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  • Interviews and Storytelling: John Hudson

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    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    This is Tony Wright, it’s the 28th of June 2012 and I’m talking to John Hudson, and can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

     

    JOHN HUDSON:

    Yes my name is John Michael Hudson; I was born in……born in Moorlands Maternity Home in Dewsbury in 1946, May the 3rd and then lived in Ravensthorpe, down Victoria Street until 1957 then we came to live here, up Shill Bank Lane in Mirfield which is now Westfield Nurseries.

     

    TW:

    Right. So when you were young, what kind of…..did you have lots of siblings…..or what did your parents do?

     

    JH:

    I have two brothers; one is three years younger than myself and the other one is seven and a half years younger

     

    TW:

    Right.

     

    JH:

    We had a pig farm in Ravensthorpe

     

    TW:

    I see

     

    JH:

    At the end of Sackville Street, my grandfather had been a coal miner until 1926 when he came out of the coal, the pit, and started this business which my brothers now run here – A C Hudson and Sons – they’re gardeners, nurserymen.

     

    TW:

    Right I see, okay. So, are you the only one in the family that does ceramics then?

     

    JH:

    That’s true, yeah.

     

    TW:

    How did you originally get into ceramics?

     

    JH:

    In 1965 I went to teachers’ training college in Cheltenham, in Gloucestershire and I originally went to do art - fine art, and geography – but I changed my mind when I got there like a lot of students do, and did ceramics and fine art and graphics, but the ceramics…..took hold; once bitten forever smitten

     

    TW:

    What was the thing that enticed you into that then, why did you love it so much?

     

    JH:

    Well I just thought it would be a good idea; I’d seen the pottery and seen things that they were doing and I’d always wanted to throw; if you remember the…..people might not remember….a lot of younger people…..but on television in the 1950’s there used to be an interlude, and when they did live plays on the BBC, there was a chap throwing pots and everybody, everybody, was fascinated by the way things happened and I can demonstrate to people now, and it would make idiots intelligent, it would make surly children happy, and….it’s just an amazing thing, you see you’ve got an amorphous lump which you spin on a potter’s wheel and then by……..delf…I nearly said Delft…..a Freudian slip…..deft manipulation you create something out of this amorphous lump, and people just…….are amazed, and I can sit and watch people throwing for hours on end; it’s just an amazing thing.

     

    TW:

    So, do you like churn out loads of cups or do you do kind of more intricate sort of shapes?

     

    JH:

    Well I do all sorts of things……I’m just doing some things now which are behind you, which are reproductions for…..some private orders…..and I do things….I do all sorts – floor tiles, roof tiles, ridge tiles, reproduction….

     

    TW:

    Reproductions of what?

     

    JH:

    Whatever people ask; there’s a piece of seventeenth Century Staffordshire Slipware there, and up there behind me is some fourteenth Century French jugs and more Staffordshire Slipware there, and then there’s some Delftware there, then I can do……my own designs; up there are some large jugs with are going to be…..have sgraffito designs on them; one illustrating Shakespeare’s poem Winter ‘when icicles hang by the wall and Dick the shepherd blows his nail’ and then there’s one to do with The Green Man, the spirit of springtime, and another one for somebody else…..Kings and Queens; now I’m not a Royalist I’m a Republican, but I said I would do it for him, and I’m gonna put on the Royal coat of arms and probably Elizabeth I then George III , Victoria and the present one, the present incumbent of that post, because they’ve all been fifty or sixty years from the go, as it were.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay. So you’ve been doing pottery all that time

     

    JH:

    No I started….I started….ceramics at summer term 1966 so I’d be nineteen, and then I taught for five…..I left college in 1968 and got a job at St John Fisher School in Dewsbury where I taught for five years and became Head of the Art Department there, and then left in 1973; looking round the art room and seeing my work on the wall done by the children….and I…..had a wheel here and a kiln here ever since I left college; I decided to make a go of it. Now I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve had a lot of support from my family, and I’ve never had to pay any rent which is a great thing, but….and then there’s a shed up the yard which is now collapsed - it had been a chicken house - I worked in there for a short while and then my brother and I, he mostly built this place that we’re in now and I’ve been in here since 1977.

     

    TW:

    Right I see. Now you were somehow connected with Soil Hill Pottery as well weren’t you?

     

    JH:

    Not really connected. I…..I’d always admired, ever since I found out about Isaac Button I’d admired his work because I don’ t know if you’ve seen the video about Isaac Button

     

    TW:

    I have, yes

     

    JH:

    He worked at that pottery on his own and he brought up a family; his wife died…..when the children were very young and he brought up a family, and he’s……just an amazing potter; he could through a ton of clay in a day, and this isn’t clay that you buy in; he dug it, processed it himself, washed it, sieved it, dried it out, pulled it through the pug mill which is like a big sausage machine, and extruder, and then he made enormous pots - a tremendous thrower – and he thought nothing of sitting down and making two thousand pots in one go. These were…..plugs for carboys, you know, the big acid carboys. Now if I have to make more than two hundred I’ve had enough

     

    TW:

    Right

     

    JH:

    So I do lots of variable things…..a great variation of pieces

     

    TW:

    Is that because it’s more interesting then?

     

    JH:

    Yes, I mean I have a book there with……the types of pottery….there must be about fifteen hundred different items in there, but old with weights and then sizes; now I still work to imperial measurements, I can’t do with the metric system; it’s meaningless to me you know, five hundred millimetres, well….bloody hell, how big’s that? I don’t even know now….is it….it’s nearly two…..fifty centimetres…..is it nearly…..I don’t know….whatever it is…..one foot ten

     

    TW:

    Is it about two centimetres to an inch, something like that

     

    JH:

    Yes it’s about one foot nine, one foot ten, I don’t know….and we still use avoirdupois weights – pounds and ounces – to weigh everything out

     

    TW:

    So do you actually weigh all your clay out?

     

    JH:

    Yes; usually if I’m doing repetitive throwing you need to do that; on the wall over there is a pug mill; now when the clay comes out of there each slug or pug of clay, which is like a long sausage, weighs ten pounds so if I want five pounds of clay I just break it, well cut it in half and get five pounds of clay. The clay that I use, which I use, is the same as Isaac Button. It’s the Yorkshire, West Yorkshire coal measures clay known as Toft Tom, and in fact out there, I know you’ve interviewed Mick Wilkinson, there’s some clay out there which he brought me from Soil Hill, but I’ve got some more clay which came from High Hoyland, you’ve to be careful how you say that, High Hoyland [‘posh voice’], or with me would be ‘igh ‘oyland [laughing] and it’s….it’s really good clay but it has one or two little deficiencies; now with a bit of judicious mixing, you can mix it with some other Soil Hill clay and you get a really good clay for throwing, and it gives a good glaze response, and the glaze doesn’t craze; it’s excellent stuff.

     

    TW:

    So do you do earthenware or stoneware or both?

     

    JH:

    I do mostly earthenware, so I do……in November I always do a salt glazed stoneware firing, just one; this is for re-enactors making things like Bellarmines or various Germanic stoneware, but the rest of the stuff is…..is earthenware; we do as I say Slipware, Delftware, traditional Yorkshire pottery, and whatever people ask; as I’ve just said there’s some French stuff behind me there.

     

    TW:

    So did you actually ever work at Soil Hill pottery?

     

    JH:

    No, no , no; by the time I really found out about….we knew there was a pottery at Halifax. Now in the fifties…the world’s a small place now; it’s a village, but in the fifties, from Ravensthorpe where I lived to Halifax were a three days’ journey almost. If you set off in a morning if nobody had a car; we had a car, but they wouldn’t take us anywhere because they were too busy running this farm, but if you went on the bus it took you half a day to get up to Soil Hill. Now as I said I didn’t know about Isaac Button until…..the late sixties, by which time unfortunately he’d died, and I eventually did go and catch the bus…..several years later to get up to Soil Hill; it took about three hours to get up there by bus because I can’t drive, and I went and had a look round and took a lot of photographs but it’s….it’s in a terrible state….you know…..it’s really a crime what they’ve let happen to it…..although we have taken various groups of archaeologists up to have a look at the kiln, because they found a…..a kiln at Leeds near the tank factory near Barnbow……an eighteenth century kiln, about 1730, 1740 which is the same size and the same type as Isaac Button’s kiln and they didn’t know – all they found was the….the plan as it were of this kiln, the foundations – so I took them up to show them what the….the kiln….what it would look like; it’s an enormous thing, the thing that Button had; it held tons of clay, tons of pots. I’ve got this small……electric kiln there which holds about two to two and a half hundredweight of pots and then this stoneware kiln holds three hundredweight, and I’ve a big oil fired kiln out there which will hold fifteen hundredweight to a ton of pots, but the electric kiln is the one I use all the time, so I didn’t, as I’ve said, I didn’t know about Isaac Button until unfortunately he’d died, but then you look at the video, the film that Robert Fournier made, I think he made that about 1964

     

    TW:

    About then yeah

     

    JH:

    And then Isaac Button would have put commentary on; it’s silent, but he died in ’68; he wasn’t very old, he was only 68 years old, but in the house up there I’ve got some of Button’s pots which are….quite dear to me really I suppose…I mean my other great potting hero, I’ve just got two; Button and Thomas Toft, the seventeenth century Staffordshire potter

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    JH:

    Whose work I imitated on that…..on the table over there.

     

    TW:

    Right. So the other people like Bernard Leach and Cardew and those sorts of

     

    JH:

    Oh they have their place yeah, but I mean Leach did…..he….basically founded the modern studio pottery tradition - well it isn’t a tradition – studio pottery trend, but Cardew went back to Winchcombe Pottery; he bought it. It had been closed down; now we all used to go up there as students because it’s very close to Cheltenham, and he got that going again and they made the old……Gloucestershire Slipware and they used local clay, and there was a lad who worked there called Sidney Tustin, now he was a good potter; he’s a really good potter and I’ve met him, and then Ray Finch took it over I think in the fifties; he bought it from Cardew and he only died earlier on this year; he’d be ninety…….I think about ninety-seven years old , and he’d been……he’d been working right up till….I’ve met him a couple of times and his son, but he’s met so many people he wouldn’t remember who the bloody hell I was, but….we wen…..in 1965 we had a reunion, no, no, no, not 1965 – 2005; it was forty years since we’d started college and we had a reunion and I called in at Winchcombe Pottery to see…..to have a look because they produce stoneware and the lad who worked there……what’s his name…..when you get to sixty it all goes you know……Eddy Hopkins; he’d worked there most of his….he’d worked there for years, and I got talking to him; I’d had a word with Ray Finch, he was having a coffee with somebody else; I didn’t interrupt, then….I spoke to Eddy Hopkins for about an hour or so, and gave him my card because his son had come to Huddersfield University and I said ‘well….you know, if you ever come up, come and see me’ anyway, unfortunately a couple of years later they had bad flooding down in….do you remember those bad floods in Gloucestershire

     

    TW:

    Yes

     

    JH:

    He was swept away; he didn’t drown but he ingested a load of sewage…..and unfortunately it killed him, and he….he’s died as well; it’s really sad is that…..very good thrower, a good potter………..

