook for up to 5 mins – you may want to turn the heat to a lower setting

Add the tomato

Add your cooked aubergine.

Mix the yoghurt and cream together in a jug.

Pour the yoghurt and cream mix into the pan.

Cook for a further 5-8 mins

Add sweetener to taste.

Add fresh herbs.

 

Serve with naan bread and rice!

Packing Pottery, Fort Knox Style

I’ve learned the hard way that choosing a courier and packaging goods can be a heavy undertaking, if you want to ensure that the goods don’t end up in pieces.  Shipping goods, putting them in the hands of a delivery service, is even more dangerous for them than the kiln.

Here is my latest order, ready to ship.  Not via Parcelforce…

parcel ready to ship

Apologies for the blurred nature – in any case, note the “liquefied petroleum gas” stickers I’ve taken from another parcel, just in case “FRAGILE” doesn’t quite grab the courier’s attention.

 

With ceramics, it’s better that they’re packed well rather than packed to look pretty.  So these mugs here are each wrapped in two layers of bubble wrap, of different thickness – small bubbles first, large bubbles second, before being wrapped in individual carrier bags, with cardboard dividers and twisted coils of newspaper separating and cushioning them.

In case that’s not enough, the box they’re in is put inside another box before being sealed up with parcel tape and duct tape and an elastic band.

Here are some good resources for potters wondering how to pack their items:

Fresh India

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Meera Sodha’s ‘Fresh India’, published July 2016 by Penguin imprint Fig Tree has fast become my new favourite cookbook.

Living in the overseas student halls for a year while studying for my MA in Manchester, I grew used to the smells of my friend Amritha’s Keralan cooking, first thing every morning. She had a huge cupboard full of spices and several vast copper vessels I’d often find steaming away on the hob.

One day, in the middle of our final projects for the year, we went on a long walk in search of wild garlic, which we eventually found.  On our way back Amritha insisted we stop for some Dosa at a small restaurant of that name.  It was delicious.  How come I’d not seen this kind of Indian food before?

Meera Sodha writes that one of the things that led to her career as  a chef was this very absence of authentic Indian food in the UK.

So far I’ve made flat breads: parathas, and my favourite, cheesy cauliflower chilli rotis.  I’ve also made a mast biriyani, which I called “the biriyani monster.” Beetroot pachadi was also delicious, with its coconut sauce.  The kitchari/kedgeree makes for a lovely brunch.  Aubergine and pea masala, with its sweet and salty sauce has also become a staple. And I’ve made the roadside chai recipe several times now, each time allowing myself to dream that I’m a chai wallah 😉

The great thing is – apart from the affordability of most of the ingredients – that, with 130 recipes, I’ve nowhere near exhausted this book.  And there are many ways it can be used, thanks to the author’s helpful menus for eating seasonably, and for different kinds of cooking (ie. ‘dinner for two’ or ‘feast’).

I try to eat seasonably myself, and though we’re on the edge of spring, the cold hasn’t quite gone away.  I certainly feel it when I’m in my shed, working away at my wheel with a wet lump of clay.  What better dish to make, then, than Meera’s Gujarati Dal?  And what better way to test a new homemade bowl, than filling it with four mealsworth of bright yellow, spice infused lentils?  😄 It’s safe to say that both dal and bowl passed the test.