A Potter’s Life.
You know, writing for Pembrokeshire.online could be one of the best jobs in the world….well if you allow the lack of pay and expenses to be balanced by driving around beautiful Pembrokeshire and meeting lovely people.
Who needs money anyway especially on a day like today when the sun is out and the trees are bursting into life, and I am in the company of the Parfitt family eating gorgeous home-made bread and watching the sun glint on the sea.
I have almost done a pottery class with Anthony Parfitt about three times now, and each time something has got in the way. Today we have sat together in his studio, and I have been able to ask about his life, his work ,and his family, who clearly mean the world to him.
Anthony was actually born in Cardiff but moved to Pembrokeshire when he was six. Now in Freshwater East, he and his family live off the land, as far as possible and he uses his skills as a teacher to bring beautiful objects out of clay, and accomplished artists out of folks who may never have stepped into a studio before.
“I studied architecture and worked in London for a while, but once Pembrokeshire is in your blood, you can’t stay away for long. At one point I was actually commuting by train once a week to teach a Pottery class here in Pembrokeshire. I actually wanted to cry on my way back to London, every time. ”
The life of an architect wasn’t something Anthony particularly enjoyed.
“Because of the nature of the work there are periods when nothing is happening and you have to find things to keep busy. Then it would be so busy there was no room for anything else. It drove me nuts.”
It was during this time that Anthony did a post grad in ceramics at Goldsmiths and his creative life really took off.
“It was the 90’s . It was a crazy time. Models were using my teapots as handbags on the catwalk. Do you remember that? I worked with a group called New Designers in Business, promoting ‘Cool Britannia’, and got to travel all over the world on the money I made from the teapots”.
What places did you like?
“Although I don’t like the politics of Saudi Arabia, I loved the carnival atmosphere, flowing robes, colour, a surreal quality of life. I also liked Melbourne and I loved wind surfing on the red sea.”
Ah, beautiful Egypt. We talk about the coral, fabulous snorkelling, and my feeling that snorkelling is a bit like flying.
Anthony tells me about watching Razor Bills fly through the water and of his love of paragliding.
“I started because of dreams about flying.”
How does Paragliding compare?
He nods and grins, “ Stunning”.
We move onto the beautiful architecture of Egypt. The subject of Geometry comes up.
Anthony loves geometry. From talking about the domes we have stayed in around the red sea, he shows me some of his cups. Each cup is shaped to fit into the next so that it forms a spiral pattern. It’s like a little Escher.
“ It’s architecture in a small space.”
Geometry features on a larger scale too. He was out only yesterday sand drawing. He does this at Tenby or more locally at Freshwater East ,and yesterday his design centred on the names of his children and Dahlia patterns.
I have already met Idilia, or Cinderella as she insists on being called. She showed me the cup she is working on in blue and pink.
Anthony and Maria have three children, Idilia, Ieuan and Shirley-Jane, or Twirly-Jane as she is usually known. Two of the children are home educated and by the sounds of things, very busy. The family aim to be as self-sufficient as possible.
“ In the summer, with what we grow and the chickens, we move between 90 and 150% self-sufficiency. Winter it’s about 50% I fish from the cliff here and we do very well from that. Most of our electricity is from Solar. We have visitors from around the world, who stay with us and I teach pottery of course.”
Anthony designs and makes bicycles too. He has designed and made five person bikes but the tandem is the usually method of getting one of the children to school each day.
“We would like to be petrol free. We prefer not to use cars and as cycling is a passion for us all we are happy getting about on bikes.”
Another project is the Shepherds hut, which is in process at the moment and a café is planned for some time in the future, where I am sure the fab homemade bread Anthony makes will be a great hit.
Tell me about your teaching?
“My main teaching days are all day Thursday and Tuesday mornings. I have beginners and experienced artists who come here for a term or two, or then the fully fledged pottery addicts who come back year after year.”
It’s clear that Anthony loves teaching.
“You become part of the student’s process. I enjoy being part of people expressing themselves, of their becoming more confident. Many people have come here , learned how to work the clay and then gone on to create and sell their own work. Some skilled artists come here privately to develop new skills, or to get help with specific projects they’re experimenting with. I am of the opinion that artists need a weekly fix of other artists to inspire and cross pollinate their ideas. I teach everything from mold making, to throwing, which is a very concentrated process, to working with slabs and coiling, and we have lots of glazes for people to try. People learn from being with each other, trying out new skills.”
To my absolute delight, Anthony invites me to have a go. He shows me some work that other students have made and I am tempted to have a go at all of them, but not being greedy I opt for a plate.
Anthony sets out the equipment we will need and shows me how to flatten the clay before rolling it. He works alongside me demonstrating each stage. My plate gets wonkier and wonkier but he tells me not to worry. “You are making something unique,” he tells me patiently, and kindly I can see why people come back again and again.
To contact Anthony : email firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 01646 673981
Studio: Brig y don, Trewent Hill, Freshwater East, SA71 5LJ