Colours Of Clay

Meet the Maker - Peter Dineley

What do you do?

My aim is to produce useful pots that people enjoy. Shapes that look right and colours that are attractive. This means that my work is a constant exploration of shapes and colour. 

The shapes I evolve by studying pots in books and museums and analysing and refining what I find attractive by sketching. When I am happy with shapes I have sketched, this becomes the starting point to sit down at the wheel and explore what is physically possible when you are shaping a spinning hollow lump of clay that has a mind of its own. 

The colours come from the layer of glaze which is added to the pot after the first firing to make the pot watertight. There are three ways to glaze a pot; there is the commercial production of carefully designed absolutely identical pots, there are glazes that are a deliberate piece of art which just happens to be on a pot, then there are glazes which develop organically in the kiln and are only partly under the control of the potter. This is the method I use.

There is a kind of magic that takes place when the powdered glaze on the pot melts and is transformed into a shiny layer in the intense heat of the kiln. 

I use combinations of layers of glazes that interact physically and chemically in this molten layer to produce complex mixtures of colour. These moving colours are then frozen in time as the pot cools. These colours are not predictable. Variations in the thickness of the various layers, and how much they overlap, will affect the final result.

Finally, I load the kiln with pots in a morning and it takes most of the day to go through the firing cycle. It then has to cool over night before I can open the kiln and see how well they have worked.

How did you get started?

I had thrown pots for a short time about 45years ago and decided to start again about 8 years ago. I was lucky enough to find a potter who let me rent studio time. 

To learn to throw you have to make a lot of pots, and after a while there isn’t any more space on your window ledges etc. to store them.  

When I had filled every available space and still had several boxes of pots my wife said I had to book a stall at a craft fair. I did and I sold 5 boxes of pots over a weekend. I was now a working part time potter and Colours of Clay was created.

Is this your full time job?

No, I was a dentist and I have been retired for three years now. I count myself incredibly lucky to have total freedom in my exploration of my pottery.

Where do you create?

After a while it became obvious that I needed the convenience of my own studio, so I converted half of my garage into a very compact studio, which, is where I work with clay etc. My sketching is done wherever I am at the time. I always have sketchbooks handy.

Tea or coffee?

Usually coffee. However I make tea bowls and I sometimes use them for brewing tea.

Where is your favourite local place?

I don’t have one favourite place. I have lived in the same house for over half a century and in that time I have walked and cycled and camped in the dales.  I live near enough to have walked in sunshine and snow through fields and trees into Durham City where I have worked, explored and sketched. I enjoy the atmosphere of the cathedral and I enjoy looking at pieces in the oriental museum.