March madness

I can’t believe we are in March already, how did that happen? We are back in the shop 4 days a weeks, we are opening Thursday, Friday Saturdays and Sundays. It’s very quiet but with Easter just on the horizon it will hopefully pick up soon. Every year I panic thinking we are not doing well and it doesn’t bode well for the coming year and every year Steve reminds me, that it’s always like this …….and yes I always do panic!
in fact I’ve been panicking quite a bit lately. Personally the last month has been a challenging time. But also from a business point of view it’s been a time of reflection and future planning. Our lease was up for renewal. We have no complaints about our landlord and how he has accommodated us and not raised the rent. But it was a hard decision to make, to renew the lease at all.

The last 5 years have been challenging to say the least. The 1st year is always a risk, you don’t know if what you are doing is going to work. We learnt very quickly that what we did in our last shop in Hayle, was no going to work in Polperro. So straight away we had to think on our feet and make changes to what we were selling. Year two was actually quite settled, we knew we were onto a winner and things started to build nicely. Then came the pandemic! Year 3 , we didn’t actually spend much time in the shop. We were lucky we got some grant money, so that at least paid the bills. Year 4 was actually a great year. Bounce back from the pandemic, meant we did have a good year and we had expected that bounce back to continue into last year. But as we all know now, that wasn’t going to happen. The war in Ukraine 😢followed by the cost of living crisis meant we had a leaner year than expected. Don’t get me wrong we didn’t have a bad year by any stretch of the imagination, but is was down significantly enough to make us question whether signing up for the next few years was going to be a good option. Of course we had to think what we would do if we didn’t have the shop? Neither of us really wanted to get a ‘proper’ job again . But we are not in a position to retire and Steve genuinely thinks I will never be able to give up making and retire! So we decide we would risk it. And hope people’s confidence would come back during this year and beyond. But I can tell you it hasn’t been an easy decision. It’s been an ongoing discussion for the last year and I’m so pleased we have finally got all contracts signed and sealed so I don’t have to think about it any more.

This month we have also been updating and making a few changes on the website. I have been re photographing some items, like the coasters to include the new shell design, now we have retired the old shell one. But also our photographs on the website are really not great. We are learning all the time about how to get better product photos and hopefully in the next few months we will have a few better images on the online shop.

We’ve always had an issue on how do we advertise a lot of what we do on the website. A lot of what we make, are one off items. If I take the time to photograph them and list them, they may sell in the shop and almost immediately have to be removed. And we can’t really afford to keep,items exclusively for the website. Also how to you keep up with stock turn around, on one offs ? I would hate to double sell an item. So thinking I had a solution, I put some generic listings on for things like jewellery, with the idea that people email us, and ask what we currently have in stock. But in doing this I realised people could buy an item without any discussion and they may think they were getting the item in the picture, which is only really there as a reference of what I have produced in the past. So I’ve had to put them out off stock. Unfortunately the WordPress theme we have, puts a banner across to say out of stock and it will probably put people off looking at the item to see how we deal with it! 🤦🏼‍♀️ so unfortunately back to the drawing board to find another solution or to research how to change how it appears on the website.

I have managed to list a few of the slip cast pottery items I make as I can replicate these. I also realised I had never actually got round to listing our bee and flower bunting, so that’s now been added.

The shop is almost full ready for the year, we do have a little bit more stock to arrive from a couple of makers, but we have more than enough. We also have a new maker coming in soon so that’s exciting. But because we are sorted and slightly ahead of the game this year , I’ve been able to continue indulge myself in making some more pottery.

I made a whale, I’m really liking the modelling/sculpture aspect of clay. I mixed my glazes on this piece and somehow managed to get it a matt finish with odd shiny bits , rather than shiny all over, but I actually quite like it.
I’ve been frustrated at not getting good shapes for my pots and jugs. I really need a wheel and to learn to throw pots, but my studio is just not big enough. So to offset my frustration I have been exploring decorative techniques.
I played with sgraffito with coloured slip .I used as my design, a painting I did some years ago of some trees. The plate with the seahorses on, is using stencilling. The heart bowl is stamping and the last plate is my own take on Vincent Van Gogh’ starry starry night. I of course could not come close to his talent. We both loved seeing the Van Gogh experience in Bristol, last year . And this is a gift and a reminder for my lovely husband , who made sure I got to see it.

