Canberra Potters'

Society Inc.





















Watson Arts Centre is an ACT Government facility managed by Canberra Potters' Society Inc. CPS is supported by the ACT Government


skip to: Workshop report - Maryke Henderson April 2010

Workshop report - Rick Beviss October 2009

Workshop report - Kaye Pemberton July 2009

Workshop report - Susie McMeekin September 2008

Workshop report - Jack Doherty October 2007

Workshop report - Peter Hayes September 2007

Workshop report - Janet de Boos March 2007



Workshop report - Altering Thrown Forms with Maryke Henderson

workshop report and photo by Josephine Farrugia

Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th April  2010

A two-day workshop on altered thrown forms was held at the Canberra Potters Centre on 17-18 April. About ten of us (members and non-members) gathered around Maryke Henderson who was our tutor for the weekend. Maryke is famous for her signature long-spouted pouring vessels.

Maryke showed us different techniques for altering forms and making quirky shapes and structures. She also showed us how to make the long sculptural spouts for which she is known. This turned out to be quite straight forward. All you need is a knitting needle, some cooking oil and a well rounded coil of clay! A large size knitting needle is coated in oil to make it smooth and slippery. It is then slowly pushed through the middle of the coil. The clay is pulled over the knitting needle until you get the right length and thickness for your spout. The knitting needle is then gently pulled out of the clay which is left to become leather hard. The technique is quite easy. The hardest part is practice!

Maryke also spoke to us about her sources of inspiration and showed us examples of her work as it has developed over the years.  

The workshop was incredibly interesting and challenging. Maryke encouraged us to learn new techniques, to be creative and to look at different ways of developing our own forms and styles.

It was a fun weekend and was over too quickly. We all went home looking forward to getting our hands into the clay to experiment with what we had learnt. 

(This workshop was a repeat of the January workshop run by Maryke.)



Workshop report - Tool-making with Rick Beviss

workshop report and photos (on right) by Bridget Anderson

Sunday October 18th 2009

When is the next tool making workshop? If you missed out on this popular workshop those of us who were enrolled have asked that this workshop be repeated a.s.a.p.

We were greeted on the morning with an array of amazing tools piled over 2 bench tops. There were paddles, roulettes, ribs, turning tools… it was an incredible, inspiring display.

The hardest part was choosing where to start our introduction to making tools!

The roulettes became our first task – Rick was both generous with tools, materials and information. We all jumped in headlong with intense enthusiasm, Rick worked his way around all of us making sure we kept to task and our first roulettes were successful. There were many joyful cries of success and showing off of ‘perfect’ drill holes.

Other tools we tackled on the day were paddles – these were decorated with skewers, carved with grinders – the ideas were flowing, the only thing we didn’t have enough of was time, and yet Rick stayed with us well into the afternoon, well past the workshop time. We really didn’t want to leave.

Thank you, Rick, for a really fantastic workshop. 


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Workshop report - TERRIFIC TEAPOTS & CONSUMMATE CASSEROLES with Kaye Pemberton

workshop report by Andrea Wise

18th & 19th July 2009

It was with some trepidation that I began the two day teapot workshop with Kaye Pemberton. Participants were greeted with a bustle of activity and an array of teapots by both Kaye and other potters in the CPA studio. The ice was broken with an invitation to choose a teapot and a mug and put them to use. Kaye set the tone for the workshop with encouragement to voice our views on the teapots – what did we think about how they looked, how they felt; did they function properly? How did they sit in relation to the cups we had chosen? These shared thoughts and discussion actively continued throughout the two days with the 12 participants who were drawn from a variety of backgrounds.

Teapots, as anyone who has tried to make one knows, challenge even an experienced potter, both technically and aesthetically. As a beginner, or as a beginner, beginning again after a 20 year break from clay, it is a daunting task to consider all the components, make them sufficiently well and then assemble them in a manner that is pleasing to the eye. Within an hour of the workshop commencing, Kaye had us working on the wheel, completely absorbed, throwing ‘off the hump’ - the Japanese technique where only the top portion of a large ball of clay is centred - a new experience for most. 

Galleries, the top edge of the pot where the lid sits, were the first to be considered. Each style was discussed, drawn and expertly demonstrated by Kaye, with practical sessions generously peppered with handy hints. Kaye used this ‘explain and demonstrate’ format for each successive portion of the workshop, briskly moving through lids (again thrown ‘off the hump’), knobs and spouts. The first day passed quickly in a hum of productive concentration as Kaye moved from student to student, answering questions, offering advice and, more importantly, encouragement.