     

    TW:

    Right…..okay……so .the clay; you say you’ve got some Soil Hill clay…..do you normally….is that what you normally use?

     

    JH:

    Well……when I started here……in 1973 I was gonna do studio Japanese stoneware like everybody else….but we had a fall out, the pater and myself, and we hadn’t spoken to each other for about three weeks and they’d been digging clay in these fields here and they said ‘is this any good for thee?’ and they brought this clay which were absolutely superb……so I thought ‘right that’s it’ because I’d already decided to go back to making local wares, so I started using that, now that would be about ’74; I’d had a year messing about…..about ’74, and I used to get the clay out of the fields here, then my brother built a house across….I’ve to keep pointing the railway line, what was the railway line, and there were about forty or fifty tons came out of there, well I used that for long enough……and then…….when that ran out I got…..what did I do…..I had…..yeah that lasted rather a long time - there were probably more than fifty tons – then I got seventy tons from….Birstall; the same sort of stuff, and then Mick Wilkinson; I told him I wanted some clay and he brought some, and there were about five or six tons, well I used….he brought sixteen tons which were a really weird clay - threw well but crazed like mad – and then he brought some Soil Hill stuff which was really good and didn’t craze as much, but then I got this stuff from High Hoyland which is very similar to the stuff out of the field and that doesn’t craze, and there’s about twenty tons out there……and it’s a very simple process because you mix clay and water together to form slip then it’s sieved into a drying bed which is outside; that’s dried off; there’s a kiln burner goes under there and that dries the clay out which is ready….it’s ready to come out now and then it goes through the pug mill there in the corner, and it’s ready to use, and it’s excellent clay

     

    TW:

    Right. What kind of glazes do you use then?

     

    JH:

    Well I use…..what they call fritted lead glazes

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    JH:

    The only person that lifts from me is me

     

    TW:

    So the fact that it’s got lead in it

     

    JH:

    It’s……it’s fritted…..they used to use galena which is blue lead, red lead, yellow lead and white lead for glazes, now they’re absolutely deadly. Of….of them all…..galena the blue lead is the safest; now Button used that for years, and if you have to observe a few rules you’re okay, but…..if you put acidic things into it, it tends to…..absorb lead into acidic things but the modern glazes - and I’ve had them all tested - they don’t….they don’t at all, and as far as safety for me, they……from what I understand….each molecule of….lead bisilicate is coated with alumina; how the hell they do it I don’t know, but if you absorb it into your body you just get rid of it in the normal ways

     

    TW:

    Right

     

    JH:

    At one time we used to go for lead testing and they were always quite low, but now Dewsbury hospital said ‘we’ve never done lead testing for years at Dewsbury hospital’ so I haven’t been for some time……perhaps the forgetting is a side of the lead poisoning, I don’t know [laughing]…..I think it’s just old age.

     

    TW:

    Right……right….okay……so do you know about the other potteries, because Soil Hill……above Halifax……there were other around there

     

    JH:

    There were loads yeah, I mean the biggest potting centre is Wrenthorpe at Wakefield, and that started…..in the late fifteenth century, probably earlier than that because there are potters mentioned in the thirteenth century at Wrenthorpe, and that was a big potting commune, now potters were a nuisance to say the least; they dug holes everywhere and didn’t fill ‘em in, they set fire to people’s houses with their kilns, and so they were banished to the outwoods, and they worked there; good clay, good supplies of wood, and eventually coal, and then……you get potters at Halifax, Huddersfield…..and at Castleford; Cloak is at Castleford, and there’s the Mortons at Salendine Nook; they went there in the seventeen hundreds, they were Scottish Baptists. Now they fled to Huddersfield, can you imagine that, fleeing to Huddersfield; everybody flees from Huddersfield [laughing]…..it’s only a joke, it’s only a joke…….and they started this pottery up at Salendine Nook, and Harold Morton was the last of the potters, I met him; a really nice old lad, and not long after that he died, but the…..pottery’s still there but it’s been converted into flats now, and the whole little square where it is is called Pottery Close, up at Salendine Nook. Then there were……then there were lots of other potteries at…..in Halifax; Nicholas Taylor had one not far from Soil Hill; he’d worked at Soil Hill and he’d worked at Littlethorpe Pottery at Ripon……and oh I don’t know…..the Halifax…… Councillor……the name will come to me……they had…..they had a pottery…..there’s a whole group of potteries around Soil Hill where the best of the clays are.

     

    TW:

    Right……well I spoke with Mick, who lives on Soil Hill, and he said that they’d found a Roman tile, they thought

     

    JH:

    Yes, I’ve got it

     

    TW:

    Oh have you got it?

     

    JH:

    Yeah, it’s in the house.

     

    TW:

    Do you think there might have been any Roman pottery up there?

     

    JH:

    Well there’s a Roman camp up there, so there would have been…..there’ll be Roman pottery somewhere; whether there’s…..there’s a Roman kiln at……at the side of the M62……what do they call the wood….it’ll come to me again will that…..and they made tiles there, for the Roman camp; there’s a golf course by the M62, just by Ainley Top, and the fort is actually part of…..the golf course; it’s on the golf course and part under the motorway, and then the Vicus, the settlement, is under the motorway as well, and they found lots of lots of Roman ceramics there, from……what is it……something wood [Grimescar?-editor] where the kiln is; on a normal day I’d be able to tell up straight away. When you’ve gone it’ll come back

     

    TW:

    Yeah sure thing, I get that myself

     

    JH:

    Well the thing that Mick Wilkinson found is a drainage tile

     

    TW:

    Oh is that what it is?

     

     

    JH:

    A drainpipe, yes. And I’ve got some replicas outside of this….

     

    TW:

    Oh well maybe we’ll take a photograph of those

     

    JH:

    Yeah, and there’s some…..Roman…..tegulae and imbrexes which, imbreces should I say, which they used on the roofs, but somewhere up there there’ll be lots of pottery as well, and Mick says sometimes from their house if it snows, you can see the little Roman fort, just a temporary fort, you can see where it was in the snow.

     

    TW:

    Yeah…..it makes me think that if the Romans decided to do it there, it was probably going on before they came.

     

    JH:

    Oh they’ve been….they’ve been digging clay around here and making it into pots for thousands of years; the Romans at Castleford, they had a huge industry, ceramics industry there; they made these spoon bowls

     

    TW:

    Oh yes

     

    JH:

    From fire clay from Castleford, and they’re found nowhere else in the Roman Empire except at Lagentium which is Castleford [laughing]

     

    TW:

    What, are they moulds

     

    JH:

    They’re moulds for casting

     

    TW:

    For spoons, ceramic spoons

     

    JH:

    No no, for casting metal spoons

     

    TW:

    Oh I see, metal spoons out of the clay moulds, right…..I see. Because there was a lot of Roman….from here onwards really, because I suppose it was where the main roads were, so you’d want to situate them close to the big roads really, like the A1 going up north and south

     

    JH:

    Well the roads there are coming from….Ilkley, Olicana, across to Mamucium which is Manchester, but it goes across the Pennines, and it goes past the motorway service station, and they know where the roads are; they’ve dug on the road, then it goes to Manchester.

     

    TW:

    Right…..right……so I’m just thinking; this……chap called Toft from the seventeenth century who you were quite enamoured with…..tell me a bit about him then…….

     

    JH:

    Well Thomas Toft, there isn’t a great deal…..all about him are his wares…..

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    JH:

    There seems to be a…. a Parish register of him being born in 1640 and dying in 1689…..at the age of…..by the time he was my age he’d been dead for twenty years, as they used to say……and they’re not sure whether he lived in Burslem or whether he lived in Hanley, what is now Hanley…..and then when he got older I think he moved into Shropshire, but he produced these enormous charges with criss-cross patterns round the rim, and…..Royal Coat of Arms…..the Pelican in her Piety, the Royal Lion, blah blah blah, and there’s forty-eight of his dishes extant; now if you don’t remember, I don’t know if you remember, there’s some owls up there; can you see those owls?

     

    TW:

    I see those owls, yes.

     

    JH:

    Well the one that they had on the Antiques Roadshow is……well I can say, it’s by Thomas Toft, and there’s some more up there….I had one brought from Phillips Auctioneers in Chester….not like that, but with the line drawing on it of an owl and it’s the same drawing as on Thomas Toft’s dishes, and so you can just put the two together and…..they are Toft’s, who can tell by the throwing…..but there are other owl jugs which aren’t by Thomas Toft but they’re…..they’re very good but Toft had a very…….distinctive way of slip

     

    TW:

    So was it the decoration then that really impressed you or his shapes, or

     

    JH:

    Just the whole….everything he does because there were other Slipware potters producing dishes; his brother Ralph were one; the Simpsons and the Taylors, they produced these things but his drawing is just miles better than everybody else and the dishes, they are twenty-two inches in diameter. Now they shrink about eleven per cent, so they must have been over two foot in diameter and it’s hard enough making ‘em on an electric wheel, but these are made on a kick wheel, not with a kick bar like you see now but with a huge fly wheel which you kick yourself; now to make a thing like that requires tremendous torque in the weight of the fly wheel, plus somebody else at the other side giving it an occasional kick while he’s……while he’s making the pot; but his throwing’s excellent.

     

    TW:

    Right…..right. I saw at Mick’s house these……things, I think they’re called……they’re called puzzle jugs

     

    JH:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    What can you tell me about those then?

     

    JH:

    Well……puzzle jugs, they go back to Medieval times; it’s a drinking game.

     

    TW:

    Right.

     

    JH:

    And they became really popular in the nineteenth and…….nineteenth century….eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century, and……I have some of Isaac Button’s in the house, in t’house, in t’house, and…….you fill the pot with whatever liquid you want, usually beer, and there’s a little rhyme on which says ‘within this jug there is good liquor fit for a parson and for a vicar, but how to drink and not to spill will try……will try the utmost of your skill’ and that’s just one of them. There’s a load of rhymes……and the handle’s hollow and the rim’s hollow, and there’s several spouts, and you can block all the spouts up and then suck up the liquid out of one of them, but usually there’s some more holes under the handle and elsewhere, so you……sometimes you can’t do it without the help of somebody else; you need about ten, twenty fingers to do it [laughing], but the ones I make have just got three spouts and because it takes ages to write these things on, it just says ‘it’s a puzzle but good when tha gets it’

     

    TW:

    Right, right…..why do you think they were invented then? Just as a kind of…..as a joke thing or a gamble or

     

    JH:

    Well just as a joke, just for….to get people to get…..make ‘em get drunk. There are two sets of jolly boys which are cups fastened together and you fill them full of…usually some spirituous liquor; brandy or whisky of gin or whatever, and there’ll be three cups fastened together; four cups; as many as ten cups fastened together and you’ve got to drink very carefully, and they’re all interconnected, and every time you stop for a breath you have it filled up again; well in no time at all you’re absolutely ratted, and they’re called jolly boys because suddenly we’re all jolly boys! And I’m sure that’s what……and these other puzzle jugs are various types besides the one with…..the multi spouted. There’s things which……..I can’t describe ‘em because you need a picture to show what they are, but there’s all sorts of stuff; very clever, very clever.

