Co-operatives have been around for centuries but in today’s economic climate the ideology of sharing resources for the mutual benefit of a group is becoming ever-more popular.
Claywirks is one of the latest to be formed in Derbyshire and consists of an enthusiastic group of 11 potters who are pooling their resources at a studio in Wirksworth.
The like-minded ceramicists have been together for a year and now they have settled in to their new way of working they are looking for more artists to join them in the venture that is housed in a business unit on Ravenstor Road.
“Our aims are simple really. We just want to be able to share a safe, well-equipped space where we can experiment and make things,” explained Louise Dunning who is one of the newest to pottery in the group and creates abstract designs inspired by paths and tracks in the landscape.
“We all have some experience of the craft but our levels of skill vary, which means we can also learn from each other.
“The great thing is that we can all come and go as we please to fit in with our own schedules as some of us have jobs and other commitments,” she added.
Showing me around the studio with Louise were Amanda Graham, Rosie Rennie and Tracey Holt Walkden, whose own work is inspired by Delftware.
The place was a hive of activity as they chattered about the kiln rota; inspected the successes and failures of glazes in the last batch and admired the delicate porcelain jewellery designed by Amanda.
“I really love those, they are gorgeous,” said Tracey and the others nodded in agreement. They all also agreed that one glaze that had officially ‘gone a bit wrong’ was in fact actually rather appealing.
However they were all happy to stop for a cuppa and biscuits to extol the benefits of their co-op.
“None of us would have been able to afford to kit out a studio with these facilities on our own and despite the fact there are ten of us at the moment it is never crowded because we are all here at different times,” said Rosie, a recently-retired architect who has returned to pottery after a 45 year break.
“And it keeps you focused and makes you get on with it, which some of us might not do if we were working on our own from home or in a garage,” added Louise.
“The best part about it though is being able to get inspiration from watching what others are doing and learning new techniques.”
Claywirks has been set up with a proper constitution and a set of house rules so everyone knows where they stand and the costs are split evenly between them all.
They have elected Graeme McKenna, who makes small cups, mugs and bowls as chairman, their secretary is Inga Heppleston, who focuses on domestic ware inspired by the original Cranks recipe book and abstract painter.Heather Duncan, who is new to ceramics, is the treasurer.
The other four potters in Claywirks at the moment are Andrea Leigh who creates sculptural pieces inspired by wildlife, Matt Cook, who has just returned to his passion for pots after a two year break travelling and Susie Botting, who works with porcelain to make expressive vessels and Eileen Coult.
If you are a ceramicist and would like to join them go to http://www.claywirks.co.uk for details.