Our latest 'Introducing Orkney's Makers' feature visits Fursbreck Pottery, the home of our very own Harray Potter, Andrew Appleby.
How did you end up devoting your life to pottery?
When I was three, I went to Peggy Foy’s pottery, just around the corner from where we lived. I got some clay and I made a mushroom. It was the smell of clay, the fact that I was next to a kiln, potters everywhere throwing pots on wheels, and of course being so small everything just seemed enormous. And that was it, from the age of three I was just hooked.
How did that develop from a childhood passion into a lifetime’s career?
I studied archaeology at school as well, from the age of eleven. When I got into the art room I would make prehistoric pots because this is what we were digging up. There was Roman pottery as well, which I just loved, so I wanted to emulate that and I taught myself to throw on a wheel at school. I spent as much time as I possibly could in the art room, and that’s all I did.
What was it that brought you here to Orkney?
My father was actually in Orkney in the wartime, in army intelligence. He told us stories about the islands and it just sounded great. He often mentioned a friend that lived at Fursbreck, which of course is where we now have the pottery. I hitch-hiked here from Kent with my brother Malcolm and as soon as we arrived in Stromness I thought ‘this feels like home.’
So, it wasn’t the archaeology that drew you here initially?
No, it was the colours, the skies, the space. I love the archaeology of course but first and foremost it was the landscape. You always feel there’s a sense of power and inspiration in the Orkney landscape and I’m sure that’s what the prehistoric people would have felt too.
There’s great variety in the ranges that you produce but there’s also a style, or a sensibility, that runs through it. You can generally spot a Fursbreck piece. Is that a conscious thing?
Yes, I have been so influenced by ancient pottery – Greek, Roman, Medieval – that this style is just within me. Thomas and my son Nick, who both work with me, are learning and developing their own styles as well but hopefully a little of my influence will carry on through their work too.
Would it be fair to say you're interested not just in pottery but also the role of the potter within society?
Yes, I think potters generally have a different way of thinking. Because you’re working with fire you make discoveries, you’re always researching and I believe that potters were among the first scientists and inventors. Also, you can tell so much from a tiny piece of pottery on an excavation. There’s a huge amount of humanity in that one tiny shard.
How important is the passing on of skills?
Hugely so. I’ve taught various people in the past, but I’m now at the stage where I’m really focussed on passing on what I’ve learnt to the next generation. That way the pottery will continue. We’re standing here in an old school, it continues to hold that spirit of a school and therefore teaching happens here. Long may that continue.
Find out more about Fursbreck Pottery and visit the official website.
You can also find the pottery on Facebook.