     

    TW:

    Right, and that was all what…..Medieval?

     

    JH:

    Well they start about then, because when you look at it, clay……there were a chap called…….what is it…….there’s a kid with t’same name…….what do they call him…..they had the pottery at Eccleshill at Bradford, and……this is bad…….he said they produced pipes and all sorts of things……Whiteheads Pottery at Eccleshill……and he said ‘tha knows, if it can be made out of owt it can be made out of clay’ and he had chairs and tables in his house, and a whole bannister, set of bannisters, and he left the house to Bradford City Council and it’s a museum; and then he used to make……..mock wooden furniture out of salt glazed stoneware; garden chairs and things like that which were…….looked like they were made out of logs……a piece of tree trunk and things

     

    TW:

    How strong were they because you couldn’t sit on one?

     

    JH:

    Yeah absolutely; they were stronger than wood.

     

    TW:

    Really?

     

    JH:

    Yeah, I mean they didn’t rot away…..because my brother, they had an old lass live next door to him and there were one in her garden and……

     

    TW:

    It’s incredibly difficult, almost impossible isn’t it, to fire solid clay; you have to sort of…….

     

    JH:

    No no, these……these have got legs about that thick

     

    TW:

    Really?

     

    JH:

    Yeah and if you fire it properly you can do it, I mean they were making…..pig troughs which are about six or seven foot long, two foot high and two foot wide, and I mean it takes about fifteen men - that’s an exaggeration – to put ‘em into the kiln, and you look at the…..I’ll have to say this – piss stones in pubs……Hartley Greens, the Halifax firm, and I go into pubs now and if I go into one of the stalls in the toilets, and you look at the size of them, and they’re wonderful……and they didn’t think anything about doing those, and people pee against ‘em and never think any more, but they…….they’re just amazing pieces of ceramic, and if you go down to…….the museum in Stoke-on-Trent and look at some of the industrial ceramics there; they’re unbelievable……and nobody thought anything about doing them; they just made them, and people see them and they don’t think anything about it, it’s like looking at glass; if you don’t know how hard it is to make glass……baking bowls; there’s a baking bowl there, and these people who made them, they just made them day in day out, and never thought anything about it……it’s like….if you haven’t done it you don’t understand.

     

    TW:

    Yes……so do you think it’s……in this day and age, is there a young generation of people becoming potters?

     

    JH:

    Well….I shouldn’t say this, but the people who buggar about with clay, the potters…..there are people who are very good, very clever and make nice things, but I do wish they would dig their own clay and process it, then they’d understand more; they go on about firing pots with wood, well that’s neither here nor there; it’s the clay that’s the important thing – understanding that – and the wood that they use is broken pallets; they don’t go down into the woods like they used to do and cut down different sorts of wood for different parts of the firing; they’ve no idea.

     

    TW:

    I did that in…..I went to art school; I finished in ’74 and in ’75 one of my friends who had finished with me, his girlfriend was still, she was a ceramicist/potter and so we did; they lived in Wales and in the middle of a forestry that was only youngly planted, and they had these deep ditches, drainage ditches, to keep the trees okay, and you could see all they clay; you could see whole levels of clay, so we dug out own clay out of these ditches, walked along the roads collecting old bits of brick and stone and everything, and made a base for it….processed the clay, made a saggar inside it and we made our own pots out of that clay, and then made our own…..with borax and various things, made our own little glazes and had a firing, and we cut…..it took us three days with five of us to cut enough wood for it to last for twenty-four hours

     

    JH:

    That’s right, yeah

     

    TW:

    And you do really learn about it

     

    JH:

    Yeah you do, and it eats bloody wood does……wood fired kilns, so when you look at these people….I think in Medieval times they were wood fired kilns, and piles of piles, tons of wood, as well as tons of clay, and in northern Europe especially, in northern Europe especially, the potting season only lasts from……we usually say Lady Day which is the 25th of March to Michaelmas

     

    TW:

    The 29th of September

     

    JH:

    Yeah the beginning of October, because t’weather’s too bad then; it’s too cold and too wet, but this summer isn’t doing me any good; I’ve had to light t’fires to dry everything out; it’s…..normally you can just bung things outside and away you go, whereas in southern Europe, in warmer climes, you just pot all year round, when here it’s a different matter….my you in this place in winter I get the pot belly stove going in t’corner and I might put things up there to dry, and sit down for a minute or two, then an hour or so later I’ll waken up [laughing]……

     

    TW:

    I can imagine it gets very warm in here

     

    JH:

    Yeah…..

     

    TW:

    Right……I’m just…….a question ran through……right….it’s to do with…..my brain’s gone dead all of a sudden

     

    JH:

    Yeah well it’s me, it’s osmosis you see!

     

    TW:

    I’m just trying to think of……oh I’ll have to stop it for a second; I’ll just turn that off for a minute………………………………….

    That’s it……the question was about…..again, it was about young people who you seem…..they have this thing; they call themselves ceramitists

     

    JH:

    Ceramicists

     

    TW:

    Yeah that’s the word, as opposed to potters and throwers……but do you know of any young potters at all? Any people who throw any more?

     

    JH:

    Well….no I don’t, I don’t have much to do with the potting fraternity, but a lad I knew at Mytholmroyd, David White, who unfortunately died last year

     

    TW:

    Oh I knew David

     

    JH:

    Well he had a young girl working with him, a Japanese girl, and as far as I know she’s taken the pottery on; she’s running it again, so she’s only young person I know, but I know one or two other people who come to me from art college every now and again to ask questions, now what happens to them after they’ve left here I don’t know, but the……you know the way art’s gone now, it’s all this…..what’s it…..conceptual art….

     

    TW:

    Well recently on television they had that chap…..is it…..Grayson Perry…..is that his name…..he made a load of big ceramic things with designs on them and all that, which I don’t suppose is what you would call a potter

     

    JH:

    No he isn’t

     

    TW:

    But at least he’s using clay as part of his art

     

    JH:

    Yeah he makes large coil pots. As he said he’s only got one glaze……mind you somebody said ‘well why do you do it?’ and he started coming out with this high blown philosophy, he said ‘well it buys me more dresses’ [laughing] which is honest enough isn’t it?

     

    TW:

    Yeah, fair enough…..one of the things about Isaac Button is that they were saying his family, back in the beginning of the twentieth century, which was around the same time as Leach and all them, they re-invigorated the….the British……I suppose…..pottery scene I suppose is the phrase to use…….do you think that’s all kind of died out now and do you think it needs a bit more life going into it now?

     

    JH:

    Well…….no, the country potteries nationwide had not died out, they were still going strong; it’s after the Second World War, a lot of these lads weren’t gonna do all that lot for peanuts like they had done before, but Button…..and there were others, Reg Harris down at Farnham in Surrey and people down in Devon, they weren’t short of markets, they were just sort of somebody to do it; people wouldn’t do the hard work any more…..so they’d kept it going; they didn’t make it more popular, they still kept it going. Now when I started this and I thought ‘well I’ll keep this tradition going again’ – it wasn’t some sort of altruistic thing, I just thought it might be a good idea, and so I’ve been doing that and…..I also belong to The Medieval Pottery Research Group - we’ve just come back from the Isle of Man - we had the Annual Conference, and somebody spoke about the potteries at Buckley in north Wales. Now a family called the Catherills left north Wales and came to Halifax and they started Soil Hill Pottery, and then the Buttons took it over; they were from Dewsbury Moor…..and Button that worked with his brother, their George, there were him and George worked, and George left and Isaac had it to himself……so, the tradition died out, not because of lack of markets, because Harold Morton, when I went to see him in the 1990’s, he was still making a few pots and selling them….it’s just that there were nobody wanted to do it like that any more.

     

    TW:

    Do you think that was because of……I mean because there’s plenty of mugs in the shops but they’re all made from moulds aren’t they……to produce millions at a time I suppose, or plastic even, or is it just a mind set of not wanting to do that kind of work?

     

    JH:

    They…..people do make mugs nowadays and they’re very nice, but the country potteries…..it’s hard work digging your own clay, and they had this tradition of not having much money. You see Button would be making these enormous pantions, baking bowls; it takes two stone of clay, twenty-eight pounds of clay, fourteen kilos of clay to make one of these things, and he’d be getting……fifteen bob, or seventy-five pence for them; even…..I went to see George Curtis at Littlethorpe at Ripon in 1976 and he said ‘look at this’ he says ‘thou can get twenty-five pence for one of these’ and it were a little……little candlestick, well I thought ‘bloody hell, I’d be charging thirty’….well now I can charge a lot of money; I’ve just sold a pot for an enormous amount of money – one pot for an enormous amount of money – but I’m still……with me breeches arse hanging out as they say; I don’t make all that much money, but I don’t care…..I don’t care, as long as I can keep doing this; I absolutely love it, and when we go to The Medieval Pottery Research and they’re all these archaeologists and I’ve been telling them all weekend, these people were in love with what they were doing, and you can see it in their work, you can see what they’ve done…..as I’ve said right at the outset, once bitten forever smitten. When you can do it, it’s…well it’s not every day I can do it because some days terrible mistakes occur and I can’t throw, and I think ‘oh hell’……give up for an hour and then come back to it…….but it doesn’t matter what hours you work; some mornings you’re up at six and some mornings you get up at nine; I might have slept in, but you work every day of t’week

     

    TW:

    So is it like a vocation then, would you call it…..or what?

     

    JH:

    Well you could call it a vocation; it’s something that…….that you are I suppose, you are

     

    TW:

    It’s a word that’s gone out of fashion isn’t it, that? Because you watch….well I don’t really watch them, but I do…..am aware that they exist, some of these……like ‘Have You Got Talent’ and all of these sort of ‘X Factor’ kind of things on TV, where people – younger people – seem to want to have instant fame and success

     

    JH:

    Well that’s right but you’ve got to work at it.

     

    TW:

    And it seems to……you know, society at large seems to have that kind of attitude; they want it all to be quick and easy rather than start slow and build it up over a whole of decades really

     

    JH:

    Well it’s taken me…..it’s taken me nearly forty years to get where I am but you’ve made all the mistakes and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I used to do a bit of stand up comicking

     

    TW:

    Oh really?