The following morning started out grey and cold, but fortuitously the clouds parted and the sun shone on the components and teapot bodies we had begun making that day. Placed amongst the garden beds to dry, everything was sufficiently firm to allow turning and finishing in the early afternoon. Kaye’s technical approach to the teapot making process is meticulous. Her attention to detail and the careful handling and finishing result in pots that appear relaxed, gentle, almost soft to the touch in their asymmetry, but that are in reality cleanly made, tight and understated. Kaye emphasised the need for minimal handling during the assembly process to avoid making a pot that looked tired or over-worked. Knowing when to stop seems to be a key factor.

The workshop concluded with a discussion session where, with characteristic generosity, Kaye shared tips on materials and techniques to assist with drying, decorating and glazing the assembled pots successfully. While it might take many more years of practice to produce an elegant, fully functional teapot, after two days with Kaye’s enthusiasm, I will be approaching the task with renewed confidence.

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Workshop report - Suzie McMeekin


On Saturday, 27th September 2008, a group of impressionable potters enjoyed a full day with Suzie McMeekin.

She not only shared humorous tales but also stories of her father Ivan McMeekin, founder of the Sturt pottery workshop in Mittagong and a founding member of the Potters Society of Australia.

A very generous potter, Susie also shared with us some of her glaze recipes, which we eagerly jotted down into our notebooks.

There was a wonderful display of some of her bowls and jugs for us to handle and admire, and the slide show into the past (see photo below) was also very enjoyable.

If you haven’t met Susie, she is a real treat. Full of fun – and we all thoroughly enjoyed the demonstrations she did for us in the afternoon.



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Workshop report - Jack Doherty

Thirteen people were joined by students from the ceramics workshop at the ANU School of Art for the workshop with British potter Jack Doherty on the weekend of 27th/28th October. Sue Hewat shares her experience.

This was a fantastic two-day observation workshop filled with lots of tips and inspiration.  Day one started with a slide show that gave an overview of Jack’s work. He works mainly in porcelain and his work is once-fired in a soda kiln. For colour he uses copper stains or slips. He explained how he constructed his kiln and gave a brief rundown of the firing process.

For the demonstration throwing Jack used Imperial porcelain, Southern Ice and Walkers 5A stoneware.  He threw a series of different sized tea bowls and showed us how he leaves fresh lines on the surface as part of the decorating process. When the clay is drier he uses found objects to indent and highlight his work. This gives lively interest and movement to his pots.

Jack likes the idea that his pots are used everyday in everyday life. He makes large vessels that are made by joining several throw pieces together. The different pieces are joined at different degrees of dryness and re-thrown where appropriate. The joining lines are left prominent or enhanced - this emphasises the containment concept as if the lines are rope, hugging the contents of the vessel.

Jack uses a unique method to produce pots that are veneer inlaid with different clays or coloured clays. For this example he threw a tea bowl and a large bowl. The form is started and after the first pull, strips of different clays are placed and pinched onto the immature form. The throwing is then continued, the result being lovely subtle patterns on the outside or inside of the throw form.

All the pots that Jack threw were turned and finished ready for firing once dry. Some of the pots were subjected to more decoration markings. He wipes all his work with water after they are finished. This reinforces the fresh feel that he is trying to capture.

The workshop was most informative and Jack was very generous with sharing his knowledge.

(all photos from this workshop by Sue Hewat)



Sara Hogwood was another participant at the Jack Doherty workshop:

Day one started with a slide show of Jack’s work and studio in Herefordshire. Originally from Northern Ireland, Jack has lived in Herefordshire for the last twenty-four years. The recent announcement of his appointment as lead potter at the refurbished Leach Pottery in St. Ives, Cornwall – due to be opened in March 2008 – will no doubt necessitate a move to the West Country.

Starting with slides of his early work, Jack referred to potters who’d inspired him, including Dame Lucie Rie who he met on a trip to London while a student at art school in Belfast. For this early work, Jack mixed his own colours from commercial stains. Now he uses just copper carbonate as a colourant in three different ways: a thin wash of copper carbonate mixed with water is applied to incised surfaces and wiped away, a 2% addition to porcelain slip is brushed onto vessels and lastly 2% is mixed into a clay body and applied to vessels in the early stages of throwing. With this technique the colour is drawn through to the outside surface during soda-firing. All Jack’s work is soda-fired, sometimes to cone 6 rather than the traditional cone 10, and it’s once-fired.

Jack’s kiln has two burners at diagonally opposite corners and twelve spraying ports for the soda solution: eight at the front and 4 at the rear. Jack admitted that he needs a larger kiln but he’s fired this one for so many years and knows it so well that it’s become something of a security blanket for him.

