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25 Mar 2014

Letters & Pots - A visit to Winchcombe Pottery

A visit to Winchcombe Pottery where I worked for six years, and reflections on the path which took me to lettering and the link between letters and pots.

I went back to Winchcombe the other day to visit the pottery where I worked for six years. Walking through the door I was hit by the usual wave of nostalgia, the bouquet of damp clay, charred beams and wood smoke. In fact not much had changed since the first time I walked through the great door when I was twenty. Back then my first sight was Eddie Hopkins on his wheel in the corner. I remember right at that moment being totally spell-bound by the way he made a huge jug within seconds and the ease of how he did it whilst firing questions at me at the same time; his hands automatic, detached from his mind. Eddie, who very sadly died in 2007, began work as a thrower in 1957.

During my years at Winchcombe I got to know Keith Jameson the sculptor. He rented a workshop at the pottery and gave me my first letter cutting lesson. I toyed with the idea of learning the art properly, but I was so worried about wasting all those years I had spent learning to throw pots. I was a potter; that was my destiny. Or so I thought. That was until keith lent me one of Lida Kindersley's books on letter cutting, and I found an important link between letters and the forms of pots. It was one word that made me believe that I wasn't throwing it all away.


Tension was a word used to describe the curve of a C or a D. The curvature or bowl of a letter must be inflated without wobbles or weak points... just like the curvature of a bowl or a vase. Seth Cardew the potter had used this word before my Winchcombe days at Wenford bridge pottery. The lessons Ray Finch had given me were not to be wasted and I can still hear his gentle, encouraging voice over my shoulder. Mike Finch has started a small pottery school which seems to me a great idea as it keeps the place energetic, which is how I so fondly remember it.

Fergus W
Written by

Fergus Wessel

Designer and letter-carver

Fergus created Stoneletters Studio in 2003, after training at the Kindersley Workshop. He is a member of the prestigious Master Carver's Association.