     

    JH:

    And……which I enjoyed very much but I wouldn’t want to do it every day because some days you don’t feel like doing it, then when you look at people like Conneoly and Peter Kaye and et al, they’ve worked at it; they didn’t achieve overnight success, and……there was a programme called, on television, which I appeared in; Ceramics, a Fragile History, and they asked me a question about…..pottery, and I said ‘oh well I don’t like things’…..Wedgwood and all that sort of thing…..it’s beautiful and it’s perfect, it’s excellent, there’s no two ways about it, but I’d rather have things like the Medieval potters made, and Isaac Button made, and Thomas Toft made, and I said ‘Wedgwood is like the Mona Lisa, with a silly smile on her face’, whereas Thomas Toft, Isaac Button’s way, the country pottery tradition, and Medieval pottery, it’s Peter Kaye and Billy Connolly, you know, Mike Harding…….that sort of thing; it’s……it makes you laugh……well it does me.

     

    TW:

    When I was at Mick’s I saw one of your like big jugs which are a very golden colour

     

    JH:

    Yes, harvest jugs

     

    TW:

    That’s right. They’re absolutely beautiful really. How long does it take to decorate something like that, because the detail on it was fabulous…

     

    JH:

    Well those would probably…..I’ve got three to do for the end of July; that’s gonna take me all of July to do those. I’ve one in the house which took me five and a half days to do

     

    TW:

    Just the decoration?

     

    JH:

    Just the decoration. It’s called sgraffito; you scratch through that……white slip and so the brown body is exposed underneath and then when you put the glaze on it, it’s yellow with this brown…….drawing.

     

    TW:

    Right. They’re wonderful, wonderful pots those are.

     

    JH:

    Well it’s a Devon tradition is that. There’s a lad down in Devon now called Harry Juniper who’s been doing ‘em for years……and a couple of others; there’s……Doug Fitch, he makes them; there’s one or two, but they’re down…..Doug Fitch is from Manchester and Harry Juniper’s originally from London but he moved down into Cornwall/Devon during the war and he stayed…..and his pots…..he can get good prices for his……mind you I can get good prices for them…..but then you can’t be making them every day of t’week; it drains your……..your mental capacity

     

    TW:

    So you’ve never thought of doing transfers or anything like that?

     

    JH:

    No.

     

    TW:

    I’m just curious.

     

    JH:

    No no…..it’s all hand drawn….Grayson Perry sticks his transfers on.

     

    TW:

    Well no, I just…..I was just wondering whether….if you’ve got a knack of drawing, you can do repeats you see, that’s the thing. You could do a transfer; do a drawing and then make multiple transfers of it, so instead of spending like all the time doing it, just transfer

     

    JH:

    No no no

     

    TW:

    I’m just trying to

     

    JH:

    Oh no I couldn’t do that.

     

    TW:

    Just trying to stir it up! [laughing]

     

    JH:

    Bloody hell no. I couldn’t do that; I’ve got to……it’s like watching David Hockney drawing with a computer; I don’t know how he can do that because I like to feel the pen in my hand, or the clay in my hand, and feel what you’re doing. It’s…..it’s a palpable, tactile thing….I’m no good on a computer; my partner Christine does all that sort of thing and I just swear at it, and I can…..I can get my e-mails and reply; it might take twenty minutes to write a letter like that……no this is…….when you’re drawing as well, you know, you put your pen on a paper and you can feel it. When you’re doing a……I’ve watched him doing this thing on an iPad and he seems to think it were wonderful which is fair enough, but at least he does all his own work, not like that chump Hirst …

     

    TW:

    Yes he has an army of people doing his work. But that’s a tradition that goes back to Renaissance times

     

    JH:

    I know, but they…..they could paint and draw, I mean he should not be bracketed with…….what they call the plastic artists….Van Gogh et al; he should be bracketed with people like Val Parnell and…..you know……Barnum & Bailey; he’s a showman. You don’t have to take that out; you can leave that in.

     

    TW:

    Okay, I will, okay. I’m just thinking now……is there anything that I haven’t asked about you know…..pottery of the history of pottery that you might like to talk about?

     

    JH:

    I don’t know really

     

    TW:

    That I haven’t mentioned?

     

    JH:

    We seem to have…….mind you we could talk about this till the cows come home, but I’ve been doing it what…..forty-six years so there’s a lot I can tell you; I can talk about pots until this time next year.

     

    TW:

    Right…..right. I know you said earlier that you weren’t really that interested in making….I mean obviously you want to make money but it was never your prime reason for doing it. Now, after all these years, you know, you can do those kind of harvest things and get a lot of money for the, or as reproductions and get presumably quite a bit of money for them, so do you just do commissions now or do you actually make things for your….for your own self, just

     

    JH:

    Well it’s mostly working to order, commissions, but that lot up there…..there’s rather more than that, there’s a load of stuff here as well…..to go for that, that is just for me and they’re made on spec…..whether they’ll sell or not I don’t know because I get….when I first started doing this I felt guilty for taking money, for doing something which I enjoyed doing; it’s a bit like horning you know, and…..but you have to…..to live, so you know, put a big price on those things and if they pay, they pay, I mean this one I’ve just sold, it were a lot of money.

     

    TW:

    Do you have…………like, you tried to sell the other stuff, the other stuff that you made, not commissions; do you have like a place that you sell them; are there shops or are there markets or anything? How do you go about it?

     

    JH:

    Well from time to time, as at the end of July, I’m going to this pop festival in the park and I’ll take a load of stuff there; if it doesn’t sell it doesn’t sell, and that’s an end of it……but what……what Christine my partner did say one day she says ‘well you know, if you suddenly can’t work and then heaven forbid that your stuff becomes collectible, and you can’t make any more, you….you’re gonna lose out and all these people who’ve bought it in the past for next to nowt are gonna make a fortune out of it’ so what I’m doing, I’m slowly salting away pieces just in case, I mean that’s very conceited, but I have…..I have pieces of stuff which…

     

    TW:

    Well that’s forward planning isn’t it?

     

    JH:

    Well yeah……but….both my father and brother died at sixty-eight and I can’t see myself going over much longer than that either

     

    TW:

    Well you never know these days, you know, with all the medical advances

     

    JH:

    Well I don’t know; I’m suffering very badly from….at the moment from sciatica, but that’s neither here nor there; that’s called getting old

     

    TW:

    Yeah….yeah, right, okay……right

     

    JH:

    Along with forgetting things like I’ve just demonstrated on this

     

    TW:

    Yes, well that comes to a lot of us, that does I think. It comes back a few minutes later

     

    JH:

    Oh yeah, it’s gone……although it hasn’t gone completely

     

    TW:

    Well it brings up a curious point that. If…..if you’ve started to forget things, the knowledge that you’ve gained over all these years, do you think you should get it dwn somewhere, like write it down or record it or

     

    JH:

    Yeah well people keep….I’ve made a video; it goes on for two hours

     

    TW:

    Oh right

     

    JH:

    And it really needs re-editing, and a sound track putting on it, a proper sound track, but writing things down….when I gave up, I mean as a student, I’d done that much writing, I still have a groove in my finger here, from writing

     

    TW:

    Oh right, really?

     

    JH:

    So twenty-two and I thought ‘that’s it, I’m doing no more bloody writing ever again’ and I do get asked to do reports and things like that, and I hate it, even though we’ve got this…..this computer programme that can speak and it’ll…..it’ll type for you

     

    TW:

    Does it work well that?

     

    JH:

    I don’t know……I don’t think it can understand my Yorkshire accent! So….but we’ve got one somewhere…..but occasionally I do reports; I’m also a member of the Leeds Symposium on Food History and I do a couple of papers for them, and for the Medieval Pottery Research Group and for the West Yorkshire Archaeological Services; reports on kilns and things

     

    TW:

    Right

     

    JH:

    That’s another thing; I wish they’d come to me when they’ve discovered a kiln, not, you know……three years later when it’s been reburied and just send me a load of photographs; you can’t….you can’t really tell anything from the photographs

     

    TW:

    You wanna be there on site really don’t you?

     

    JH:

    Well that one they did at…..at Lazencroft near Barnbow, we went down and looked at that, so I could see straight away….amazing pottery, amazing Slipware, and the things that they were doing, they were…..they were part of the…..the Sheffield Manor team, there’s a pottery there, and one at……Midhope; they were all…..they were all made together, but the potters had come up from Staffordshire, from Stoke; there was a Toft, a Malkin, and various other names and they’d all come to Leeds, because by 1730 the Slipware potteries were dying out and they moved away down south into Somerset and up here, and the factory…..the factory system had just started in Stoke, making really fine wares, but the idiots in the north and the south didn’t understand [laughing]

     

    TW:

    Right. There’s a huge tradition of…..of pottery from, you know, like China and Japan and even Africa and various places. Has any of that ever interested you at all…….have you nicked any ideas off them or anything like that?

     

    JH:

    Well no, I tend to like the…..it’s very nationalistic because it was the stuff from this country, but if you looked at Japanese pottery and looked at China there’s some tremendous stuff……look at the…..what’s it’s army, bloody hell, I wouldn’t have wanted to make that. Some of these wonderful African pieces….and these women make these enormous pots and put ‘em in a bonfire and just set fire to ‘em, well if I did that with my clay there’d be nothing left.

     

    TW:

    Hasn’t that got to do with the sort of

     

    JH:

    It’s the clay

     

    TW:

    Is it just the kind of clay? It’s not to do with the heat in that country?

     

    JH:

    No it’s the clay itself.

     

    TW:

    Right

     

    JH:

    It will stand that sort of thing; this won’t. You’ve to fire it fairly slowly and deliberately…… that’s what I do, but I’ll tell you where….we were in Cyprus in February…..and we were looking at some things three thousand years old, and they were unbelievable. This is pre-Attic ware, that’s the black stuff which is brilliant…..these are pre that…..and I just said to Christine ‘oh, when we get home I’m gonna give up’ – the stuff was just bloody unbelievable…..how the hell they….well I could see how they’d done it; there were pots there which were perfectly round, the body, with a neck on and a foot, and then concentric circles…..down the front and at the sides, all within one plane, you know, one centre….now to put that on a wheel and then kick it round and then put these concentric circles on…..oh, that was just one thing…..there were other stuff…………that……just….oh I hate to use a phrase like this….blew my mind, it was so

     

    TW:

    Do you think though, that it’s a skill that’s been lost?

     

    JH:

    No it hasn’t been lost at all, because if put to it I could do it, but these people….it isn’t…..they weren’t living in a situation like we are now, where your income tax…..have you paid your electricity bill…..they were…..they were…..they were living…..in more of a natural state, where they didn’t have to…..have it done for next week; they did it…..and they took a great pride in doing it and they felt good about doing it, and they loved it, and it’s there….it’s there; look at those Attic wares, the ones with the painting…..with the Olympic athletes, all that sort of thing

     

    TW:

    The black and red

     

    JH:

    The black and red, yeah. You look at that – bloody hell – some of the brushes must have had one hair

     

    TW:

    Yeah, it’s amazing stuff

     

    JH:

    It is unbelievable. I made some for the….for the British Museum, and I suddenly saw just how hard it was, and these are people using kick wheels and wood fired kilns. I learnt all sorts from that about how they’d done it as well; I spent hours at the British Museum with my face pressing up to…..up against the glass looking very carefully at these things to see how they’d done it, and I couldn’t do anything but just admire these people…..geniuses……I were sitting on their shoulders.

