The Eeles Family Pottery
I came across the Eeles Pottery one Summer afternoon at Forde Abbey, actually entering the shop opposite the café to hide away from the unusually hot sun, with no intention of purchasing anything, just dreaming of a cold slab of slate to lie on, like my then 3 year old and the dog were doing...
After a few seconds adjusting to the light, and vaguely saying hello to a man tinkering with clay in the corner, I fell in love with the craftsmanship and the beauty of what was on offer. Traditional pieces of stoneware and porcelain stood next to Raku trinket boxes, lamp bases and vases, a feast for the eyes.
The Eeles are a family of potters. Mr Eeles senior moved the family from London down to Somerset in 1970. The pottery is set in an old 17th Century coaching inn on the outskirts of Mosterton, Dorset. Simon Eeles joined the family business in 1979 and has been creating pottery ever since. All the pottery photographed here was turned by his masterful hands.
The pottery has a three chambered oriental type dragon kiln used for the stoneware and porcelain, fired up a few times a year. The best time to visit is during open days, when the kiln is lit and other Raku processes take place.
So, in a nutshell, Raku is magic, or at least I like to think it is! a good potter has quite a good idea of the outcome. The type of clay, preparation, temperatures and materials used will determine the colours or pattern. The dancing flames do the rest. They are in control. This last step is where my fascination lies, as if the flames were infusing the piece with a soul.
The black and white crackled effect pieces of Raku are fired in a small gas kiln and then placed in intense flaming containers before being plunged into water whilst the rainbow Raku requires special clay, a little sawdust, a bisque firing at 1000 c°, a second glaze firing with copper, cobalt and iron, and patience. Simon has mastered both technique and the results are simply beautiful.
The rainbow Raku has a matte, slightly rough surface with the most incredible colour patterns (see examples above).
The blue shades produced by the cobalt with the incredible oranges, reds and pinks coming through later in the process with the copper and the reduction of oxygen around the piece during the cooling process makes every single one of these potteries absolutely unique.
As for the cracked glaze technique, where the glaze was protecting the vessel from the flames' intense heat, you will find a soft white powdery surface whilst in place of the cracks created on the glaze will be lines and marks made by the flames that scorched the surface black. I would want them all, literally, and change them around according to my mood.
Images of the process and examples of Black and white Raku vases below.
The pottery's website will have all the information you need or you can sign up for email updates of future events:
The Eeles pottery: Mosterton, Beaminster, Dorset, DT8 3HN. email: email@example.com
There is a large display of Raku pieces for sale at Forde Abbey from Spring to Fall.
All photographs are by ©Juliet Piper. Prior consent is required for any reproduction or use in print or digital. Thank you.