History of the Scottish Potters Association

The SPA began spontaneously when a group of potters at a Trade show found the most useful part was sharing information and ideas. Within a few weeks a viable group came together, a constitution was drawn up, aims defined, and the Association was born.

All we had then was enthusiasm. The original minutes and many documents were hand written; not all members had phones, far fewer had faxes or even typewriters. Nevertheless exhibitions were set up; demonstrations held in workshops and colleges all over the country; and since 1978 an annual residential weekend, where activities such as kiln building take place, has been held every spring.

During this time the SPA has grown organically, always responding to the needs of its members who live and work in a wide geographical spread across Scotland. It is run by a committee elected annually, and is proud of its independence; work is undertaken voluntarily, and regular activities are funded from membership subscriptions, outside funding only being sought for special events such as the Clay in Bloom exhibition.

Times change in thirty years. Technology, materials and methods move on sometimes with alarming speed; many potters still live in beautiful rural locations but others now have an urban background, sharing workshops in old industrial buildings; government policies and support for the arts have altered many times, as have the organisations designed to implement those policies, some disappearing for ever; college courses have changed direction and ceramics departments been subsumed within other departments; traditional skills have been overtaken by new demands; pottery has become ceramics, a medium for invention and expressing ideas.

But the appeal of clay remains universal, as shown by the popularity of pottery courses and classes. There are more galleries exhibiting and selling ceramics than there were 30 years ago and pottery festivals attract large audiences, eager to learn and to participate.

The communication explosion and the vast amount of information easily available, contributes to this. It is hard to remember how few books and how little technical knowledge there was compared to the shelves of enticing volumes in bookshops now. Suppliers’ lists consisted of a few photo-copied sheets, listing a very restricted number of items, unlike the glossy brochures of today. Our own newsletter bore no resemblance to the well produced quarterly publication it has become today.

The SPA can look back with satisfaction on nearly fourty years of fulfilling the original aim “to raise the standards and awareness of the craft whenever possible”. Now it is the time to celebrate past achievements, remember with pleasure the road the SPA has travelled, and look forward to future developments.

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