     

    TW:

    Right…….so what do you think the future of pottery is?

     

    JH:

    It’ll continue; the…..the studio pottery tradition will continue, probably get better. This sort of thing, when I go, it will go, but if anybody else wants to do it, it’s all there for them to find out; if they have as much fun as I have and enjoyment out of doing it, then good.

     

    TW:

    It will be a good life.

     

    JH:

    Yeah, well it is; I mean people come to me – I know a couple that started a pottery up at Thornton at Bradford - they’ve now moved to Keighley; I spent hours talking to them

     

    TW:

    Right

     

    JH:

    Hours talking to ‘em and I don’t mind telling ‘em what’s happened, it’s these buggars who think they know everything, and come up to you and say ‘oh……’ they’re full of it and they say ‘well how do you do that?’ and I say ‘well you’re a potter, you ought to know’…..when people come up and say ‘we’re having problems, could you’…….and they’re quite……what’s the word I’m looking for……quite nice about it……not being too….as we say round here, too brussen…..they…..these two are, and they’ve asked all sorts of questions and they’re getting better and better, and I wish them every success. It’s like Whitey, David White; look at the stuff he did

     

    TW:

    He was a very good potter, yes, he was very good. I lived on two streets to him; I did know him, yeah.

     

    JH:

    Well I got to…the first time I thought ‘what the bloody hell’s this?’…..we were at Halifax Show, at the Show yeah, and there he was in open toed sandals and looking like a refugee from wherever you know, the beatnik days…..then when I got to know him he were a really good lad; because he used to dig his own clay…..what a shame he had cancer and died; I didn’t know until

     

    TW:

    It happened in…..within like a fortnight

     

    JH:

    Very quickly yeah

     

    TW:

    He didn’t know at all and all of a sudden he was gone; it was a real shock.

     

    JH:

    Yeah, I went to the funeral. What a do that was…..what a do, I mean we arrived just as he did; he was in a big basket, and we all went up to this graveyard with torches….beginning of November……and stood on this hillside and then they sang songs, folk songs, gave a narration, and then this woman said ‘I’d like you to turn round with your backs to Hebden Bridge and look up into the sky’ and this almighty bloody firework display…….then afterwards we went down to…..back down to Mytholmroyd, to t’church hall, and there were a right bloody set to; there were a free bar and food, and great……great…..what a way to go….what a way to go; and they said they’d buried him with his dulcimer hammers in his pockets and holding one of his mugs……..

     

    TW:

    Well that’s….that’s the old tradition isn’t it, yes

     

    JH:

    Yeah, I’ll throw you in your kiln [laughing]

     

    TW:

    You could be cooked in your kiln [laughing]

     

    JH:

    Yeah, you’d have to just bend me up a bit but it might smell….

     

    TW:

    Oh well your ashes could go into one of your pots

     

    JH:

    Well I have made a pot with my name on but it isn’t big enough – they come back in a bigger vessel – and I had thought to leave a recipe, and have an ash glaze fired onto a big bowl and say ‘his last great fire’ on……

     

    TW:

    I do like that idea.

     

    JH:

    What, to be fired onto a pot?

     

    TW:

    Yeah

     

    JH:

    Yeah, I’m not sure yet…..what to do.

     

    TW:

    Yeah……right…..well I think this…..this will run out any minute now; about an hour’s worth, so I’d just like to say thank you very much

     

    JH:

    It’s a pleasure

     

    TW:

    That’s great

     

    JH:

    Thanks for listening, as I often say

     

    [END OF TRACK 1]

    Read more

  • Interviews and Storytelling: Anne & Tony Isseyegh

    [TRACK 1]

     

    TONY WRIGHT:

    Right. This is Tony Wright, it’s the 24th of July 2012 and I’m speaking with Anne and Tony Isseyegh in their home in Heptonstall. So, can you, both of you tell me your full names and where and when you were born?

     

    ANNE ISSEYEGH:

    Okay, shall I start? Anne Christina Isseyegh and I was born in Rustington, Sussex.

     

    TW:

    Do you have a maiden name?

     

    AI:

    Hughes.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay.

     

    TONY ISSEYEGH:

    I’m Anthony Isseyegh……and I was born in Egypt in 1951, and we came to live in London when I was eight……in 1959 and from London we moved to Heptonstall in 1984, and this is where I’m presently living.

     

    TW:

    Right. How did you meet Anne?

     

     

    AI:

    At college in London.

     

    TW:

    Ah, which college?

     

    AI:

    The Central.

     

    TW:

    Oh right. And what were you doing at college?

     

    AI:

    Fine Art

     

    TW:

    Right. Both of you?

     

    AI:

    Yes.

     

    TI:

    Yes. Well Anne studied Graphics before……..and that was her second course, but for me it was my first course, so I’m slightly younger than Anne and we met in…..early seventies…..and got married while still being students, so we’ve been together……thirty…..

     

    AI:

    Thirty-something!

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    It’ll be coming up to forty

     

    TI:

    Probably, yes….yes, thirty-seven years thank you Tony

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So…..I’m trying to think…..so you moved from Sussex up to Yorkshire

     

    AI:

    No, Sussex to London to work when I was nineteen and…..then London for sixteen years and then up here

     

    TW:

    Oh right…..well you came up in the early eighties then?

     

    TI:

    Yes; ’84 we moved up to Yorkshire and……previous to that I lived in London all my life……prior to that, obviously born in Egypt…..that’s it, but you know, I think the sense of being…..slightly an outsider remains and I think coming London to Yorkshire, that was our…..my first impression, that really it’s….we’re southerners moving to a very rooted county like Yorkshire is, but because there were a lot of other creative people here I think we were encouraged to feel that there was a sense of……openness and freedom about the way people thought and I think that is both attractive to us as individuals, but also for the area; I think it encouraged creative people to feel…..we were going to be odd enough in an interesting way to fit in with quite strongly individualistic type people; it wasn’t going to be hard to somehow operate in this area.

     

    [dog barking]

     

    AI:

    Shall I move him?

     

    TW:

    I think…..I think so, I think it’ll get worse really because he just wants to be part of it

     

    [moving dog]

     

    TW:

    Well what you were just saying about……feeling an outsider and also feeling accepted, coming up to Yorkshire, I mean did you have those sort of feelings when you came from Egypt to London, when you were younger?

     

    TI:

    Yes, yes I think as…..you know, I belong to a family that were typical refugees like there are lots of now, so that sense of being a refugee has always been part of…….my history and in a way I don’t mind that because it…..it’s a bit…..the creative life is slightly separate from…..the ordinary functioning of society, and it’s……quite an interesting place to be, because you’re an observer more than somebody who’s fully integrated in the system of how society might work, and I think from that stand point it gives you a different perspective.

     

    TW:

    Right…….

     

    TI:

    As you might have experienced yourself.

     

    TW:

    I……well I get that sometimes, that’s true. I’m just wondering about Anne. How do you relate to this idea of being an outsider?

     

    AI:

    Yeah I do too actually, yeah.

     

    TW:

    In what way?

     

    AI:

    Well I certainly did…..well I’m a southerner [laughing] and I haven’t dropped my accent, so yeah, it’s obvious. Probably when we were first here there were more of the older people who were more, you know, part of the real community that had been here, although everyone’s been very nice; never had any problems, but……..

     

    TI:

    There’s always been a sense of curiosity like ‘why……why are you here?’ and I think….I find that amusing because of course people who have had to leave the countries that they were born in, well they have to go somewhere else, but people who are very rooted , and I think that’s what’s so………what’s the word….evident about a rooted county like Yorkshire is that you take it for granted that this is where you belong, this is where you’ve all come from and even if you move two miles up the valley you think you’ve emigrated, because we used to have lots of friends and builders who worked with us and they’d say ‘oh I don’t come from Heptonstall I come from…..Mytholmroyd’ which is a sense of they didn’t belong to Heptonstall, they belonged to Mytholmroyd, so it didn’t take much for them to feel out of their……locale… so us coming from…..I think, again, it’s part of….because it’s part of my history, I think it’s also part of my creative sensibility. I like….being an outsider looking at…..whatever’s going on, so as an observer I’m not observing by identifying with a culture or a society, I am slightly outside of it.

     

    TW:

    So do you bring that into the art that you create?

     

    TI:

    I think so.

     

    TW:

    And how do you think that works then?

     

    TI:

    Well ultimately it……it’s accepting that we’re probably mainly spiritual people, or a phenomena, and maybe that sense of our spirituality and not quite belonging to the world is something I’m interested in or I’m nurturing very mildly you know, it’s not…..I’m not trying to propagate any religious attitudes, but just that sense of otherness, not just…..this is an observance of what is evidently here; there is a sense of I’m not sure what this is, so there’s a question.

     

    TW:

    So do you think this creativity, this outsider thing, but do you think that you’re reacting to your environment when you create the works of art that you create?

     

    AI:

     

    The environment round here?

     

    TW:

    Well around here, but….but the next question I was gonna say is…..so if……if you are or you aren’t reacting to your environment, then who is the audience that you’re creating these works for, because if you’re creating using the environment as a kind of inspiration is it for the people who live in this environment, or is it for somebody else, somewhere else, who might look at your works and say ‘oh that’s an interesting environmental idea’….the creativity based on that kind of environment is……is something I like….I’m just trying to ask….you know, how part of your creative process, how do you put forward…..it’s a question for both of you really.

     

    AI:

    Yeah……I think for me, I don’t actually think about the audience; it’s for me.

     

    TW:

    Right. So what kind of work do you actually do then?

     

    AI:

    Well recently…..mainly water colour, a fairly strong water colour; there’s one behind you over there which started off with a still life basis but now have figurative elements as well, but that’s really because I’ve been teaching water colour for several years so it’s sort of made me interested in it. Originally I used to work in a very different way and there’s one up on the mantelpiece there, which as you see is much more abstract and I still do some of that

     

    TW:

    Very Mondrian, and that type of thing.

     

    AI:

    Yeah……yeah, I mean that’s what I was doing at college.

     

    TW:

    Right. And do you sell these?

     

    AI:

    I have done, yeah, more of the water colours.

     

    TW:

    Right. But you’re also a teacher you say.

     

    AI:

    Yeah I teach water colour.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay. And have you done that all your creative life?

     

    AI:

    No. Before……I don’t know how long……well I’ve been teaching art to adults since maybe, since she was about six, so nineteen years, yeah. And it sort of turned into water colours eventually because teaching adults, you’re sort of led by them and really that’s what they wanted to do.

     

    TW:

    Right, okay. So you said earlier you did feel like an outsider coming up here and you said partly because there were so many locals here, you know, still. Does that mean that you think there’s less people who were born and raised here?

     

    AI:

    Yeah, I think it’s probably changed quite a bit.

     

    TW:

    Do you think, just people’s died off and younger people have moved away?

     

    AI:

    Yeah.

