Preston-based social enterprise Make North is adapting its service to offer pottery at home on a permanent basis.
The change is in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a huge shift in how and where people work and study.
After opening in the former Saul Street Clinic in 2019 as a space where the community could access facilities to create pottery, Make North quickly grew to over 50 members.
During the first lockdown, the business adapted to help members continue their pottery at home.
A range of online tutorials was created, and a drop-off and pick-up service started so materials could be delivered to members’ homes and then their work collected for firing.
Make North’s founder, Louise Smith, said: “I thought this would be temporary and fully expected that we would be back open a few months later. Now, after 16 months of running a home pottery service, we’ve seen the way our members’ work has changed.
“They have embraced the flexibility that ‘potting’ at home offers, and at a time when for many people’s finances are stretched it is considerably cheaper than studio sessions. Covid-19 is also still a concern for some of our members, and masks and social distancing have changed the experience of being in the studio.”
With this in mind, Louise and the team have decided to adapt and re-focus to permanently supporting their members to make proper pots at home with the new Make North @home Pottery Box service.
The aim is to ensure pottery with Make North is more affordable and accessible to people all across Lancashire.
Louise said: “The Pottery Box service will allow anybody to experience proper pottery, from the comfort of their own home. Members will be able to work with real clay, choose from a huge range of glazes and have their work fired in a kiln to make them food-safe and suitable for outdoor use.
“We’ll be adding to our range of online tutorials and the expert Make North tutors will also be available to provide advice to members, whenever needed.
“We’ll also be hiring-out potters wheels, and helping members set them up in their homes, garages or sheds, plus providing 1:1 tuition.
“The exciting thing about clay is that once you understand the basic techniques – pinching, coiling and slabs – the possibilities are endless. You can create anything from small bowls and mugs to large sculptures!”
Louise is aiming to set Make North apart from other at-home pottery services by enabling members to use real clay and glazes to make any item of their choice – and share in the all-important moment of truth.
She said: “Make North’s members can choose what they want to make and go on their own creative journey to create functional, proper ceramics.
“There is a real alchemy that happens when pottery is fired, when the powdery pale glaze turns shiny and colourful in the kiln. We want our members to share the excitement of opening every glaze kiln, when you find out if the ‘kiln gods’ have been kind, so we will be filming as we open and unload the kiln.”
Community is still very much at the heart of Make North, as is seeing people face-to-face, so Louise is planning a series of pop-up workshops in locations around Lancashire, as well as regular online events.
She also hopes to expand the home service into other creative disciplines, as well as resume work with schools and youth groups.
Louise added: “The past 16 months have been really tough for Make North. Sadly, we were too new for a Cultural Recovery Grant and just slightly too small for a Leisure and Retail Grant.
“We have survived thanks to the enthusiastic and often very generous support of our members.
“We hope the next stage of the Make North journey will be a success and allow us to continue supporting and encouraging our members on their creative journeys.”
To find out more about the Make North @home Pottery Box service, visit the Make North website.
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What do you think of Make North adapting in this way? Would you try pottery at home? Let us know in the comments.