Each morning as I unfurl into the day I am gently eased into this task by a large cup of tea in a handthrown mug made by Devon-based potter, Russell Kingston. Those first few sips always make me pause, my fingers tracing the wheel thrown grooves and slip-trailed ridges, their familiarity from years of use bring warm comfort and encourage me to savour the moment before the rest of the day rushes in.
For me, tea not only tastes better in this mug but its clever design works perfectly with my daily routine. Russell has made the mug broad at the base and smaller at the rim which means the tea cools slowly allowing me to continue with my morning preparations knowing that my drink will still be warm when I return to it.
So why am I telling you this? Be it a humble piece of hot, buttered toast or an Ottolenghi masterpiece, many would agree that the experience of eating and drinking is made all the better when using a handmade piece of pottery to cook or present it. It raises these everyday activities into something special, to take time over. To relish.
It is no secret that Tinsmiths’ passion is for well-designed, functional objects with longevity; both practical and beautifully made which you will want to cherish and use for years to come. This philosophy extends to Tinsmiths’ handpicked collection of tableware made by a selection of the best contemporary potters in practice today. Using a combination of traditional making techniques and their own tried and tested formulas, all of the potters behind the tableware collections design and make with functionality in mind. These are pieces which they use in their own homes. Pieces which transition from the kitchen to the dining table with aplomb.
Herefordshire potter, Patia Davis has a distinctive approach to glazing using high-fired ash and feldspathic glazes. For making her flatware dishes and plates, Patia alters her clay recipe, adding a fine sand and grog combination to the mix. This acts as an ‘opener’ within the clay body allowing for good thermal expansion in the finished pots which makes them ideal cookware. Robust enough for baking a pie in but also so handsome for presenting direct to the dining table.
As a keen cook, Russell Kingston’s ethos is that his pots are suitable to be used and enjoyed in everyday life, celebrating the food which is served upon them. With this aim the forms he creates are simple and robust made using a combination of wheel and slab build techniques; dish rims are rolled for strength, handles are pulled from the pot as if they had grown there.
Based in Cardiff, ceramicist Jack Welbourne treats his morning coffee with reverence and has designed his cups, made from Cornish clay and pot ash to honour this.
“I enjoy discovering new coffee roasters and grind the beans myself, trying to find the more delicate and regional flavours that light-roasted, high quality coffee can offer. The open bowl shape of my hand-thrown coffee cup, cools the coffee to the point where all the flavours are at their fullest in about the time it takes me to finish my porridge.”.
For those who enjoy herbal teas and tissanes, Jack’s cups are also well suited to cooling the brew to drinking temp’ perfection.
There may be some who are a little apprehensive about incorporating handmade tableware into daily life, however, like all good friendships, care and respect are important and your pottery will thank you for it. By following a few simple rules your ceramic pieces should offer steady companionship for years to come.
- Pottery dishes and vessels are superb for retaining heat or keeping food chilled – they will certainly earn their keep on these points. However, it’s important not to expose your tableware to sudden temperature extremes which can cause thermal shock, for example taking a dish straight from the oven and plunging into cold water, or by taking a frozen meal straight from the freezer into a blazing oven. These extreme actions may result in your dish cracking or breaking. It is best to allow the dish to cool or warm up accordingly before any next steps are taken.
- Although superb at coping with surrounding heat, handmade tableware is not generally suited to being used with a naked flame so they are not compatible with being used directly on the stove top.
- These handmade pieces will cope in the microwave and with occasional dishwasher use but taking the care to handwash your tableware is always recommended to keep the item in prime condition.
By keeping these points in mind your tableware should offer many years of good and faithful service. As my favourite mug will testify.
In the second of our posts written by Anneliese Appleby to accompany the forage themed Tinsmiths 2020 calendar, we have a recipe which puts rhubarb centre stage.
Other hedgerow forage found this month: Nettle, Chickweed, Common Sorrel, Crow Garlic, Dandelion root, Hairy Bittercress, Wood Sorrel
1kg Rhubarb – use only the newest bright pink tender stems
400g White Caster Sugar – don’t use golden/brown or you’ll lose the beautiful pink from the Rhubarb!
