Project Middlesbrough sat down and chatted with the owner of the Independent Teesside Business Bohw Pottery company to find the story behind their business.
What does Teesside mean to you?
Teesside is the where I have lived for the past 25 years so it really is my home. I was brought up not too far away, at Staithes, so can count myself as ‘local’. It is an area of great contrast and I love the surrounding rural and coastal areas of tremendous natural beauty but also appreciative the rich heritage of the built environment. Though, sadly, too many but a45rchitectural gems have been lost there are still many remaining splendid buildings, museums, parks and open spaces to remind us of an era of thriving commerce and associated wealth. Of course you can’t live in the past and can only deal with what you have access to in the present and I am aware that forward looking plans for the redevelopment of Stockton town centre have been initiated and I do hope this project will go ahead, in particular I look forward to the reopening of the Globe Theatre. This is an asset we desperately need in my opinion as it will have the potential to bring major acts and shows to Teesside and I would like to see similar cultural and recreational planning and development for Middlesbrough to add to existing facilities like the refurbished Town Hall and Mima.
What people’s reactions been to your business since you started?
Overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. The craft of pottery is a fascination for many people and I suppose interest is boosted by programmes such as The Great Pottery Throwdown.
Traditional crafts should be preserved and there does appear to be a resurgence of enthusiasm in creative activities. I particularly like The Repair Shop which puts traditional craft skills into context whilst simultaneously challenging the vagaries of the throwaway society. Instagram and Facebook have been crucial in providing a platform for my own work. I never cease to be amazed that moments after posting I can get a response from the other side of the world.
What’s the story behind your business?
I began learning ceramics at college whilst training to be an art teacher and after many years working in creative arts in schools and colleges I retired 4 years ago to set up my own pottery workshop at home in Linthorpe. I had always made my own work in ceramics throughout my teaching career so in a way I was not starting from scratch. The Bohw project is essentially an interest activity and I don’t look to make a profit from my sales but am happy to cover running costs.
Why do you believe that Teesside gets such a bad reputation in the media?
Teesside is in many ways an easy target for those who look for an opportunity to disparage and denigrate people and places. A long slow industrial decline has inevitably led to high levels of unemployment and deprivation in many sections of the local and regional area. This is of course true for many other parts of the UK but for some reason it often appears that Teesside has a special place when it comes to the media seeking cheap and easy features on social dysfunction. Yes, there are obvious problems and issues with crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour and these do need to be addressed by those in power. To counter this negativity there are many positive aspects to local and regional life and being involved in artistic and creative activities I would hope that these can be given all due recognition for the ways in which the arts can be employed as a major force in social development and change. Of crucial importance in this respect is Tees Valley Arts, a charity that offers so many different and varied opportunities for creative and artistic development.
How did you come up with the name The Bohw Pottery ?
Bohw (rhymes with low ) is made up and has no real relevance to anything. I wanted a short name and one that was not being used elsewhere or by any other business.
What type of products and services do you offer your customers?
All of my work is made on the potter’s wheel and much of it has been focussed on flowerpots, planters and vases along with some domestic wares, such as bowls and jugs. Candlestick holders have also been a popular item. I have recently started using stoneware clay which is higher fired than the earthenware I was previously working with and this permits more subtle finishes and glaze effects. I am currently working on a commission for floral display bowls to be used at weddings as well as a set of vases that will be used in illustrations for a forthcoming book. Alongside these projects I am developing a unique range of Bohw mugs which I hope to have available later this year.
You can find Bowh Pottery on Facebook-https://www.facebook.com/bohwpottery/
Interview by Chloe Tempestoso