Come and enjoy our gallery which supports over forty talented designer makers. Open Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 am – 4.00 pm.
Elspeth Soper has been making pots at Willey Furnace Pottery in Shropshire since 1985. Being keen on old technologies and self-sufficiency, and being a great exponent of ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’, she built her wheel and her kiln which is fired by propane gas. She says, ‘I had, and continue to have, no mains electricity but my lighting situation has improved immeasurably with the addition of two solar panels on the roof.’
She worked for seven years at A. Harris and Sons in Wrecclesham near Farnham in Surrey. ‘This was one of the last, if not the last, of the “old English country potteries” still working. We made flowerpots of a great variety of shapes and sizes and fired them in a huge updraft bottle kiln which took three days to fill’. The experience fuelled her interest in the work of ‘country potters’ in general and especially those in England, North America and Europe.
‘The pots I make are mostly earthenware, inspired by European peasant pottery. I use terracotta clay, decorated with coloured slips, and white stoneware clay, fired to earthenware temperatures, decorated with oxides or underglaze colours. The pots are raw glazed and once-fired to around 1120 degrees centigrade. I also occasionally make stoneware pots, again raw glazed, using an ash glaze (ash from the pottery woodstove) or a shino glaze. These pots are fired to around 1280 degrees centigrade.’
Elspeth Soper gained a degree in ceramics at West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham. When she started making slip-decorated earthenware the most direct initial inspiration was a book she had been given about the work of a Hungarian ‘peasant potter’ called Kantor Sandor. Subject matter was found in the chickens, ducks, geese and guinea fowl she was keeping at the time.
She says, ‘I occasionally make sculptural pieces and last year completed a group of four big figures which represent the four elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. I had made a figure a year and last spring finished them by making a model of a birch bark canoe and a paddle for the Water figure and a pair of snowshoes for the Fire figure who is in winter gear and is crouching down in the act of lighting a fire.’