     

    TW:

    Right. And why do you think that is then?.....If some people come here because it’s so wonderful, why are the people that were born here moving away? How does that work, I wonder? What do you think about that?

     

    AI:

    I don’t know if they’ve moved away, but…….

     

    TW:

    But there’s less of them.

     

    AI:

    Yeah…..

     

    TW:

    What, in comparison to

     

    AI:

    Well maybe not

     

    TI:

    It obviously is house prices. I think that there was a period where people who were coming in obviously were coming in from areas where the houses were more expensive. We moved up here and…..because houses were cheaper than living in London and I think we’re not alone in that, so that’s probably…..that’s probably pushed up prices and there have been many jokes about…….outsiders coming in and pushing prices up, and people who were born in the area not being able to afford those prices and having to move away, and I think that’s happened everywhere nationally, and it’s probably more to do with how the property market is……nurtured or otherwise in England, because I think we all pay quite a price for having a roof over our heads. We now know, because we have children, and we hope and wish that they can have their own homes one day but we know how hard it is to start that.

     

    TW:

    Have they moved away?

     

    TI:

    Yes. One is in the south and the other one lives in Leeds, and I think…..they moved away willingly because they wanted experience, and I think we brought up our children with a sense of ‘you don’t have to remain in the locality that you were brought up in’. We do encourage them to go and experience other environments, and some do……you know, that oldest daughter wanted to do that when she was eighteen really. The younger ones….

     

    AI:

    Well, although she’d like to live…..she’d like to live here now but she’s got a family

     

    TI:

    Now that she’s got a daughter, yes, she’d like to sort of come back

     

    AI:

    It’s getting the work.

     

    TW:

    So well, that’s two different things I was going to ask about. One is….is to do with work, I mean when you moved up here was it because you wanted to raise a family in a nice place or did you have work here to come to, or it wasn’t just the cheap house prices

     

    AI:

    No, we were a bit mad, being artists you know, we just did it. Tony set up his own business and I was still doing some work…..freelance work which was mainly going down to London to get it, but eventually that turned into more locally based stuff.

     

    TW:

    Right. So what kind of freelance work?

     

    AI:

    At that point I was…..well I sort of fell into doing a lot of illustrating for…….children’s…..academic school books and things

     

    TI:

    Educational.

     

    AI:

    Educational that’s the word, yes, but I sort of fell into that by mistake, but that was good [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So did it just sort of happen sort of thing?

     

    AI:

    Well I was interviewed…….potentially to design a cookery cover for a book and the guy who was interviewing me went and got the……..oh what was it…..

     

    TI:

    What were you going to say

     

    AI:

    Chap in charge of the company

     

    TI:

    Editor….no, manager

     

    AI:

    Manager, yeah…..I think I must have had some illustrations in my portfolio, and they needed an illustrator at the time so he came and said ‘ah, could you do these illustrations? Can you do colour?’ Which I never had……..and I said ‘well no I haven’t’……. ‘oh well give it a try and bring some back’ so…..so that was the beginning of quite a lot of work wasn’t it?

    TI:

    And what’s also quite interesting about this area, that probably had that been in London it would have been less easy for work to casually happen like that

     

    AI:

    Maybe…….yeah, casually

     

    TI:

    I was just thinking that I wonder if that’s another…..outsiders coming in to the area with their…..skills have been an attractive new injection of creative energy to the area, because it’s all very well talking about…….what’s the word…..nurturing an environment to remain as authentic as possible, but it’s actually this outside energy that probably added to the mix, brings new energy.

     

    AI:

    Well I think that happens everywhere, I mean my home town is Worthing on the south coast which is……was very well known as a retirement centre and the joke was that anybody on the Council there would have been from Yorkshire, so you know I think [laughing]…..that’s how it goes…..

     

    TW:

    So they were the other way round

     

    AI:

    So maybe other people who are a bit sort of….go-getty move around, I don’t know! [laughing]……they were retired, you know, people retire down there and then they find things to do.

     

    TW:

    Yes. Like join the Council!

     

    [laughing]

     

    TW:

    So Tony, have you…..the work that you do…..well what kind of work is that?

     

    TI:

    Well…..I think as a creative person, for me, the whole……the point of it is to continually be…..I’m interested in continually reinventing what I’m doing and the purposes, there was a stage where it’s quite difficult to work out how to make any money out of your creativity, and a bit like Anne I did have to stumble across making bits of furniture that………I thought might appeal to………a more adventurous clientele who might want to buy things to decorate their home; it seemed like a softer option for getting creative things into people’s homes - it actually wasn’t - it’s no easier putting a creative piece of furniture into a house than it is to put a painting or…..but I did enjoy that period and I did sell enough work to make it……a fruitful and….commercial enough success, though I think that’s……that’s part of the period that now is not relevant to me anymore; I’m not that interested in the commercial market place; I see myself much more like a mature ……..creative person who…..as long as I’ve got enough money to live on, it’s…..I don’t need to make lots of money out of my creativity but I do need to reinvent where it’s going, so the last three years I’ve actually been doing a digital media degree and that’s………re-jigged my creativity to suggest different pathways to carrying on, not…..and this is where we differ because Anne doesn’t understand why I would bother to get into all this techno stuff, and yet for me it’s been quite a delightful……….experience because it’s a new toy; I don’t know much about it and I’m not adopting it seriously; I’m adopting it like a playful child-like………adventure, but because it’s technology and it’s not how we were brought up as creative people, then we differ; I think Anne might agree, seeing it as a distraction from just developing one’s……it’s unnatural maybe to her, or……..whereas to me it’s actually exciting

     

    AI:

    It’s also…..it’s sort of….it’s more blocked in a way because it’s not easy to actually see what you’re doing…….so

     

    TI:

    From an audience point of view?

     

    AI:

    Yeah

     

    TI:

    But even from an artist’s point of view there isn’t much to do because a lot of what I’ve been doing over the last three years have been little playful experiments and, although I’m not embarrassed – I’m not worried about the fact that I’m learning and that somebody might say ‘oh that’s a bit of a pathetic little film, you call that animation?’ that’s not because I’m a sixty-year old artist; I don’t care about the evaluation of my creativity by society or culture and I think this……the fact that we have exhibitions and we try to sell art, and we’re all competing for levels of………acclaim seems like that’s a real distraction. We have got so…..up ourselves thinking we have to be great, or we have to be famous, or we have to be rich for it to be worth it and actually for me, it’s just worth it and I’m quite adamant about the strength of that, but it’s a lonely thing; I can share it with probably a few people, but there’s no point my saying ‘oh I’m going to put a film show out of these little experiments’ because they’re not for public consumption; they’re only for…..for private creative…..if there were other creative people who were on my wavelength I’d happily sit for an hour and say ‘well I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ – that kind of thing – and I think that’s….that’s good

     

    TW:

    There is a tour of very short films running from the Shetlands down to Southampton and back again.

     

    TI:

    Really?

     

    TW:

    Have you seen any of them?

     

    TI:

    No

     

    TW:

    Mark Kermode was talking about it on ‘The Culture Show’ – they’re all very….very short, you know, two or three minutes, that sort of thing, but there seems to be quite a lot of them about all sorts of things really, and I just wondered whether you’d known about that and sort of…..

     

    TI:

    No, I……I’ve not tuned into that world yet because I’m only freshly into this digital thing and for me it’s still about playing and still about playing from the root of being a fine artist who was……what’s the word…..educated with painting and drawing , in inverted commas educated, because in the seventies there wasn’t a rigid education in these skills - it was really up to you – whatever you called painting and drawing could be painting and drawing in the early seventies, so really……it’s an open environment for what we……whatever develops our creativity and that’s remained the case still I think, and most young people are encouraged to keep on keeping it open, except they want skills, they want more skills and I think Anne’s experienced that probably more than me, that she’s given……people enjoy being given skills by somebody who has……that knowledge to pass on, whereas for me it’s still about experimenting and playing

     

    TW:

    Do you have works that you can show me a little

     

    TI:

    I have; I’m on video, so I think what you were saying about…I think I’ve had one visitor which is my daughter [laughing]…….and I sort of think ‘oh well it’s…..it’s a joke’ but it’s still there, and I don’t mind it being…..it’s a public place that people could go to, but…..I’m not embarrassed about it, it’s just…..there isn’t much tangibility to saying ‘oh blimey that’s a great film Tony’ – it’s not about that – it’s not trying to be a great film, it’s trying to be a creative enterprise, and carry on being the creative enterprise, I’m gone, so for me, that’s…

     

    AI:

    I think we….we’re the same in that way, that it’s about our creative journey and we’re not actually really bothered about other people entering into it

     

    TI:

    We don’t mind sharing

     

    AI:

    No no, not at all

     

    TI:

    I mean you’ve had exhibitions, you’ve put your work in exhibitions

     

    AI:

    Well I’ve put my work in exhibitions, but I’ve never really gone out of my way to exhibit - we’ve never applied for any grants for anything – we sort of were a little bit too late for all of that, weren’t we?

     

    TI:

    Maybe

     

    AI:

    We found other ways of being able to do it for ourselves, so……

     

    TW:

    I mean I know when the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival initially began twenty-odd years ago I think it was, you were part of that I remember

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    TW:

    Are you still part of it in any way?

     

    AI:

    Now and then……..yeah we did it…….three or four years ago, probably longer!

     

    TI:

    Yes I think that sense of taking part with other people in something, but I think when your creativity is……is about changing yourself so much it’s a…..it’s a bit of a private thing, you know…….I probably would like to have conversations with creative people but I don’t want to stand in my studio and explain anything to anybody; it’s sort of…..now and again I think that the people who do open up their studios are very generous and say ‘here I am, come in, walk around’…….there’s always a sense of judgment and….people sort of walking round spaces that you’ve spent three years building work in, in five minutes then walking out again with a sense of……they’ve……what’s the word…..categorised you; I do it myself, you know, I go into a studio and say ‘oh yes, I know, I understand this’ and it’s…..it’s not….there is a sense of trivialising…..we see too much, where there is too much available, we take it all for granted……on the other hand, this is people’s creative lives and they’ve invested so much, they spend money on their studios, they buy materials and they invest a lot of their heart and soul into this practice, so when they open the door it is….it’s a privilege that they’re doing that for an audience, so great, it’s not something I particularly want to do very often myself. I like that invitation, yes, one creative…..come in, or just a person, come in, have a chat, engage in sharing what we do spontaneously, but the whole rigmarole of, to be honest, the whole rigmarole of exhibitions and framing work

     

    AI:

    We used to run a gallery ; that’s one of things that we did in our naivety when we were in London….we had a gallery for unknown artists, which we lived above, and we did that for a couple of years and I think that was quite a learning curve really wasn’t it?

