Expression Through Clay
Dicker Pottery was first established in 1774 in Lower Dicker (near Hellingly) and 240 years later the students of Bede's school are continuing to transform lifeless bags of clay into ambitious, imaginative and exciting pieces of Ceramics.
Reading about the potteries around the area, I was fascinated to find there was a pottery along the road from the Upper Dicker village shop, one was built near the Boship roundabout and the main one in Lower Dicker.
There is not much information about the Dicker pottery until 1843 when Uriah Clark established his business on the previous pottery site and embarked upon providing tiles, chimney pots and other earthenware goods for Sussex area.
It was a thriving business and Clark ran the pottery until his death in 1904.
His business partner and nephew took over running the pottery and merged with Boship Green Pottery in 1912. The pottery hit hard times during the First World War and nearly caused the business to fail.
Sydney Harte then took over the pottery after the war and focused on making notable "artware" and sold mainly to the tourist trade who were visiting the Sussex coast.
Dicker Pottery was famous for its "Tyg" style vessels (multi-handled) and drew inspiration from the 15th Century Tygs created in Kent and Staffordshire.
During World War Two, the pottery closed but was rebuilt by two local ironmongers, Wightman and Parish from Lewes. Dicker Potteries Ltd was established but it never gained its former prominence despite its best efforts. The business closed in 1956.
Many men (as pictured above) lost their jobs and, as many gardeners from this area will know, the only clay that was worked with was either in their gardens or on the allotment around the Wealden area. But I am pleased to say that a pottery (or as we now call them a Ceramics Department) still exists in Upper Dicker, although we do not make pots - we create ceramic sculpture, and every day students arrive at the old Kennels to create and enjoy the experience of making ambitious pieces and express their ideas through clay.
The above photograph shows one of my First Year Ceramic groups displaying their first project. They designed and made a sculptural ceramic teapot based upon "Dyson" vacuum cleaner. They could only use shapes, structure and pattern from this piece of equipment that is used in so many of our homes to design their project.
The students all created exciting and ambitious teapots that challenged their thinking, imagination and at times patience. One has to remember, Ceramics is one of the oldest skills learnt at Bede's, and history dates the oldest known piece of work from China to 20,000BC.
As well as Ceramic skills, I teach my students patience, and in a fast paced 21st Century world sometimes patience can be forgotten.
We interact with technology everyday and take for granted how quickly we can gather research and take and post photographs on social apps. The digital age could be classed to be the fourth of the ages of thinking technology; hand tools, language and writing are the first three. But patience and creating with clay go hand in hand, and the potters from the past that worked in the area surrounding Bede's would have needed skill and patience to create their vast earthenware products.
First Year students coiling their VOCO's
Miss Armitage (Bede's second Ceramics teacher) and I are continuing to build upon the history of Ceramics in Upper Dicker. But instead of creating Earthenware products to sell to the public, we are teaching our students how to design, think ambitiously, create with clay independently, order and, more importantly for the students, to have fun.
Ceramics can lead to many careers, with previous GCSE and A-level students of mine having gone onto study Product Design, Interior Design, Ceramics, Fashion, and Shoe design to name a few. Indeed, I am proud to say that some of my old students are now art teachers and are successfully teaching what they learnt here, and some (I might add) are still at Bede's, either working in a creative environment or are teachers in other subjects.
Clay has given many a good life. It has given me a fantastic one.