So here we are at the end of my update and if I don’t catch up before I hope you have a wonderful Easter and the weather is kind to us all.

Janice x

February Brrrrrrr

Blimey it’s chilly 🥶 it’s been a cold couple of weeks in the shop. The reality of opening early in the season hits , when I have to layer up to be in the the shop. I’m not good in the cold so I try to keep myself busy. We like to keep the doors open in the shop, otherwise people are not only reluctant to come in though a closed door, but our door gets so stiff this time of year, they might not actually be able to open it. Having a wood door means it swells in the cold and wet. There is no heating in the shop, but we do have a little electric radiator that we can pop on under the desk if necessary. We did think about putting some heaters in, but as the shop warms up reasonably well by spring, it seemed a lot of expense for a few weeks, to pay to heat a building, that we keep the doors open on, so several layers of clothing is the answer, and thermal socks a necessity.

I had a visitor this week as we saw one of our lovely makers arrive with new stock. The lovely Amanda brought her cute beach find pictures and beach hut scenes in, ready for our customers. So I had a day sorting them and putting out a new display. I dotted other bits of her work in the window and on the dresser.

I was talking to her about whether to change our sign. Don’t worry the pub letters are staying, but we’ve got a new logo and I like the gold that I’ve put in my new signs both inside and out side of the shop. And as we have no longer got the blue theme going on. I’ve been trying to decide whether to take the sign down and respray the back board a different colour. I can’t go gold as some of the letters are gold. They are original pub letters so I’m reluctant to change the colour of the letters themselves . I’m think maybe a navy blue or should I go all out with black? I’m really not sure. If you have any thoughts let me me know in the comments below.

I’ve been in the studio. It’s been cold but I did needed to make a few gin stirrers. They were popular over half term. But I’ve also been having fun with clay. I didn’t know about you but I’m obsessed with the pottery throw down on a Sunday night. So much so that we have just booked to see a Keith Brymer Jones talk later in the year. For those of you who saw it last week, you will have seen they had to make a endangered species animals. I loved the idea of the penguin, and so I decided to have a go. I’m afraid I’ve never been someone who goes though all the logical steps to learn a new craft. I just do what takes my fancy and hope I find a way to make it work. It’s quite an instinctive way to work. So my penguin has been under construction. I have no idea how to actually make anything this big in clay. I have a funny feeling that it might break or even explode when in the kiln. So I decided to paint it before it’s first bisque firing. That might seem odd, but I’ve used black decorating slip. Which basically is just clay with colour in. It needs to be added to the clay when the clay is leather hard. If the clay and the slip dry at different rates, the colour might crack and fall off, so hopefully I timed it just right. I did add a bit of underglaze to , which should also be fine on a first firing 🤞. At least if it breaks I can sort of see what it should have looked like . It is now waiting to dry which could be quite a few weeks with the temperature of the studio at the moment. So I will update on his progress then. But in the meantime, I’ve been a bit obsessed with making jugs. I have a few on my shelves waiting to dry well enough ,to be fired.

My studio has had to have a couple of adaptions to accommodate the new pottery. Shelves…I need lots of shelves. The process of pottery is quite long winded. Firstly you make the item out of clay and the it has to dry thoroughly before it can been fired. Then once it’s been though it first bisque firing you decorate with glazes, and they when there is enough decorated , they can go in for their second firing. Which means there are always lots of things waiting to go in the kiln.
Also we have had to think very hard about cleaning up. Can you imagine the havoc it would cause our plumbing , if all the clay coming off items being washed , went down our kitchen sink 😱 it would soon clog up. We don’t have any running water in the studio. So temporarily I’ve been using a bucket filled with water for all my cleaning. The clay sinks to the bottom and so I’m left with clean water in the top of the bucket, once the clay has settled, but it does take a while for the clay to sink, so unless I wait until the next day, I’ve not had a lot of clean water to use.

