A pottery Pilgrimage to the Rif mountains hosted by Sumano

“Honour your knowledge”

Heard on the Rock of Ain Bouchrik

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I’m not sure where the last few months have gone, but things are speedily moving towards the crazy Christmas season. Before I fall fully into the festivities, I wanted to share with you my experience with Sumano, visiting Mama Aicha and her wonderful family in Ain Bouckrik, whilst learning all about the traditional methods of hand building morrocan ceramics.

During the last weekend in September three friends and I boarded an early flight to Fez. This was to be my first trip to Morocco. Earlier this summer I received a lovely message on Instagram from Marta, one of the organisers of Sumano, asking me if I would like to experience pottery making in the Rif mountains, with Mama Aicha and her family. My first response was that I would love to, but feared this beautiful well curated travel experience would be well out of my price range. After some curious researching I realised I could afford to go and was able to convince three friends that they really needed to join me.

The heat enveloped us as we passed through the city of Fez. We eagerly took in our new climate, peeking glimpses of the souks between the gates of the high town walls, small towns began to fade out as we took twist and turns onto beaten rubbled tracks, meandering dustily through the rif mountains. we drove higher toward the Rif, whilst the sun was setting. The final climb saw us right up a single winding track, into a tiny village. We passed two young girls laughing trying to persuade a laden donkey up to the village, chickens clucked freely around their feet. By the time we arrived the sun had nearly set. A tiny village of houses, with bright blue rims greeted us. The track ended and the last part of the journey was by foot, we walked around the peninsula of the mountain to reach Mama Aicha’s home. We will never forget the turn in the path lined with the most beautiful morrocan pots of all sizes, leaning against the prickly pear tree laden with fruit, we would soon get to taste.

Aleisha and Guillame, Mama Aicha, Mohammed, Samira and Yousef all came out of their house to meet us, with open arms. Mama Aicha is a tiny lady her warmth and kindness radiated instantly. I knew then that you should always trust your gut and intuition and that getting on that plane was the best decision. Our room was beautifully authentic, little beds with traditional throws and Moroccan rugs, with a shelf adorned with the Sless tribe ceramics.

We sat on the veranda making friends and sharing stories whilst drinking mint tea, whilst dinner was being cooked. We had the pleasure of sharing our experience with three other ceramicists: Ida, Andrea and Karina from the ‘Turning Earth Ceramic Studios’ in London. They had already been with Sumano for a week and we would share the end of their pottery experience with them. We ate the most delicious meal with the family and accustomed ourselves to a more simple life, one seemingly untouched by western cultures. One where families still eat together with no distractions. It truly is an off grid experience and one not for travellers looking for western luxuries, such as wifi, flushing toilets or power showers.

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The first morning we woke up before sunrise and helped Mama Aicha build the wood burning fire that would fire the pots she and the girls had made during that week. We observed Mama Aicha’s almost ritual ways of building the fire, a process she has completed by herself for many years. The floor was lined with a circle of dry kindling, above this bigger pieces were placed and stones were laid around the outer circle. With a steady hand Mama Aicha made a pyramid out of the big urns and pots in the circle of the fire, building the kiln from the centre out. Smaller pots and vessels were placed in the cracks. More fire wood and sundried donkey pats were laid on top, with broken pots to seal the heat in. The fire was then lit, whilst we watched he sunrise from the mountain top we all looked at each other with faces of “is this really happening” pure potters delight.

Unloading of the wood fire kiln, such a magical moment

Unloading of the wood fire kiln, such a magical moment

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Whilst the kiln was firing, after breakfast we had the day to make pots and be guided in the expert hands of Mama Aicha. Hand building is not really my forte but the process was so enjoyable. Mama Aicha was so patient, her hands worked with ease with a constant smile radiating from her face. Her joy for making ceramics is contagious we sat for hours, communicating in smiles and sound effects.

The clay is locally dug from the mountain sides and water is added. No rubble or stones are filtered out, making the clay much more easier to mould and hold its form. We all made one of Mama Aicha’s signature water jars a sugar pot and a bossy, arms on shoulders vase.

My favourite part of the making process came the following day, when Mama Aicha taught us the art of glazing. The Sless tribe use a simple pallet of colours, using Terracotta clay glaze, limestone and manganese, the patterns are adorned with goat hairs. Mama Aicha may be old but her hands are agile and her glaze technique is so accurate, not a wonky line in sight. I couldn’t have been happier, every so often I’d take a peak out to the hills and take it all in.

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My new idol - Mama Aicha sat on a barn full of her beautiful ceramics - Ready to be exported by the Sumano Organisation.

My new idol - Mama Aicha sat on a barn full of her beautiful ceramics - Ready to be exported by the Sumano Organisation.

The Hand made Moroccan ceramics I made with Mama Aicha

The Hand made Moroccan ceramics I made with Mama Aicha

All of us with the wonderful family

All of us with the wonderful family

Our mountain adventure - Chasing the storm

Our mountain adventure - Chasing the storm

This experience should be preserved and kept for travellers wanting a truly authentic experience, with this wonderful family. I could write about our experience all night, but I feel my photos will communicate our pure joy of living with the family for too short a time. I can’t wait to go back to the rif mountains and learn more skills from this incredible lady. In total we were only there for three days but Mama Aicha’s family and Alisha And Guillaume shared with us experiences, sights and the tastiest food we will remember for a lifetime. On our final day we even got to experience a traditional Morracan wedding. Somehow perhaps their positivity and good luck was still on our side, as we all managed to get our unfired pots safely home, surviving the two day stop in Fez and being bundled into our hand luggage and onto the plane home. They are our little memories of an experience we will never forget.

