I had no interest in anything vaguely artistic while I was at school or college and it was only when I studied Japanese at Kansai Gaidai university in Osaka, Japan that I realised I actually quite liked pottery.. and was quite good at it! #modest
My degree was in Japanese studies and Philosophy at Oxford Brookes university and as part of the course, we had to spend a year studying abroad in Japan. As well as the language modules in the morning, we also had to pick 'cultural modules' for the afternoons. Due to limited spaces on popular courses, they operated a raffle system with everyone assigned a number 1 to 100 (or so). Luckily for me my number got chosen second and I got dibs on whatever cultural module I wanted... so I went for the obvious.. Japanese ceramics, as it sounded easy and I would definitely appreciate a rest after studying Japanese in the mornings.
Unfortunately I underestimated the amount of studio time that would be required each week.. which was about 16 hours... I had back ache, aching arms and was generally really tired most of the time... but I loved it. My teacher was a white haired, 60 year old Japanese man, Inamoto sensei, who loved the Beatles and his mixture of Japanese and English instruction were baffling, hilarious and occasionally herupufuru (helpful), often resorting to onomatopoeic sounds as instructions, "no not like that, like this 'gura gura gura' chotto smooth ne?".
After returning to the UK, I didn't do pottery again for a few years and didn't really think about it for a few years.
Working in London
Fast forward a few years and I was working in finance in central London and longing to use the creative part of my brain. I started looking online for somewhere I could go to do a bit of pottery, but not necessarily with teaching involved. I just wanted a space where I could do my own thing. Eventually, I found a place in a disused biscuit factory in Bermondsey that offered space at a pottery studio to just do whatever you wanted for £10/hour. I started going regularly every Wednesday and really loved it (thinking about it now, I really miss it there!). I did this for about a year and just as I was made a "friend of the studio" (meaning I got my own key and locker and could come and go when I wanted!) the owner of the biscuit factory site sold it to a developer. The group of artists based there tried to find a location in London to relocate to, but with the price of everything going up, they had to move out to Warwickshire.
Heart-broken, I looked only to see how much it would cost to buy a potter's wheel, a kiln, tools, clay, glazes etc.. and its would be into the thousands. I kept an eye out for second hand bits and pieces, but I couldn't find anything. Until one day, my sister Katie messaged me to say that in our village Facebook group (Friends of Shepperton) someone was selling a potter's wheel, tools, clay, table and chair. I contacted the woman selling the equipment and it turned out that she was selling them on behalf of her husband, who was my old headmaster from primary school!
Everything was essentially unused and looked brand new... bags of untouched clay, tools that hadn't been taken out of their packets and a slightly dusty potter's wheel and he wanted a pittance for the lot! My ex-headmaster had gone on a trip to Japan and studied pottery there for a bit and wanted to try doing it himself back at home. He bought all this equipment and never really used it, which I'm sure happens frequently with hobbyists. I took it all, including a rack of drying shelving, a solid wood table and tons of books on pottery and glazes.
I've slowly built up my collection to an impressive two shed loads of equipment, clay, tools, glazes, chemicals, greenware, bisque pieces, experiments, tubs of garden clay and three kilns (only one of which is currently being used). I actually really enjoy finding second-hand stuff to either use myself, or sell on at a profit, having sold two kilns and made a few hundred pounds in the process. I'm now focusing on building up my existing stock of finished pieces for a craft fair in the Summer of 2016.
Its been a really fun journey and a huge learning curve and I could go on more about the things I've learnt (how to use / repair a kiln!?).. but the most exciting thing is that the journey has barely begun!