A Country LivingDorset Art

FIRED UP

Meet the Dorset potter who moved 25,000 bricks to rebuild his kiln and start a new life near Shaftesbury.

When Dorset potter Jonathan Garratt relocated from Cranborne to near Shaftesbury, he moved lock, stock, and many pots, as well as dismantling a 25,000 brick kiln and painstakingly rebuilding his renowned pottery business at Jolliffe’s Cottage in the village of Stour Row.

Sitting at the wheel he made from an old plastic dog’s bed, a washing up bowl and pieces of scrap wood and metal forty years ago. Over Jonathans shoulder you can see the firing room and Kiln. Image by Courtenay Hitchcock Blackmore Vale

Seven years on, Jonathan has converted a car port to house his beloved kiln and a former kindergarten has become his pottery studio. Here, this sprightly 67 year-old works to a choice of eclectic music, surrounded by his beautiful creations made from Cranborne clay and all exclusively fired with wood.   

Wood-fired flower pots in hot oranges, blue and greens, bird houses and “garden punctuation” –  interesting artefacts framed in clay and wood – are artistically displayed outside his studio. Inside are vases, jugs, mugs and plates, some inventively decorated using anything from mascara brushes to a domestic sponges.

Image by Courtenay Hitchcock Blackmore Vale

He has no website or social media presence but hopes his studio has the “atmosphere of a bygone smithy” where passers-by feel they can just pop in to browse. Those that do will be pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices, with an elegant glazed pot available for under £10. Many of his stunning designs are also guaranteed frost-proof.

Jonathan is the first to admit that he had an extremely privileged upbringing – educated at Eton College where he studied ceramics and then on to Clare College, Cambridge where he gained a BA degree in Archaeology.

Jonanthan’s gallery at Jolliffes cottage nr Shaftesbury is open to visitors. Image by Courtenay Hitchcock Blackmore Vale

“At Eton, I’d pretend to go for a run but sneak off to the art centre where I had a chance to indulge my love for photography, sculpture and finally pottery. I travelled through all the materials to find my direction,” he says.

He’s indebted to his parents for allowing him the freedom to choose a creative path in life, unlike many of his peers who were forced into “respectable” banking or legal professions. A glance at his impressive CV shows it was definitely the right career path.

Lots more to see and buy in the outdoors Gallery – Image by Courtenay Hitchcock Blackmore Vale

His many credits include exhibiting at London’s V&A Museum and the Royal College of Art. In the dead of night, he’s climbed trees in Canary Wharf to hang ceramic discs as part of ‘The Shape of the Century 100 Years of Sculpture in Britain’ exhibition. He’s also appeared at numerous exhibitions across Dorset and Hampshire.

He’s a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)- an award granted to exceptional individuals judged by the Royal Society of Arts to have made significant contributions relating to the Arts and is only awarded to those who demonstrate their support for social change.

Joanathan’s firing room with his stacks of blanks and the self-built kiln to the rear. He has been selling his pieces to Fiona Atkins, an experienced trader – now at Townhouse Spitalfields – for thirty five years. Image by Courtenay Hitchcock Blackmore Vale

Talking passionately about people having the right to express their talents, whatever background they may come from, Jonathan has written to the Prime Minister about the ‘open prisons’ many people are living in, with little or no outdoor space and the resulting ‘untapped fuel of creativity being supressed in humans.’ 

Jonathan may not be able to claim to have reinvented the wheel but he has certainly recycled it! Who else would see an old plastic dog bed at a dump and envisage it as part of a potter’s wheel? Along with an upside down washing up bowl, turned wood and some scrap metal, his home-made wheel has notched up 40 years of service and is still turning strong.  

Inspirations for his wonderful designs come from books and other artists. “We’re all thieves, drawing on ideas that others have already had,” he says honestly.  He also believes he’s only 50 per cent of the artistic contract. “I make a pot –  but what someone does with it, where they put it, what they put in it – that makes up the other crucial 50% of the finished effect.”

Image by Courtenay Hitchcock Blackmore Vale

And sometimes his beloved kiln can take on a creative bent he never imagined. “My kiln becomes an artist too – sometimes firing the clay in a way I didn’t anticipate and the results can be extraordinary.”

Clearly, this is a man who loves what he does, describing the sensation of “being airborne” when he’s at his wheel, a huge high as he and the clay create together. And, unlike many of his fellow Etonians, “no boring meetings to sit through and no need to wear a tie to work.”

Jonathan welcomes visitors to his studio at Jolliffe’s Cottage, Stour Row, near Shaftesbury SP7 0QW Tel: 01747 858697 or 07549 020454
email:
jonathangarratt82@gmail.com

By: Tracie Beardsley

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