Spring Healing


“Goods for the soul” 

Two Palms

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Hello All! Sorry I have been a little absent, 2018 is proving to be the year of change, bringing a few unplanned events, moving home and replacing my old banger for another old banger. Sometimes life throws us some unforeseen dodge balls, but change should always be welcomed. 
 

 I took a well overdue long weekend off this week to venture back to my home town in  Bristol to stay with my folks. I always treat it as a mini  retreat, an opportunity to slow down, walk the dog and relax. I have been dying to visit Sidonie Warren's beautiful new concept store - Two Palms, situated above Papersmiths in Bristol to peruse the lovely array of gems on offer and to see my ceramics in their new home. On Friday my mum and I ventured up to Clifton Village, the sun was beaming throughout the airy upstairs store, welcoming in the spring breeze, softly bellowing the incense of the newly lit Palo Santo wood, its fair to say we didn't want to leave. Kristin the shop assistant was so lovely and knowledgable and helped us find the perfect stones for mum's vertigo, a smooth piece of Jasper and a light bouncing Amethyst. It was such a pleasure to see my ceramics placed amongst such beautiful healing gems and stationary by People I've Loved which never fails to make me laugh and say an inner "Yes! That is so true!"  Our homes are now calmed by the smell of our Palo Santo wood branches, each of our palms now have a little gem that we can call our own. If you haven't been yet make sure to take a visit. And yes I did pick up a pen or two in Papersmiths, it would have been rude not to! Haha xx

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Frome Independent Market

It's hard to believe but it will soon be Birks (Birkenstocks) and Potting outside weather. Which means also Market Days!  

These are the markets I've got lined up so far in sunny somerset! I am delighted to have a suitcase stall at the bustling Frome Independent Market. I'm very much looking forward to meeting some new faces and hanging out with the regular makers. Please come and say hi and share with me all your locally produced finds. I will be selling my new summer range of Home Thrown Ceramics, including lemon squeezers, sip cups and jugs. 


6th May 2018

3rd June 2018

1st July 2018

5th August 2018
 

Join the Mud Throwers Club
 

Looking for some Mud Therapy - New friends and an opportunity to be creative whilst eating nibbles and sipping cold beverages in the sunshine? Then get in touch! 
 

Summer Dates for Beginners Mud Throwers Class

Thursday Evenings - 6.30pm - 9.00pm

4 week course - Model Making, slab building, coiling,
pinch pots, glazing &  basic wheel throwing techniques. 

May 3rd - 24th 2018 = £100  (1 space available)

June 7th - 28th 2018 = £100  (4 space available) 

July 5th - 26th 2018 = £100 

*Full time students 20% off*

Excited for the promise of warmer days, potting outside and sea swimming. 

Gem x

Springing into 2018

“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else” 

Pablo Picasso

 

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Hello all it is the first day that it really feels like spring so I thought I would share with you what Home Thrown Studio has been working on in the new year.  I took some time off from the studio in early January to have some time to reflect on 2017. During this time i've taken some time away from the computer and back to the bookcase for some page turning off my favourite books, one being Picasso's paintings & Sculptures.

Picasso's late work in ceramics under the hot sun of southern France has refocused my attention towards a more playful response to clay and vessel making. This year I am focusing my attentions in expanding my ceramic ware  collection and working on a new project with funding from AUB that will see some new designs being used for home  decoration.  As Picasso's quote above I'm pretty sure it will start in one direction but come summer will have turned into something else entirely. But I am excited about what may come of it! I am currently in the experimental stages but promise to share with you the progress as it unfolds. 

Time for Tea - January is all about kicking back and reflecting on the year gone by! Oh and drinking copious amounts of hot beverages! (Wine at night) 

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It's been pretty cold in the studio this year and I really wished I had shares in tea, fresh coffee and biscuits as i've consumed a lot of all three not forgetting the frequent strolls to the fresh pretzel hatch that has just opened up the road. 


Inbetween throwing, I've been taking some quiet time out reading some lovely books whilst sipping tea from my trusty sip cup! 

These are my current top reads; 

Wabi Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams

Picasso Painter & Sculptor in Clay by Marilyn McCully

Urban Potters Makers In The City by Katie Trediggen

David Hockney by David Hockney 

A variety of sip cups in all sizes are available at the click of a button on my webshop
 

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Join Our Home Thrown Mud Throwers Club

It has been a great start to the New Year welcoming lots of new
mud throwers to the Studio, we are now booked up until the beginning of May, but please get in touch if you are looking for some therapeutic mud making fun, we would love you on board. 
 

Summer Dates for Beginners Mud Throwers Class

Thursday Evenings - 6.30pm - 9.00pm

4 week course - Model Making, slab building, coiling,
pinch pots, glazing &  basic wheel throwing techniques. 

May 3rd - 24th 2018 = £100 

June 7th - 28th 2018 = £100  

July 5th - 26th 2018 = £100 

*Full time students 20% off*

 

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I hope you have all had a great start to 2018, and are excited about what it may bring! Better get back to the potting!  Gem xx

photo captured - Medium Format / potra160 - Clemens Majunke

photo captured - Medium Format / potra160 - Clemens Majunke