But the clever mr Wellydog , has just made me a clay trap. It’s made from an ikea recycle bin, with a lid. He ‘s used an old washing up bowl, that’s been in the back ,waiting to go down the tip and put a plug hole in it. When I pull the plug out, the water goes down into the bin. The clay will sink and leave the clean water on the top. I can then take the clean water out using the tap, and put it in the washing up bowl , for me to clean my tools. This should mean I will have a constant supply of clean water, that is recycled until once in a while, I will take the lid off and remove the clay, either to recycle or dispose off. It will probably go in our garden, to help give some structure to our weak, sandy soil.

It’s not been all work in February. We met up with our lovely, energetic grandchildren, in Paington. We also had nice morning out meeting up with Sue and Dusty from An Bowji . They have a lovely holiday cottage, which is disabled and doggy friendly, in Newquay. We’ve been chatting for a while online, and decided to meet for a quick coffee, at Charlie’s coffee shop, in the wonderful Charlestown. If you pop over to their Instagram page you can check out all about it. Being self employed can be a bit isolating, so it’s very nice to meet up with another husband and wife team, for a chat.

As we move into March, I think the emphasis will be on just tidying up out the front.Our poor geraniums have completely died this winter, so we need to plant up the pots again. We need to check with the landlord if a repaint is due for the walls this year. If not we will touch up some areas. We also will look if we need to update or change any of the display units. I will need to get moving, making more fused glass stock ready for the season. Bunting is next on my list and hopefully Mr Penguin will get to go in the kiln. Maybe I will make a glass penguin picture… well that’s a thought !

Enough of my rambling for now, catch up with you again soon.

Janice x


WELLYDOG in 2023

We are back in the shop and starting our 6th season in Polperro. I can’t believe we have been here 5 years, well not quite, but it will be in March. As always we are open again for the February half term. This week we are open all week and I must say it’s been a bit of a shock to the system, after 6 weeks off. We’ve had a nice break. We haven’t done loads, but as always I can’t sit still and I’ve been playing with Clay. For those of you who follow on Facebook or Instagram. You will have seen I’ve been making pots using moulds that I was generously given and I’ve learnt a lot about slip casting. But I’ve also got quite obsessed with hand building with clay. We bought a second hand pottery kiln. Would you believe we travelled half way across the country to get just what I wanted, We needed to change the element and had a little bit of re-wiring done in the garage studio. This is all because I went on a throwing course. I’ve been trying to get on a pottery course now for 3 years, but with the hours we work, I have to do it out of season, and they always fill up before I can book them. But I managed to get on a two day throwing course, and you guessed it I became obsessed. Unfortunately I am unable to fit a wheel into my studio space, so I have to either slip cast or hand build. A few items have slipped into the shop. I’m especially proud of my harbour cottage plate. I think this design may dominate for a while.

I have been ordering in glass ready to make stock, but we made quite a lot for Christmas markets last year, so unlike previous years I continued to make, fused glass right up until the end of December, so we are actually quite well stocked. I need to top up the gin stirrers soon, as they have been popular so far this week, but I am able to take my time for a while, until the real season hits in.

Also there have been plans a foot in the village for a Draw festival. I have agree to do a demonstration of fused glass on the 6th July , I’m not sure what form that will take yet, but I’m have a bit of time to think how I’m going to do that. I also will be painting ‘en Plein air’ , which is French for outdoors , on the 7th July. I need to be in the shop as well, so I will set my easel up outside the shop and see what takes my fancy to draw or paint.

Take a look at the programme on the left, there is lots going on, so a good week to visit if you are interested in art.

We are looking forward to another year in this beautiful village of Polperro. So hopefully we will see you here sometime soon.

Janice x