‘Function is a creative part of the process’, Jack said when the talk turned to the making process. Drinking vessels, for example, are very important (because we all need to drink) and intimate (because they touch our lips and are cradled in our hands). Jack likes to throw the same basic shape but alter it slightly each time so that the pieces, while not identical, are clearly part of a family with the same characteristics. I found this concept somewhat liberating.

After the slide show Jack got down to demonstrating on the wheel. He uses just a few favourite tools: a rib small enough to create the shaping he desires, a broken-off hacksaw blade for trimming a foot before removal from the wheel, a looped tool and metal palette for turning and, most unusually, a cookie/scone cutter, also for turning and flexible enough to be squeezed slightly to fit the contours of a pot. (Not the fluted type of cutter but one with a straight edge.)

During the workshop Jack used three different clays: Clayworks Southern Ice porcelain, Walker’s Imperial porcelain and Walker’s 5A white stoneware. One method of decoration referred to earlier involves applying small, thinly-rolled slabs of coloured clay to centred and opened out clay, pinching the surfaces together and continuing to throw. The result is a piece with integral colour decoration and a top edge that undulates due to the extra clay being brought to the top. This edge is not trimmed flat. Jack demonstrated the technique by applying slabs of 5A white and one of the porcelains to the other porcelain. The three colours were very apparent in the thrown pieces.

Day two and Jack took us through the joining and continued throwing of large pieces. An open bowl, when leather-hard, has a freshly thrown ‘doughnut’ of clay added to it, up-ended onto the bowl while still on its batt. The seam is joined well, smoothed right over on the inside but on the outside the luting marks are only partially smoothed, leaving texture that becomes part of the decoration. The clay doughnut is thrown and shaped. Further additions can be made when the previous addition is leather-hard. When complete, a serrated metal rib incises marks into the upper parts of the vessels.

Turning of the large vessels starts with them the right way up, still on the batt. Working this way up, it’s easier to see the evolving shape in its correct orientation. Final foot ring turning and tidying up is done last with the vessel upside down.

Jack has found it best, when working with porcelain, to work in stages, leaving a piece for, say, ½ an hour before coming back to do final shaping, for example, the gallery for a canister’s lid. (It helps to have several wheels in your studio!) Lids are thrown off the hump; often two or three different shapes are thrown and the most suitable picked later, at which point the gallery is finished off to suit the selected lid.

Lids are turned upside down using their pot as a chuck. Cling film between the pot and lid makes it easy to remove the lid. Knobs and handles (if the lid doesn’t need turning on the top) are put on before turning underneath and covered with cling film to slow drying. Final turning of lids can also be done the right way up in their pot, again with cling film to ease removal.

Because vessels with undulating rims can’t easily be turned with the rim on the wheelhead (they’re too wobbly), Jack uses chucks made from a suitably sized bucket, cup, etc. with a collar of clay on top. The edge of the collar is trimmed flat with the edge of the bucket and the top cut off evenly. Covered in plastic, the chucks can be saved and re-used.

Cups and small bowls can be placed upside down for turning on a pad of clay thrown on the wheelhead, reducing the likelihood of damage to thin rims. After turning, Jack uses water and his fingers to smooth away turning marks; he doesn’t use a sponge because it leaves too much texture on the clay surface.



Detail of a thrown bowl with applied slabs of clay



For more information about Jack Doherty, visit





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Workshop report - Peter Hayes

Ian Hodgson was one of the twenty-eight participants at the September workshop with British master potter Peter Hayes


I didn’t take too many notes during the recent Peter Hayes workshop. I was so rapt up in watching him work. However, a couple of his quotes remain in my mind: ‘Never have secrets’ —freely giving away all information frees up your mind marvellously. And ‘Never give away your work to anyone’—mind you, here he was really referring to seconds or even failures. They may come back to haunt you; for example, when you are a guest for dinner at friends and your host, to your horror, proudly shows off one of your throwaways from years ago. Personally, I only give away pieces I would be happy to keep, the rest go in the garden, to be hidden in the shrubs, homes for lizards and spiders.

As Peter said, he doesn’t aim to teach, but to inspire—and inspire he did. An artist virtually from birth—at least from about 12, when he went to art ‘school’ and ‘college’ at 16. At 23, married with a 2-year old and a 2-month old, Peter and family took off for Africa, where he set up a pottery in the Lesotho mountains to train young men (18–23) to make pots. He planned to stay eighteen months, but was there for ten years, only returning to the UK when his children needed to go to proper school. He began by training young men, but as soon as they were ‘qualified’ they took off to South Africa where the money was. So Peter switched to training the women, and ended up with twenty-six women and just two men.