     

    TI:

    It gives a practical basis…..it is about, you know, persuading people that it’s worth spending money on scribbles on bits of paper because they’re meaningful and they can enrich your environment when you place them in your home, but they cost money, and to get a public to understand that paying money isn’t a desperately serious thing, it’s quite…..it should be light-hearted and I think we should pay money because it’s enjoyable to spend that money, if you have it; if you don’t have it you don’t buy art and you shouldn’t waste your money on art if you can’t afford it; it is really for people who can afford it. I can’t afford it, but I would never ask….you know, not expect an artist to sell their work, and I think that’s the thing you’re saying….it’s very hard to get people to understand they have to pay.

     

    TW:

    You talk about art being maybe a…..partially it’s a spiritual journey and it’s about exploration and reinventing, but then you have a kind of disillusionment about trying to become famous shall we say, but if as an artist you want to sell your work because it should be worth it…..it’s……it’s a funny world you’re talking about here isn’t it really, this whole kind of……mixture of like, people who can afford – are they buying it because…..is it an investment for them?

     

    TI:

    No.

     

    AI:

    That’s what they hope!

     

    TW:

    Well you see, you say no, you say yes

     

    TI:

    I say no very definitely; they should stop that

     

    AI:

    Well that’s what you would tell them!

     

    AI:

    I would tell them ‘just stop that - that’s a ridiculous approach to buying art. Because art costs money; it costs a creative person….a large amount of their time has been invested in bringing about this piece of work. If you are spending that money because you think somehow it’s……about securing this amount of money into something, we’ll call it art, and one day I shall be able to get that amount of money back and I shall have more money’….that is a total spoiler to what creativity is about, and what creativity is about

     

    AI:

    But all of that happened, you know, starting with sort of Tracey Emin and so on, it’s suddenly become something or it did become something that actually you could invest in…..living artists, young living artists, and that sort of happened after our time didn’t it?

     

    TI:

    Yes, and it’s happened for very definite reasons, for market place reasons, just like……money

     

    AI:

    When we were at college there was no talk of we’d actually do after we did our degree

     

    TI:

    Nobody knew, nobody knew they could sell their work

     

    AI:

    No, we weren’t told anything by our tutors; we weren’t trained in how to sell ourselves, market or anything like that. You did the course because you wanted to explore art, that’s what it was about……and then obviously that….it was at that time when people…..actually could go to college and it didn’t cost them any money and there was a knock-on effect for British industry, because of the creativity of the people that were involved in the art colleges, so I think it worked as an idea but we were just part of that weren’t we?

     

    TI:

    Well maybe we come from that period of time where we were not worried about making money; it was…..money wasn’t a big incentive for what we did - even the jobs that we did - we basically did jobs that just about gave you a living; you didn’t think ambitiously about money. The ambitions were always internal things, they were spiritual things or…..you know, just wanting your work to get better in some form and not better because it would make you famous, or rich, it just got more interesting, got deeper, or……and that’s probably remained, the main core values, certainly for me, you know, even though I’ve had…..I am commercially astute, I do expect people to pay money for what I do, but I also don’t expect everybody to be able to pay for it, and I…….you know, it’s…….it’s the product

     

    TW:

    Do you follow the art world still?

     

    TI:

    No.

     

    AI:

    You maybe do a little bit more than me

     

    TI:

    Well do I?

     

    AI:

    Maybe not! [laughing]

     

    TI:

    Well I think I’ve become much more internalised over the last three years because of the nature of digital work in a way and computers and

     

    AI:

    You’re looking at different things now aren’t you? We’re looking at different things to each other now.

     

    TI:

    Yes.

     

    TW:

    Have you looked at the Hockney things then?

     

    AI:

    Oh yes

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    AI:

    Yeah we did go to the……Hockney down in London

     

    TW:

    And what did you think of that?

     

    AI:

    And surprisingly enjoyed it; I think both of us did didn’t we?

     

    TI:

    Yes.

     

    AI:

    We went separately

     

    TI:

    Well I work in a hospice two days a week, and what’s exciting with working with people who don’t have an art background or…..is that when they get enthusiasms it’s…..it’s majorly stimulating for us all, and this group of people who are living with life threatening illness wanted to go all the way to London to see this major exhibition of…..of course David Hockney isn’t a ‘local artist’, in inverted commas obviously, but we had a fantastic time because not only was the work of this…..abstracted nature which forces people without an art training to question ‘well what’s he doing and why is this slapping of paint alright? Why is it good?’….or ‘what is actually going on, on these huge canvases?’ and I think that does get communicated by…..to ordinary people by David Hockney’s work because I think his market place is fairly broad and…….expresses that enthusiasm for looking and interpreting what he sees

     

    AI:

    He’s very good at putting over those…..what to use are very simple ideas but actually they’re probably not very simple ideas, so actually we could be quite thankful to him really.

     

    TW:

    Well I mean, he’s always chased technology in a way hasn’t he, all of the photograph pieces that he did almost, and that cubist kind of way of looking at things

     

    AI:

    Yeah

     

    TW:

    I mean they were like twenty foot high, massive big things

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    TW:

    With hundreds and hundreds of photographs creating an image, and that was just…..the beginning of that kind of technology, so now it’s moved on and he’s doing this sort of thing

     

    TI:

    Yes, well the iPad, I mean it is interesting that really, because David Hockney is so rich he can actually blow up an iPad image to a massive scale and…….exploit that excitement which is there when you play on the iPad, but what….what it generated in….as I say one of the patients, he said ‘oh my God’ because he had an iPhone and he began to draw on his iPhone and recognised just the…..excitement of that electronic mark, and in way that…..that makes it accessible for people, making a mark on your iPad – ‘wow, that was easy’ – it doesn’t make any mess, it doesn’t require huge materials, it’s an app on your phone and in a way you link with somebody who is a very creative artist……and that’s good for all of us because it’s……it’s encouraging everyone’s perceptions to…….you know, expand to that horizon because art is not about this one little channel and I think what’s interesting with digital technology, with film and animation and games and…….it’s spreading the idea that it’s going to be very difficult to make these separate little channels for creative experience. People are going to be producing works of art that have many many many multi…….influences in the future which can only be good as far as I’m concerned

     

    TW:

    Though does that make……the old skills redundant in a kind of way do you think? You know, drawing and painting and knowing about watercolours or oils or acrylics, or whatever that might be. Is there still a place for that sort of thing?

     

    AI:

    Well I’d like to think so, but whether there really are…..is, I don’t know. I mean it’s sort of sad going around colleges these days and realising that all these sort of skills have gone or are going, and that students are all working on computers

     

    TI:

    And why are they going? I think that’s the…..that’s the subversive……I can’t think what the right word is, but there is……they’re going for the wrong reasons; they’re going because money for space is more valuable if you assess it in terms of students per square foot, and I think if you dedicate a messy space to an art student that’s going to splash paint around for three years it’s far too expensive, when you could get three students in there on two computers or let’s give them three computers, and much cheaper, and

     

    TW:

    You really think it’s as crass as that?

     

    TI:

    I do

     

    AI:

    It might be, because probably it’s different people who are working out money these days, you know, how to spend the money

     

    TI:

    I’m sure it is, but the optimistic thing is that students aren’t stupid and in the end there’s going to be a

     

    AI:

    There’s quite a lot of revival of things like…..you know, our daughter’s just been doing a proper photography…..well they both have, they’ve both done proper photography using cameras

     

    TW:

    Using chemicals

     

    AI:

    Using chemicals, yes, developing their own photographs, and they’re very keen on this sort of thing actually, so……until perhaps they’ve got a load of rubbish at the end of it and it’s much easier to use a digital camera [laughing]

     

    TI:

    Well it’s….I don’t think it’s about nostalgia, I think what will tend to happen is probably the memory of those old….the sensation of material, the material world that we were all brought up in will come back

     

    AI:

    Do you know it’s theatrical isn’t it, I mean to go into art studios where people have their own little spaces which they’re sploshing the paint around in and, there’s the smell of oil paints and what have you, it’s a really theatrical experience. Walking into a room full of computers, there might be amazing stuff actually happening and theatrical stuff happening on the computer, but you don’t experience it in the same way

     

    TI:

    No, and it’s hidden from you. I did this course as I say and what was really bizarre was that it’s only on the final year show that you realise what people might have been working in; there isn’t a shared experience within a space; it’s….the space is very internalised because it’s computer based, and I like that because I’m new to it but as a young person I’d probably feel….because I’ve had the other world, I’ve had the big material world and I can throw things on the floor if I…..I have my own personal studio space so it’s not, I’m not deprived of that, but I think this younger generation have been deprived of those material experiences. I’m sure they’ll find them because they’ll find them in the streets of……if they need them, but they’re not being encouraged to explore those sensations and is being somehow…..

     

    TW:

    Do you think they’re being….I don’t know what the word is…..mainstreamed shall we say, so that if you really wanted to do something different you’d become a graffiti artist say, or in like you say in the seventies there was an attitude that you were exploring and learning, whereas now it isn’t about, you know, exploring so much it’s more about being taught skills that would get you a job

     

    TI:

    Well, I’m going to just say, I think that’s a pessimistic aspect and I think most…….enlightened tutors would say ‘no, we want to engender that creativity in the students’ but the students find it very difficult to find that place because they haven’t come from schools where….so it already hasn’t happened at school; they’ve had tick-boxing at school, they think that that’s the only way it can be assessed, so they want to know how they’re going to assessed before exploring

     

    AI:

    Yeah, which is really weird for us isn’t it but it actually…is meaningful to them, how they’re being assessed

     

    TI:

    That’s their conditioning, you know, nobody cared about us, that’s why we were free, it was great

     

    AI:

    I mean we were ultimately assessed but

     

    TI:

    Yes, but we didn’t care about the assessment either, you know, I didn’t get my degree; I refused to write my essays; I was a stupid twenty-one year old, so I rejected getting a qualification which I now……didn’t work that hard to get, but I did sort of have to get that piece of paper, so it’s quite amusing how different these…..periods of time have been with the conditioning

     

    TW:

    On Radio 4 this morning there was a programme on, about a young man called Cosmo Jarvis I think his name was, who is a kind of…a bit of a songwriter but he also makes little films; they’re not just…..you know, just MTV things of him stood there singing his songs, they’re actually creative things, and he’s made quite a lot of these and what he said, when he was at school, was he said ‘we were only taught to do the exam so we didn’t actually….we weren’t educated about anything, we were just….you know, given answers’ so to speak, he said ‘which stopped me being creative so I had to do it my own way’ and it sounds like you seem to think that sort of thing as well – there’s like a whole…..more than one generation, you know, of children through school who have been kind of programmed in a way, rather than allowed to learn really, you know. Do you think that’s true?

     

    TI:

    That is true, and I think the sadness is that they’re a bit frightened of what their own way is, because it hasn’t been qualified. Nobody has said ‘your way is good’ – nobody said ‘our way was good but we didn’t care and we weren’t forced to care by saying look, well, you know, I was in a sense’……if you performed within these categories you get the rewards and the rewards are this bit of paper or this mark, but if you perform outside of that you learnt a personal richness that stays with you, and I think that’s what I’ve got out of my liberal education at an art school and it didn’t cost me anything so I didn’t pay £18,000 like my daughter has done to have her education, but I certainly don’t regret a single moment of that whereas she probably is a bit….a bit regretful. She’s got this debt that she has to pay back, and she’s wondering if ‘that was the right thing for me’.

