Katie Bates


I love having my hands in clay. Recently I’ve really been indulging this predilection by sticking my hands in the ground on a hill above Mytholmroyd, at Forus Tree’s tree nursery, and digging out clay. It comes out a thick ochre colour, so pigmented with iron that it takes several hand scrubs to clean it off. When fired at low temperatures it’s the most vibrant terracotta; when fired high it’s a deep, West Ham maroon (I grew up in Essex).

If I knew more about geology I’d be able to say why this beautiful valley has great clay deposits, which enabled industrial pottery making years ago, but I do know it’s really good clay. I’d love to make a sort of map of the valley using the clay we stand on. If you’d like to join me, I’d be delighted to hear from you. It’s another means to understand our environment; for me, making is a great way to comprehend the world around us and have a deeper connection to it.

I make pots at Brier Hey Pottery, a reincarnation of David Constantine White’s original studio. David was a digger of clay himself, out of cash-strapped necessity at first, but also because he believed that knowing the clay from its origin is fundamental to making good pots. I’m starting to understand what he means, although I’m still partial to opening a bag of commercial clay, pulling a wire through it and not seeing any stones.

Another thing I’m partial to is making silly pots – creatures, characters, doleful faces – in sillier moments. As a fermenter and grower, i’m also developing functional ware based on my own experience of these crafts: fermenting crocks with weights, mushroom growing pots, kombucha vessels. Enjoyment in making is everything to me: my enjoyment in making, and the viewer’s enjoyment of my work, whether it’s earthy, functional or just plain silly.

Visit Katie’s page for contact details and links.

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Photos of Katie by Lucy Cartwright

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