Pub holds Pottery and Food Festival

P1000609The Three Stags at Wardlow Mires is one of those pubs kept as a closely guarded secret by those in the know for fear its unique attraction may be ruined.

In those circles it has been described as the best pub in the world and somewhere you will never forget.

In the world of ceramics though it is known as the home of Geoff and Pat Fuller, both well-respected potters with a reputation for being a just a little left-field.

The pub is only open on Friday evenings and weekends because the rest of the week they are working on their craft.

Their passion is to make pots for food and to encourage as many of us as possible to give up on our everyday bland plates and dishes and put our own stamp on our tables.

To that end the couple are staging a Pottery and Food Festival at the pub – the first last year was such a hit they are aiming to make it an annual event – and this year there are more than 50 stalls displaying the wares of potters and producers.

“We put a lot more effort into choosing the ingredients and preparing our meals than we do in how we present it and we believe that the least we can do is serve them with some ceremony in the most appetising way,” says Pat.

“It was probably the picture in the recipe book with the food in a beautiful bowl which influenced you to cook the dish but then we don’t make the effort to display it well.

“It was my love of food which influenced my creative work and we set out to bring food and pots together when we first opened the pub.”

Geoff and Pat met while she was studying pottery at Chesterfield College in the early 1980s. He was then one of the lecturers, having studied there himself, and at Farnham College of Art in Surrey before he returned to his home town to work.

Both had been mature students and had other jobs before discovering pottery. The vagaries of life forced them to continue in mainstream work until 1988 when they bought the Three Stags and turned it into a thriving pub and a home as well as a studio and much later (2008) a gallery.

Regulars drink and eat downstairs in the bar, which remains relatively unchanged despite being renovated, and the couple live upstairs with their four whippets and a vast collection of pottery. In what was once a cowshed below they have established their studios.

“This building, which Geoff had been visiting as a customer since the early 60s, had enough space for all our needs, allowing him to turn his ambitions into reality and enabling us to put pots and food together,” said Pat.

“Back then the pub had never offered food, so I had a blank canvas on which to work. It really took off and people began to understand the pleasure of eating their food from a beautiful dish.”

They are a no-nonsense sort of a couple and can’t be doing with labels that people may try to attach to them as potters.

Geoff, now 77, is modest about his success and says with a shrug that he is not sure how he became to acquire an international reputation for his earthenware.

Pat shows me several articles that have appeared in foreign specialist magazines over the years, but says they prefer to get on with making pots than courting notoriety.

While taking me on a tour of his home Geoff explained how it all started: “I was always interested in pottery and collected Staffordshire figures from the markets and junk shops in Chesterfield and Sheffield. Back then you could pick them up for a few shillings – at the most a couple of quid.

“I was a librarian at the time and it wasn’t until I was 30 that I actually went to college and then began producing my own ceramics. When I first started it was saltglaze and the Brampton potteries that I was fascinated with. People think I am only interested in figurative work but I have always been interested in the functionality of pots for food.

“However my preoccupation with saltglaze changed one day when I was on a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum and I discovered a Middle Eastern dish with a green and cream pattern.

“It was so fresh and bright and it was then that I discovered earthenware.”

For Geoff there was no going back – and anyway, he said, it was getting difficult to source the raw materials for his saltglaze work.

The rest, as they say, is history and there are private collections of his work throughout Europe and in several galleries in the UK.

This month both Pat and Geoff are putting all their efforts into their Celebration of the Table and are excited about the artists and artisans who will be there on September 14 and 15.

They include among others in alphabetical order: Dylan Bowen, Jane Bowen, Margaret Brampton, Patia Davis, Mike Dodd, Darren Ellis, Douglas Fitch, Ben Fosker, Michelle Freemantle, Liz Gale, Lisa Hammond, Niek Hoogland, Pim van Huisseling, Nigel Lambert, Hannah McAndrew, Susan Mulroy, Paul Reid, Petra Reynolds  Micki Schloessingk, Penny Simpson, Rosalind Smith, Jeremy Steward, Ruthanne Tudball, Josie Walter, Alistair Young, Paul Young and Tilly Young.

Among the food stalls will be Chocolates of the Peak, New Close Farm Shop, Litton Larder, Madhatters Cider and Fredericks Ice Cream, which is rumoured to be bringing a special new ice cream to the event. You will also be able to see Brampton Saltglazed Stoneware a Raku demonstration with Chris Jensen and “Andy Knives” knife sharpening skills.

For all the latest details and a full list of exhibitors go to http://www.potsandfood.co.uk