     

    TW:

    Well Anne said that you thought it was very good for business and industry, the liberal education through the seventies because people who came out of that system actually did things in industry, and you’re saying

     

    TI:

    And they did them differently

     

    TW:

    And now it’s not really like that, it’s almost like…..your daughter is…..she’s learnt photography which is a great skill to have, and probably a lot of different ways of making money or having, you know, out of that, but she

     

    AI:

    I don’t know though…..go on, yes

     

    TW:

    You know, she’s obviously looked into it and said ‘oh maybe there isn’t’ you know….did she not choose it because she loved it?

     

    AI:

    There are hoardings on the M62 now that say ‘learn the skill of photography and get a job’ or words to that effect – it’s utterly hilarious you know, I mean, what….well I know what that’s about, but those people are not gonna get jobs [laughing]……

     

    TI:

    Well, the pessimism is to do with young people having a tough time at the minute, you know, there are a million young people out of work; our daughter’s not been out of work, but they’ve got very……low skilled employment for their degrees; they’re not following…..careers….well one’s a mother so she’s stopped her career and she has

     

    AI:

    Yeah but she did have very well paid jobs

     

    TI:

    She had a well paid job, but again nothing to do with her archaeology

     

    AI:

    No, not to do with her degree

     

    TI:

    Not to do with her degree, so………I can say that I’ve always….my degree has been relevant throughout my life. It’s not given me a job, ever, but it’s

     

    AI:

    It has now! [laughing]

     

    TI:

    Well, in the sense that it’s my creativity that’s given me the job; it’s not going to art school and getting a BA

     

    AI:

    Oh no, no

     

    TI:

    So…..whereas they’ve gone to university and they’ve got a degree, and they’ve got their 2:1s and, you know, that surely is worth something; well it’s only the beginning of worth something because lots of people have got that, so I’ve got to fight even harder to get more qualifications; the pressure for them is about qualifying, fitting in, somebody giving me a job. I think we were luckier in the seventies because we scrapped about and somehow a living was put together from these various scraps, and that’s how we’ve carried on our lives; neither of us have ever had a full-time job I don’t think; Anne might have had one before she went to college but I don’t think you’ve had one since. You finished your degree in Fine Art…..

     

    AI:

    No

     

    TI:

    No, but we managed to survive and bring up a family

     

    AI:

    Oh, for a little bit…

     

    TI:

    Well, you know, fundamentally we’re not….we’ve been allowed not to live nine-to-five lives, bring up two children and several cats, have a roof over your head and carry on having a fairly comfortable, simple, middle-class lifestyle, well, that’s probably difficult nowadays; I think people would feel much more pressured to have to earn much more money than we had to earn for our lifestyles

     

    TW:

    Do you think then, the gap between scraping by and…..being a nine-to-fiver is kind of…..gotten farther apart shall we say?

     

    TI:

    Definitely. To me it seems like that because I know our youngest daughter works extremely hard in a caring profession. She’s never going to be paid very much, even if she reaches a managerial stage which she’s quite capable of doing, she’s only twenty-five, but she can see it as…..is she going to be able to afford to buy a property, and her boyfriend Mini, he’s still a student – he works part time – rents, in Leeds anyway, seem to be not…..very affordable for both of them sharing that lifestyle…..how long will they have to live in that lifestyle before they can say ‘well you know what, we can have a three week holiday in the sun on our income’…..they’ll be thinking ‘we don’t have enough money’…..they don’t drive cars, they don’t…..you know, it’s a basic existence and yet they……they work

     

    TW:

    Do you think, you know, I’m the same era as you; I’m sixty and I went to art school in the early seventies and all that, but do you think we were almost privileged because….the people, some of the older people, who are in their nineties now who I have interviewed, back in the twenties and thirties they lived at home until they were quite old and be able to save enough money to put a down payment on a cottage somewhere in this area, but all that sort of changed in the fifties and sixties and seventies

     

    TI:

    It did

     

    TW:

    Is it just….life goes like that sometimes, it’s up and down

     

    AI:

    I think so yeah

     

    TI:

    Yes, and…….I think I regret that it was easier for our generation than it is for our children because I’m sensitive to their….it would be nice if their life was a bit easier I think, or they had a bit more spare money, and I think, for us, it’s been alright, you know, and we haven’t had to work supersonically hard to have this life; I know my father would have worked supersonically hard to have his lifestyle, but then he had a pension at the end and he was secure in his job but he had to give himself to this company or that job for the thirty-five, forty years that he did do. Your

     

    TW:

    My father was similar, yes

     

    TI:

    Yeah, and our fathers did that; that was their sense of responsibility, but that’s what they had to do to bring up their family; we were lucky that we didn’t need to do that and I think a major reason why we didn’t need to do that and I will admit this, is to do with the housing market. We all did up our houses, so we might have been creative people but we all had a little bit of nouse, that we bought our properties instead of renting, and we put in that extra bit of……..effort into making our houses pretty interesting places to sell on and the market place was up for that at that time, but we put that in; I mean my parents never did that in the house. My dad just used to redecorate the house once a year or once every two years, but he’d never knock a wall down and put a bathroom in or….it wasn’t seen as necessary; you just made do with what you could afford, whereas our generation was brought up to think…..it didn’t cost us loads of money to do that either, so….I think that must be to do with how we’ve been allowed to have such a….a liberal lifestyle and yet still have………a comfortable life.

     

    TW:

    So I mean your children then, they’ve learnt these skills that they’ve got…..do you think they have the same kind of view of life shall we say, that you two have?

     

    AI:

    I think it’s coming round because I think that….well certainly our oldest daughter looked at us and thought ‘oh they’re artists and they don’t really have that much money. I want more than that’ so that’s what she chased, but actually I think there’s the other side of her as well, so it’s always going to be a bit of a battle really

     

    TI:

    Yes, because you chase more money but it costs you more to chase more money, so you……you have to work harder probably, you have to dedicate yourself to particularly career standards, you love those careers or those jobs, then you are sacrificing a little bit of your spirituality in that, and that balance between ‘what will make me happier’ – living in a modest house or……or living in an area where housing is cheap....is housing…….I keep coming back to housing because I think it’s been a major security for our family life. If we were living on incomes that we’ve been living on and didn’t own our own house, we’d probably be quite poor I’d say, but the fortunate thing is that we started in our own properties at a time where property appreciated, and that’s made us comfortable and able to carry on being creative….the pressure would always be Anne would like me to be an assurance agent, I know, we’ve had this conversation [laughing]…..and how good would that have been for my soul, my God, imagine

     

    TW:

    Do you think your children will come back to this area?

     

    AI:

    Maybe…..yeah maybe

     

    TI:

    I don’t think we’re going to move out of this area, because one was in the south and now we’ve got a grandchild and we sort of think ‘oh should we buy a little modest flat and live next to our granddaughter and’……

     

    AI:

    But then we’ve got another one up here so…..so really, you know…..

     

    TW:

    You’re stuck

     

    AI:

    Yeah, exactly, yeah

     

    TI:

    I think the main thing is that creatively, it doesn’t matter where we live; this is the area that we’ve lived in the longest out of all the areas we’ve lived in, so… ..but…..this home…do we…..does our generation need anywhere to be home, because our children have moved away and….do we see it as that’s the cycle of life, you know, that they’ll bring up children to live in Leeds or live in a city somewhere; does that matter to us? I don’t think so because I don’t come from a very rooted…..family, so place is slightly immaterial

     

    TW:

    I was just thinking about that, I mean you were born in…..your early life was in Egypt, and now with the Arab Spring as they call it

     

    TI:

    The unusual thing about my upbringing is not…..I’m not an Egyptian brought up in Egypt; we were Greek Cypriots and Italians brought up in Egypt and after Suez, that’s why we were exiles from Egypt - all Europeans were kicked out - so…..I don’t identify with Egypt as being my roots, so I am not an identified in-root type person other than…..obviously I have qualities that, you know, my grandmother was Italian; my grandfather was Greek Cypriot but I didn’t know any of the grandfathers so my main inheritances are European and Southern European but I was born in Egypt, and so I have memories of the smells of streets in Cairo that are obviously quite different to the streets of Hebden Bridge, so…….but they……I think…..I’ve travelled quite a bit and I identify with a lot of other cultures, but slightly outside, slightly removed; I’m not……I can’t identify with any one particular nationality or type of person and say ‘oh that’s where I belong’….I don’t think I properly need to belong anywhere other than in some creative space, you know, for me.

     

    TW:

    Right.

     

    TI:

    You?

     

    AI:

    Oh I think it’s a bit different for me because my family was very rooted in that one area, so yeah, I probably still think that I’m actually from Sussex, you know, that is my home even though I only spent nineteen years there, and I didn’t think it was fantastic! I’d probably like it better now than I did as a young person.

     

    TW:

    So you wouldn’t want to go back there then because your family have been there for generations?

     

    AI:

    It’s a very nice part of the world, I mean we’ve built up our friendships and things around her now, so the great thing about the south coast is that it’s warm and sunny which is very nice [laughing] I do miss that and no midges – fantastic!

     

    TW:

    I’m just wondering, is there anything that I haven’t actually asked about that you might want to talk about…..about Heptonstall or Hebden Bridge or…..creativity, or about being removed, you know, being somewhere on the outside, either as an artist or as a person? Is there anything I haven’t asked about?

     

    AI:

    Obviously we could go on for a long long time….

     

    TI:

    It’s a good position to be in, you know, feeling on the outside…..even on my BA course, I was talking to somebody yesterday and saying ‘well you know what, as an older person I felt on the outside of all these young people doing their degrees’ but actually it’s….it’s although it’s slightly lonely and that’s not a word I’m using in a sentimental way, it’s a separateness from culturally belonging and being part of, and that’s alright, it’s not……it’s a useful place to be because it means you can observe and you can contribute from a different place as well. It doesn’t cost you as much by not being fully integrated in the culture

     

    TW:

    Did it cost you £9000 a year then to do this course?

     

    TI:

    No, less because it’s just gone up to £8000 now so it was £3000 and a bit

     

    TW:

    You got in there early!

     

    TI:

    Yes

     

    AI:

    Just in time

     

    TI:

    Well just in time; they only changed it last year wasn’t it?

     

    TW:

    I think it was yes, I think you’re right there

     

    TI:

    But it will get, you know, if I was to do a post-graduate it would cost me £8000.

     

    TW:

    Right…..okay, well I think we’ll leave it there then if that’s okay, and…

     

    TI:

    Well it’s been nice to remember all these things

     

    TW:

    Maybe it’s one of the things that will……you will keep up thinking about, that sort of thing, and you know, it might find its way into your creativity.

     

    AI:

    Right, yeah………

    [END OF TRACK 1]

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

Get in touch

Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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