Wash the rhubarb, trim and discard the leaves at the base.
Cut into lengths of approx 1” (2cm). Place into a large clip top jar (or a bottle) and sprinkle over the sugar, close and then gently shake the jar to coat all the rhubarb in sugar. Leave to stand overnight. Next day, add the gin.
Give it a good shake and leave to stand for 4 weeks.
After 4 weeks you can strain off the fruit and bottle the gin or serve it straight from the jar adding pieces of rhubarb to the cocktail. Alternatively strain off all the fruit and use it to make a lovely boozy pudding such as trifle, crumble or fruit fool.
This recipe can also be used for many other Summer and Autumn fruits including damsons, sloes, raspberries and blackberries. It’s also possible to replace the gin with vodka (if you’re not a fan of gin) to make an equally delicious flavoured spirit.
When using dark berries, such as damsons and blackberries, try adding half a teaspoon of real vanilla extract to the full bottle to give a subtle depth to the flavour. If you’re using damsons or sloes you will need to pierce the skin to release the flavour – this can be done by hand with a cocktail stick or by putting the fruit in the freezer overnight, before starting the recipe, to burst the skins.
In this, the first of a series of posts written by Anneliese Appleby to accompany the forage themed Tinsmiths 2020 calendar, attention is turned to the nutrient-packed watercress plant.
Other hedgerow forage found this month: Cowberry, Chickweed, Common Sorrell, Crow Garlic, Hairy Bittercress, Wood Sorrell, Winter Cress, Wild Cabbage
January is a month where foraged food is less abundant which is why watercress has been chosen as this month’s subject.
In Victorian times watercress was often known as Poor Man’s Bread, as impoverished labourers would have access to watercress even if they couldn’t afford bread or, where meat wasn’t available, watercress was often used to fill sandwiches. Watercress is packed with nutrients, it is rich in vitamin A (from beta-carotene) and vitamin C, and is a source of foliate, calcium, iron and vitamin E. It also contains useful amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, potasium and Iodine. Watercress, along with nettles, really is an amazing secret foraged superfood!
Please note, only harvest wild watercress from watercourses that you know to be clean, unpolluted and away from livestock. Watercress can be a source of Liver Fluke, a group of harmful parasitic trematodes.
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Butter
1 Onion, chopped finely
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp Nigella Seeds
1 small stick of Celery, chopped finely
250g Watercress, washed
1 pint Vegetable or Chicken Stock
Salt + Pepper, to taste
½ pt Double Cream to garnish
Heat the Oil and Butter in a large saucepan. Add the Garlic, Onion, Nigella Seeds and Celery
and saute gently for 5-10 minutes until the onion becomes clear but not browning.
Add the Watercress, stir to coat in the buttery oil and onion, cover with a lid and wilt for 7-8
minutes, turning over the leaves with a spatula occasionally.
Add the stock. Bring gently to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes.
Whizz in the pan with a handheld liquidiser.
Season to taste
Serve piping hot with a generous swirl of Double Cream
On the side try a crusty loaf of bread, lashings of butter and a lump of a fine French Cheese. Enjoy.
The 2020 Tinsmiths Calendar takes it’s inspiration from nature’s seasonal bounty. For this, our twelfth Tinsmiths Calendar, the theme is foraging. Beautifully illustrated with linocut designs by Anneliese Appleby, each month showcases a different forage suggestion from locally grown, seasonal produce. The calendar has been a collaboration between Anneliese Appleby and Martin Clark of Tilley Printing, who has printed all of our previous calendars to date, using original type, blocks and linocuts and then printed on Tilley’s trusty Heidelberg letterpress (which, we’re reliably informed, is due to celebrate it’s fortieth year of hard work in 2020).
Throughout 2020 we will bring a monthly ‘forage’ post, kindly written by Anneliese, to accompany the according month illustration in the calendar. Foraging is a great excuse to get outdoors, learn more about the local habitat and enhance your diet and cookery with new flavours, colour, and healthy nutrients. Foraging can be a fun activity with children and a wonderful way of teaching them about where food comes from. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of going out for a long walk to find the forage and then bringing it home to make into a tasty meal. It’s also an excellent reminder of the seasonal heritage of our food.
