The rooftops of Venice



In November I went to Venice; wet Venice, Venice of mists and high tides

A visit to Venice makes me feel improved with my eyes properly feasted. That’s why I share these pictures, a little tiny, much diluted teaspoon of Venice is better than none.

Early morning Fondamente Nove

After  nights of  furiously sloping water and a rowdy monkey orchestra of battering raindrops  the  Acqua Alta siren announced yet another day of duck boards and wellingtons.

close up Fondamente Nove

We stayed along  the Fondamenta  from the Ospedale. Those ambulances gave way to nothing, it must have been like the Ride Of the Valkyries  for patients


dining room window

You see, rain

Rio della Panada

That’s our apartment on the corner on the piano noble. We stayed in a crudely cut dollop of a C15 palazzo, dolled up in the C17th and ill modernised in the seventies. We had a great deal of space , enough for six opened drying umbrellas to make no impact on the acres of the main salon.

You need space indoors at this time of year as Venice is seen through the letterbox  between your umbrella and opened map. Everyone scurries along narrow alleys, duelling umbrellas with people coming the other way.
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It was perfectly possible to step from puddle to canal without the aid of the Mafia and rather wonderfully, away from the darkest alleys, the canal water was aquamarine ( apparently the exact  hue is down to how much salt in the water)

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  It is the glimpses that are so arresting…

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 into a workshop

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into an archive

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into Venetian gossip

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Or out of a bookshop onto yet another canal

It’s all marvellous even without going into a museum. But when you do go,  you can loiter and briefly have a room completely to yourself.

 They let you photograph and so you can play until you get the photo that pleases you.

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You see extra magic. the painter is Rosalba Carriera.

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Layers of fairy tale

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How could you possibly ask for more?

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Except being looked at can wear a dog down. This is the down side of vitrine life. This is the bit that Edmund de Waal glossed over. That dog is frankly fed up.

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So there you are, a dash of  Venice to begin the year

If you liked this you might like to see what my camera saw last year in  Morocco

The crate is here

The crate from Marrakech  has arrived. It came in the afternoon in a very unromantic  OCS white van. The crate was damaged and opened. In the top was a mysterious animal skin bag and I feared some of my shipment had been nicked.

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I gingerly unpacked to find everything there but when I came to unwrap the very last piece it was shattered. It was the bol sur pied.


But I had all the sets of plates

on stove

And the tagine pot, a proper one which sits on the fire on top of the stove and ought not go in the oven. So with trepidation, now or never, I cooked a beef tagine hoping that I had properly understood how to use it.

on stove open

By the end of the cooking the tagine pot and I had made friends, we understood each other and worked together

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With the aid of cheap red wine and my Fes bowls from two decades ago we had supper. That little candlestick to the left of the bottle, that is the gift that warms the deal and makes the connection between the seller and the customer.


This is where I bought them and that is Mourad who fell for this green Tamgroute pottery and has filled his shop in the souk in Marrakech with it. He is adding up how much money he wants.


Tamgroute is on the edge of the Sahara, the glaze is an ancient Berber recipe known to seven families of potters  Tamgroute pots are crudely made, full of lumps and bumps, it wobbles atrociously, the glazes come out differently from plate to plate, there is little control of the process


The sun dries the clay ready to work


There are plenty of kiln deaths

Not to mention the transport deaths

But the result, the difference it makes to use things made by hand, things with another life embedded in them, somehow that elevates the mundane task of cooking and eating.  It has a  feel good factor which pushes out the mean bits of living which makes the  indulgence of time and money to acquire it really worthwhile.

Their perfection lies in their imperfection, if you understand that you understand what handmade is about.

Handmade Morroco

You didn’t get to go to Morocco,  I did, so I’m sharing some of the stuff

 The old bit of the coastal town of Essaouira is hunched up next to the fishing harbour and within its walls, in a back alley, these steps


Poor nations recycle


This door is in the kind of backstreet you get travel insurance for .

That blue is fly blue.

The Victorians used it in larders and potting sheds to unwelcome flies

Essaouria 4

The Atlantic slaps Morocco really hard at this point

It’s always windy and the sea boils

Essaouria harbour 2

A real working fishing boat harbour



When you start to slow, because you are on holiday you start to notice, and see the patterns in things. Your eye starts to say:” You know what? The world, and things that man has crafted are so often beautiful “


Even lunch is beautiful ( and yes that is a fly and no, he was not alone)


So goodbye Essaouira and back in the taxi to Marrakech .

That taxi driver had seemed so well-informed and civilised but when we hit  the Marrakech rush hour he proved  a complete shit. He left no room for error:  pedestrians, donkey carts and scooters were shown less consideration than lorries. He was like an incensed blue-bottle outraged that anyone should think they could share the road with him. “No horn,no job” was his mantra. Our route was flanked by people making internationally understood gestures at him.

Goat 3

On the way out to Essaouira he had stopped to allow us to take pictures of the goats feeding on the leaves and fruits of the Argan trees  Thats him picking up some Argan nuts

 goat best

Sweet goats aren’t they? Wonderful photo opportunity.

But, but… look closely behind each goat that’s blue baler twine isn’t it?  There were two goat herds with them and  they expected tips for the photo. The tree was unmissable by the side of the road and why were all the goats on the road side of this tree ?