Returning to England, Peter set up his workshop/studio in Bath, where his son now works with him, along with two apprentices.

Peter Hayes’ work is truly monumental, but it gets there by a strange route. After making a piece, Peter breaks it when it is bone dry, raku fires the individual bits and then reassembles the work using coloured Araldite and clear setting resin. The work is then ground and repaired, and ground and repaired until he is satisfied. His most precious tool is a wet grinder (like an angle grinder, but with water lubrication of the surface being ground).

See Peter’s web site ( to see the results—and be amazed!


Peter removing a piece from the Raku kiln watched by workshop participants


No – this magnificent Raku-fired piece wasn’t made at the workshop but is just one of many beautiful images presented in a slide show of Peter’s work.


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Workshop report - The Wheel as a Tool

with Janet deBoos

Report by Sara Hogwood


A lovely autumn morning (later giving way to welcome rain) saw twenty people gather on Saturday 24th March for this demonstration workshop with Janet deBoos, head of the ceramics workshop at the ANU School of Art.

As she prepared clay for throwing, Janet spoke about the necessity of integrating the whole process of making: wedging and kneading, forming, glazing, firing, cleaning up, etc. There are bound to be parts of the process that we don’t enjoy as much as others – perhaps it’s kneading, or cleaning up – but seeing the process as a whole and giving each part attention causes everything to flow more easily.

And so Janet started with wedging and kneading, where time and attention can save time and effort in centring.  She advised having your wedging table at hand height when you stand with your arms by your side. At this height you can use your body weight effectively in the kneading process, an important activity as kneading aligns the clay particles and gives the clay more plasticity. The same principle applies to the height of your stool, which she recommends should be about the same height as your wheel. Again, this allows effective use of your body weight when throwing, particularly important when working on large pieces.

The first piece of clay was put on the wheel and patted well into the centre by hand. For the first pull up, Janet uses a ‘pinch’ grip formed with her thumb and fingers, keeping the top of the clay in towards the centre. Using her thumb, she then creates a substantial undercut at the base and pulls up again. The top is folded in after each pull to keep the opening narrowed towards the centre.

The two tools that Janet used most during the day were an old credit card as a rib and a vegetable paring knife for cutting away excess clay at the base of pots before removing from the wheel. The credit card rib was used extensively for smoothing outer surfaces and removing throwing rings – throw out onto the rib, don’t push in with it.

As Janet worked there was some interesting discussion about the weight and balance of pots. Janet likes to leave a bit of weight in the base of functional items as it gives more stability. Obviously the weight of an item needs to be balanced with its size – a large, very light item can be as off-putting as an overly heavy small piece.

Janet has a method of working that was most interesting to the gathered audience: when making a series of items she’ll prepare ‘spare parts’ first, that is, a number of handles, knobs, lids, spouts, necks, shoulders, whatever is needed for the finished item. When she then throws each body she can pick from the ‘spare parts’ the pieces with the best fit and feel, assembling them, even the teapots, before removing the body from the wheel. Parts not used during a throwing session can be kept (suitably wrapped) for later use.

After morning tea (with delicious biscuits courtesy of workshop co-ordinator Maryke Henderson), we moved on to surface decoration and texture. Wedging a handful of grog into your clay will give texture – as the pot is bellied out wide against a rib, the grog pushes through to the clay surface. Another technique is to make marks with a rib around a pot at the cylinder stage, then belly out without touching the outer surface. The marks stretch and soften as the pot gets wider. A third technique saw Janet brush a black stain solution onto a cylinder, followed, when the stain was dry, by sodium silicate. While the sodium silicate dried we enjoyed a slide show of Janet’s works as Brindabella Pottery from 1983 to 1999, followed by slides of her current work and discussion of her collaboration with Chinese factories producing her work. Did you know that in China, bone china is seen as ‘western’ and therefore highly sought after and expensive? Returning to the pot with the sodium silicate, as it was bellied out the surface cracked in a remarkably regular pattern (see the image on the front page).

The day finished with Janet throwing the parts for and then assembling a teapot. Thrown spouts she shapes and positions with a slight downward curve - as water can’t run uphill the spout doesn’t drip! Paper-clay slurry is used for attaching items – a cup of water and a couple of sheets of toilet paper are whizzed together then mixed with the clay body or dried trimmings to make a slip/slurry.

There was such a lot to take in from this very worthwhile workshop that I can’t wait to get into my workshop – I particularly want to try the technique of throwing lids before bodies, the reverse of what I do now.



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This information last updated 17/09/11