Colin Richards MBE, Eyeton, Herefordshire
I have known Colin since I worked from an office in Ludlow, when I wore my graphic design hat. My work with groups such as Ludlow Civic Society, creating their newsletters, led me to understand the incredible wealth of knowledge and skill involved in keeping Ludlow’s unparalleled architectural heritage intact. Colin seemed to be at the epicentre of it all, as then he was South Shropshire’s building conservation officer with the local council. This was around 2001, and I had not long graduated from Hereford College of Art and Design, as a Graphic Designer. My trajectory seemed clear. I had a shiny new business, and a growing client base. The business grew quickly from no staff to three, and we were soon working with the whole of the community, including the arts, public, private, tourism and heritage sectors. Colin’s name appeared on many of our projects.
Around ten years later I began to dream of working from my own studio, at my own home just outside of Ludlow. A growing interest in living and working as sustainably as possible led me to explore alternative ways of constructing a studio. Soon I was participating in workshops such as a straw bale building project, an earth oven weekend, and a lime rendering course. The latter course was delivered by Colin, who showed in increasing interest in my plans.
Following these workshops I chose to build my studio from straw bales, and rendered it with lime. Around this time Colin was also experimenting with straw bales, and he created a small demonstration house in the centre of Ludlow as part of the Ludlow’s Green Festival, and we shared notes, experience and enthusiasm.
Attending the earth (or cob) oven workshop changed my life. I did not know it at the time, but the experience established a value set that I build upon to this day:
working with others
physically, out of doors
focusing on a single outcome
using foraged materials
learning new skills
sharing the experience
...and those wood-fired lunches - all of this tapped into deeply rooted values that I had not previously noticed or nurtured. I came away from that weekend empowered, enthused, and - I am certain - more human.
My cob oven story is now into it’s 12th year, and I write about this more fully elsewhere. Now, as a student at Hereford College of Arts again, I seek to enrich and deepen my relationship with clay.
And so I reconnect with Colin Richards. Visiting his workshop is truly entering an Aladdin's cave. He seems to have all the tools, to work with all materials - the most visibly obvious being metals, wood and clay. Over a beer we sit in the evening sunshine and talk of connections with the land - his knowledge of indigenous clay deposits resonates deeply with my developing practice. He shares techniques for making charcoal from forage wood - this will help me develop a method of creating my own fuel for firing ceramics, avoiding natural gas and electricity. Such is Colin's enthusiasm and generosity that soon it is dark. I leave buzzing with ideas. I will soon return.
I have reflected on my journey, my passions and my learning, and now understand how much I appreciate those with such intimate relationships with materials, be they dug or grown. Colin has a passion for the vernacular, the stories embodied in the materials he handles, and the history of the people that worked with them. We share an appreciation for our deeply rooted reverence of fire, wood, and clay. In my reconnecting with Colin, I stand to learn so much: charcoal making, sourcing local clays, making and firing kilns - the list is growing daily - and he is more than willing to share. I can see how I can develop techniques of finding sustainable resources, low environmental impact methods of firing ceramics, and achieving my aspirations.
Peter Faulkner. Leintwardine, Herefordshire.
Peter Faulkner used to be resident in the studio that I currently rent in Leintwardine, North Herefordshire. He used the space for some fifteen years, making coracles and river craft from locally sourced hazel and ash, home-grown willow, and cow hides from the abattoir next door.
He has a long history in Leintwardine. Indeed his first school day was in this very building, as it was then the village school, a high-vaulted room with tall windows and a single fireplace. He recalls rows of sodden underwear drying in front of the fire, as children regularly wet themselves in class.
Built from limestone quarried from cliffs one quarter of a mile up the road, mortared together with lime produced from kilns in the same quarry, the Old School Room, as it is now known, is giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity to create, play, and be me.
I feel it a privilege to be in here. I love the building, and it loves me. Last year, November 2020, while installing a wood burning stove given to me by friends in the village, the installer Jason excitedly called to me from the top of his ladder, saying that he had found treasure. He was not exaggerating. In his hands was what looked to be a Victorian tin box. Wiping off the cobwebs and lime dust revealed a rusting printed and embossed tea tin, tightly bound with black electrical tape. Wide-eyed and excited, all worked stopped as we unwound the tape, and stabbed at the lip of the lid with a trowel. Inside we found yet another tin, jammed tight. Once out, we had to remove more electrical tape, stretched tight over the lid. Inside this tin, as fresh and clean as if placed there just minutes ago, was a business card, a leaflet and hand written note:
4th December 2006. Stove installed by me.
This room was my first classroom when I came to Leintwardine in November 1948, aged 6.
A time capsule!
How wonderful. Here we were, executing the very same task as Peter.
The business card and leaflet advertised Peter’s work as a Coracle maker.
The obvious job for me now was to add to this capsule, and place it back in between the roof joists, under the hand-made clay tiles. I took out two of my leaflets, a business card, and I wrote a note on a sheet of my headed paper:
13th November 2020
Stove installed by Jason Banks of Bishops Castle for Matthew Lloyd, the Cob Oven Man. Jason was taught by Peter Faulkner at Ludlow Junior School, Peter being the Old School tenant before Matthew.
The stove was given to Matthew by Philip and Nerissa Wilson of River Cottage, Mill Lane, Leintwardine, after it had been damaged by floods in December 2019. Matthew restored the stove.
I started renting the Old School in July 2020, using it as my base for my Cob Oven work and my graphic design projects. In January 2021 I started my Masters Degree in Contemporary Crafts at Hereford College of Arts, and I look forward to using the space as my studio. I love the space and light in here - I find it truly inspiring.
Peter Faulkner is quite a character, and I find him inspirational. He sings, writes poetry, grows his own willow, and makes a fine coracle. His connection to the land and the materials it provides resonates deeply within me. His boats tell stories of the rivers they ride on and the trees they are made from. No two are the same, and yet they are all identifiable as Peter’s work, signed off on each seat with a hand-drawn swallow in flight, burned into the wood, alongside the maker’s name. To me, each boat is a poem to the land, and a human’s connection with it. I feel honoured and inspired to be using Peter’s old workshop, and duty-bound to continue an environmentally respectful and connected creative practice here. Peter continues to make boats from an old barn just outside the village, and I always have time to sit and listen to him as he shares his knowledge of horsehair rope, hazel walking sticks, and songs of the river.