Nothing is as it seems in Morocco, everything has to be thought about twice.


It’s no good minding that tourists are used.

It is a country of change.

The tourists want it to stay picaresque and traditional and easily accessible by Easy Jet, so it does its best to oblige.

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You see Marrakesh roof tops, the old and the new


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Where are we now? In the Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakech

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patten 1

God that is complex


Now we are in the nineteenth century Palais Bahia much of which was built for a very fat Vizier

 I suppose  he just lay fatly on his couch and stared at his beautiful ceilings

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Strong stuff, like Turkish delight you can only take so much, before it cloys

iron sheets

This is by way of a palate cleanser from the souk


And this is to remind ourselves of reality.

Disgusting but colourful.

I hate to tell you this but this is Casablanca

Yes really, I am sorry

Casablanca Mosque

And this is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca


Yes but post dates the film

It was built over six years finished in 1993 and 35,000 craftsmen were involved

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Now back to Marrakech, but to the new town which is ugly noisy and filthy and favoured by the rich who live in gated communities of exclusive nothingness .

The honourable exception being Yves St Laurent  who lived in the  former house of  the French artist Jacques Majorelle and restored the magical garden which is now kept by the foundation.

Marjorelle gardens

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It’s not all Yves St Laurent styling, the palm trees do belong


and the light struts its stuff


High atlas

Now one last trip, this time into the High Atlas , then I will leave you in peace

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Proper Berber land

Berber market High Atlas

And a market

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So what did I buy?

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Well this is what he was selling,vintage Berber stuff ( it matched up with stuff displayed in the Berber museum in Marrakech)


So I bought myself this, so that I could pound my spices in the same bowl  as another woman from a very different harder  life, did sixty years ago. Its made from cedar and is as hard as nails.

And there is more I have a crate coming …


If you beg me I will show you, but at the moment it’s still bumping its way by road to London (at least, I hope it is) Otherwise its a job for Interpol

Lady luck

Craftspeople might like to think that they are self-reliant, but the truth is they are totally dependant on luck.  If you create, your  exposure to the Gods is huge .

But sometimes, just sometimes; you get thrown a handful of completely gratuitous and unexpected luck. That’s where these eerily magical photographs come from. Just plain right place, right time, had camera and held it up and clicked.

This picture of the abandoned school on the hill was taken on the walk home when the rain had stopped. But when we first passed it was pouring,  there would be nobody to stop me, so I  nosed around thinking about  how the children who had been to school here would now be adults.

At first the windows were too high to see in, but then I found one I could see into, someone must have lived in the school fairly recently but they are not there now

Ghostly reflections start to happen

There is nothing but rain and strangeness I am just holding the camera up to get the pictures

Then the sun drills through the rain

Now all the elements are drifting together

You can see my hands holding the camera reflected in the window but more images are reflecting onto the camera of the windows on the furthest side and the sky behind me reflects onto the glass and yet more reflections inside or outside to the right. Remember I can’t see what the camera can, I am below the window holding  the camera up above my head

Completely amazing

Then the rain stopped and the magic just slipped away

Art in Clay Hatfield

It was wet


It was muddy

Photo taken by exhibitor Pat Southwood

Even in the show tents

Photo taken by a squelching Pat Southwood

Even behind the stands the water oozed you needed to dress for Glastonbury and the English Summer

Photo by comfy Pat Southwood

But potters are  resourceful and they stayed happy.

 These are exhibitor Norfolk ceramacist Pat Southwood’s sleeping arrangements

Those trainers were new and steaming on the kiln but these guys are perfectly happy

 The food wagons

There was lots of food choice


But  everywhere to eat it got soaked because  the rain blew in under the awnings.

 On the Sunday the fair had to compete with the Men’s Wimbledon Final, Formula One, The Olympic Torch coming to Hatfield and torrential rain. So there were not many visitors but those who came were very committed and bought.

 Anyway who needs visitors as potters all rush round and buy each other’s work. Lift the skirts of any stall and you would see a stash of other people’s pots. Whether real money passed hands between potters I don’t know.

Talkative Anthony Barclay’s stand had the best display  I saw.

He has made you see the pots at home without being twee. The half closed cupboard is really clever as then you imagine more glorious pots hidden behind. It works as white space on a page sending your eye back to the pots.

The best newcomer I thought  was Liver bird Michelle Cox  who is benefiting from the Adopt -a -Potter scheme and is working in Emma Rodger’s studio for a year. Look more closely at the bushy ragglety tail, yup its the hounds in full cry.

Two lolling long limbed dogs

Like all the best makers she has no idea how good she is, look how that dog spreads just one  claw as he stretches. if you have a dog you know that’s what they do.

slipware Hannah McAndrew jug

This was my major purchase a Hannah McAndrew beauty

deep yellow glazed Dough Fitch jug

I bought it to keep my lovely Doug Fitch jug company which I bought because I saw a video of him making it on his blog and simply needed it

The bottom line on Art in Clay  at Hatfield

It costs about £450 for a stand and exhibitors for  this year’s 160 stands  were selected from 280 applicants. It’s a well-respected show and has some serious buyers. Exhibitors I spoke to seemed to be more than breaking even and there is no doubt it is the place to be seen.

 But what was the reality? Help your fellow potters by filling out the poll below