Meeting Sam Makumba at Stroud Community Pottery

I notice that I have not spoken much recently of Ruskin Mill, and so I will dedicate some posts to it.

This term I have been assigned to the pottery, which is based in Stroud.It is located in the basement of an interesting old listed building, called the centre for science and art, that was used to house the Stroud College that closed 6 years ago. This college offered many artistic opportunities based on Steiner education for 16-18 year olds. Run very much like Ruskin Mill, but appealed to “normal” students. It was expensive and closed through lack of students, which was a real pity, as they did many interesting and diverse things from photography to building dams in Egypt. Anyway, what still remains is the community pottery. Community means that anyone can go there. You pay a set amount for a 2 hour session, where you can use all the facilities. An experienced potter is on hand for any advice or lessons. Many children come after school.

What was good for me was meeting the extraordinary potter on hand . This was Sam Makumba, and his fame preceded him. 20160420_121114He is a smiley true blue African from Uganda, with an African accent nogal! And what a wonderful man. He is always happy and is very skilled, making his own  clays from Ruskin Mill trust properties and glazes from ashes of various plants. This shows some of the processes used to make glazes.

He was also responsible for building the inner walls of the field centre using clays from the various Ruskin Mill colleges, and is involved in designing the interesting basement there.

Although we did not know too much about pottery, he threw us into the deep end. He has no mercy and teaches you to not be precious about your creations. We started by throwing pots on a wheel for practice. Amazingly the first one was not bad. 20160413_122634However he shows you how to be precise so that you can make a series of bowls the same size.This takes a lot of practice.

I then made a teapot. Now this is quite advanced. This is a 12 cup teapot for the farm, which has many students for tea on most days.I started by rolling the clay and printing in some sticks, which was a bit of a mistake, as they went in too deep and I fear my pot may leak.20160420_101828I them moulded it in two rounded moulds which I then stuck together to make the basic shape.20160420_123222

Here is Sam demonstrating on Luisa’s pot how stick together and cut out the lid and spout holes.


here is my pot:

The handle was initially too long,

and so I changed the design rather radically, and it came out to be quite interesting. After bisque firing it looked like this

and I am still waiting to see the results after glazing. I realize, that with all the processes involved, you can mess it up at any point. And so I wait anxiously, as the glaze seemed too thick.

Our most recent creation has been a sign for the pottery, which Luisa and I did together.20160615_160053

Sam also works with Ruskin Mill students daily, and he is demanding but also kind and never hasty. His students produce beautiful and careful things. I will post a photo of just one students work when they have their exhibition in July, where they can also sell their work. I am amazed at how much they learn here.

Sam also is involved in a similar enterprise to Ruskin Mill in Uganda on the edge of Lake Victoria. A number of people associated with Ruskin Mill help support the project. Called Dewe Land based Education and social Enterprise project. It was started as an art project while Sam was doing a Masters in Social sculpture at Oxford Brooks University. “Dewe is a land & people based restorative project that demonstrates by many examples how a project for people and nature can re-enliven shared feelings of human community and these then restore lost balance in the local natural environment.

I am hoping to visit it on my travels up Africa, which I plan to do quite soon. This is his project website


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