From chicken roasters to coffee filters, salt pigs to ceramic clocks, everything Muddy Fingers makes fulfils a practical purpose within the home. Now the newest residents at Mushroom Works artist studios, the pottery making duo of Marv Kitshaw and Diane Nicholson want to spread their passion for clay to the local community.
“We’ve been meaning to move down here for years but there hasn’t been a studios big enough… hence us taking up two of them here!” says Marv.
Marv and Diane are sat in the glorious summer sun, taking a break for a fish and chips lunch with Brett Rutter, a comic book artist based upstairs in the studios. They can’t stay outside for long though – they have a new kiln inside waiting to be fired up.
“It’s great the way you can go down and have communal breaks with the other people who work here,” says Diane. “Youjust ring the bell and you all go down and have a cuppa and we have a chat and see what each other are doing.
“A lot of people just work by themselves so it’s great that we can all come down and give each other feedback from a fresh perspective.”
Marv agrees: “It’s changed our way of thinking, even in the short space we’ve been here.
“We’ve now started doing a lot of jewellery and a lot of transfer work. We’re able to work with other artists in the building to transfer their artwork onto ceramic surfaces which is really exciting.”
“It was perfect for us because we could give people an instant showcaseof what they can do,” says Marv.
People were invited to partake in raku pottery, a 16th century Japanese method in which clay is fired to around 1000 degrees before being quenched in sawdust to highlight the crazed glaze.
“We could get people involved instantly and they could have something to walk home with straight away,” Marv adds.
The methods taught in their classes usually take considerably longer- sometimes up to three or four weeks.
“The pots people made at the Late Shows were quite delicate and decorative whereas the stuff we make in the classes lasts forever and is oven proof, frost proof, microwave and dishwasher safe and food safe” he explains.
Classes take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings starting from Tuesday 3rd September, with students of all levels of experience invited to join.
Class sizes are small–between 6 and 8 students – so everybody is guaranteed plenty of attention as they take to the wheel.
Marv suggests another way in which the space can be put to use: “The really big room we have here can be used as a classroom where we can hold school workshops.
“There are disabled facilities as well which is brilliant, because we’ve always been keen to help people with disabilities and hold classes for them.”
Operations will not just be confined to the valley. Diane recently returned from a trip to Glastonbury where she showcased their products to (suitably muddy) festival goers.
Technology is also allowing Muddy Fingers to pass on their skills much further afield.
“We’ll have some live web feeds on the new website when we get it up and working,” says Marv.
“We’ll be using webcam, so people can see us making things on the wheel live, and even streaming so we can teach people worldwide. There are people in America who have asked us to stream into their class rooms and vice versa which would just be fantastic.”
Muddy Fingers have a busy few months ahead. As well as spreading the word about their pottery classes and brainstorming new products they also have Ousburn’s Open Studios event in November to prepare for.
Mushroom Works has artists create 20x20cm artworks which are displayed in the gallery space and available for the public to buy and take home for only £20.
Marv and Diane couldn’t be more excited to be part of Ouseburn’s community of artists.
“Everybody knows to come down this kind of way if they want to see work or buy stuff from artists,” says Marv.
They celebrated moving in with a special launch event on the 12th July, which included demonstrations of what students can expect if they sign up for their classes.
Marv continues: “There were people turned up who heard about us online who we’d never met before and just heard about us on the Mushroom Works Twitter and Facebook pages. Some of those people we got to sign up for the classes, which was just brilliant.
“We really have just landed on our feet getting the place here. It’s becoming a bit of a clichéd thing to say but it’s true… this really is the art hub of the North East!”
If you fancy mastering the wheel with the help of Marv and Diane, or simply want to view some of their products email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07904 686890.