Keith Brymer Jones; surviving lockdown as a potter
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- January 24,2021
- by Carmen Camacho
Lockdown has been an incredibly frustrating, and a stressful time for a lot of people. Back in April, the first lockdown, I found myself mostly confined to the studio making pots which isn’t exactly a hardship for me. I had clay to work with and my partner, Marj, had material for her handmade bags business. I worked downstairs and Marj worked upstairs.
As with so many people, our working day/life changed. The many appointments, meetings and events that I had planned to attend were being cancelled. All these require face to face meetings so they were crossed off the diary as if they never existed. Marj had acting and singing jobs cancelled, as this is her profession. At first, it felt that the present situation was a blip, a mere inconvenience to everyday life and interaction with friends, family and colleagues. It soon transpired that this was not a blip, but a new way of life and one had to find a coping mechanism to re-adjust to this global pandemic.
Halfway into April, I got a call from the executive producer of The Great Pottery Throwdown to inform me that plans were afoot to try and film the fourth series of the show. As you can imagine, this came as a very welcome surprise and also a relief that someone was still trying to produce something for television in these difficult times.
The logistics of producing such a show with safe Covid regulations was, to put it mildly, a challenge! However, true to form, Love Productions went about creating an original framework for such a thing to take place. The whole cast, crew and production team were tested every 3 days throughout the filming with everyone involved agreeing to isolate for the entire duration of filming. An incredible feet and dedication by the production team. Suffice to say, I believe, it made for a more emotional show than usual!! Let’s face it, there was certainly nothing usual about last year.
Pottery for me has always been a solace and a companion during times of challenge. Every time I find myself in a situation where I have to rely on my abilities as a craft person, I realise that pottery never disappoints. It is not solely confined to that of a potter. I believe that it is the creative process that has the power to transcend and cushion the blows of anxiety and stress with whatever is going on around you. Immersing yourself into the project and the relationship that you have with the natural elements and properties of the material itself, whether that be clay, wood, metal or other materials of the Earth, offers up for humankind to work, produce and ultimately communicate through creativity.
I often recall a time when I was much younger, around 18, when working as a clay boy, asking my boss “When will I be able to start making the orders that have come in?” and him turning round to me and saying without any hesitation “Ooh I give it about 5 or 6 years!”. When one is young, full of enthusiasm and possibly, dare I say, naive about the task in front of you, it is statements like these that shape you as a person. He wasn’t trying to be hard or harsh but merely stating a fact that if one is to follow the path in the field of craft, you have to dedicate sufficient, if not all your time to mastering it. It takes time to understand what the particular material at hand can do, its strengths and its weaknesses.
Over the last year, I started uploading little videos on Instagram (@keithbrymerjones) of me creating in the studio just to try and connect with the wider ceramic community and anyone else who was interested. A routine was quickly established with Marj filming and I would spout on about all things pottery. This became a regular event and over time I was receiving messages from all over the World. It was truly mind-blowing and uplifting.
I am a firm believer in the art of crafting & making. It is this process that moves you on as a maker and develops your skills on so many levels. It is not just the obvious (hopeful) financial gain but it’s the whole process, the making process.
I have been working alongside MAKE International, and in collaborations with many designers for the past 15 years. If you want to see more of my work, please visit my official website:
If you want to see some of the work Marj and I have done during lockdown, visit Marj’s website:
And of course, these are my Instagram and Facebook channels!