Before foraging there are a few important things to bear in mind:
- Always follow foraging ettiquette; use a good quality foraging guide to help you identify plants that are unfamiliar to you, particularly, for example, when you are hunting for mushrooms.
- Be mindful of the natural environment you are about to forage in and consider if you have right of access to the land. Leave nothing but footprints!
- Ensure to leave enough of the plant for it to continue flourishing successfully, including casting seeds or spores, take no more than you actually need.
- Wash the food thoroughly before cooking and consuming, it may have been exposed to pesticides or run off from commercial farming. It may also have been in contact with domestic or wild animals.
As you turn the page of your calendar each month don’t forget to revisit the Tinsmiths blog for the latest foraging entry which will be peppered with poetry, tips and recipes.
The Bottle Kiln at Winchcombe, last fired in 1954, awaiting restoration.
There has been a working pottery on the site at Winchcombe, Gloucestershire since the late 1700’s – barring closure during the 1st & 2nd World Wars. Emblematic of country potteries of the 18th & 19th century were bottle kilns; massive wood-fired or coal-fired kilns filled with everyday wares by a team of “repeat throwers” and taking two-three days to reach temperature.
An example of Slipware Pottery, typical of the Greet Pottery Period
The Bottle Kiln at Winchcombe is in a sorry state – it stands sprouting vegetation and without the surrounding pottery sheds. Some would say it is madness to attempt resusitation but the kiln is part of a fantastic story that tracks change in the ceramic industry through this period to present day.
Winchcombe has clay – lots of it – which is why the pottery started here. The first recorded pottery on the site, Greet Pottery, made chimney pots, plant pots, rhubarb forcers, tableware for local people. Michael Cardew – student of Bernard Leach – spotted the possibility of setting up his first workshop here after its closure was forced by the outbreak of the First World War . His era at Winchcombe began in 1926 and marked the shift from rustic traditions to studio pottery. Cardew recruited two locals; importantly, Elijah Comfort, aged 63 and who had worked before in the pottery and a little later the 13 yr old Sidney Tustin. Cardew wanted to follow the old traditions of English Slip-decorated Earthenware and was successful in this, continued filling the enormous bottle kiln and expanding his workforce.
Bottle and Casserole by Michael Cardew
The Second World War brought change; Cardew moved to Bodmin leaving the young chemist, Ray Finch to carry on the pottery, which was, again, forced to close during Second World War. Finch returned, bought the pottery and welcoming student potters – many of whom have become well-known in their own right – but the pottery struggled and the bottle kiln was fired for the last time (to date!) in 1954.
Large Stoneware Plate by Ray Finch
Ray Finch, influenced by the stoneware pottery of Shoji Hamada, began to equipping the pottery with kilns to fire stoneware alongside earthenware and this gradually became the mainstay of the pottery which flourished during the 1960’s and benefitted from a craft pottery revival with the interest in a “wholemeal” life. Ray’s sons, Mike and Joe, followed their father into the crafts – Mike with this own pottery in Wales and Joe continuing at Winchcombe until his retirement in 2016.
Winchcombe Pottery is right now entering a new phase. Matt Grimmitt (a descendent of Elijah Comfort) took over the “wheels” from Mike Finch and, working together with John Forster and Joseph Fuller, there is a real sense of new life being brought to the historic pottery at a time when there is, as there was in the 1960-70’s, renewed interest in the crafts across the board and in pottery, especially. Winchcombe continues to make stoneware but has just produced the first slip-decorated earthenware pitchers and, who knows, could this be a return to Winchcombe roots in earthenware? Possibly even in a bottle kiln? If you would like to help Matt and his team restore the bottle kiln, you can donate to their restoration project here.
Stoneware Tableware from Winchcombe, 2019
Having just received our first delivery of Winchcombe Tableware at Tinsmiths, we are delighted in the shapes, surfaces and feel of the ware which is robust, versatile, serene and undemanding on the eye – a real pleasure to use daily. We wish the new team at the pottery all the very best – we’ll be watching for how this incarnation of Winchcombe Pottery develops and visiting regularly.