grass, and green hills

thorn pot I’ve been scything in the Lee Valley – Walthamstow Marshes – recently, under the aegis of

scythingExperienced scythers can cut faster than a strimmer: with the hay in its windrows easier to gather. The rangers at the marshes are considering using scythes as they can also be used in the wet, where strimmers can’t. I love these times (as with using heavy horses in woods) where old techniques turn out to be faster, quieter, more economic, as well as better for the ecology. Skill over power!

scything toolsWe were introduced to scything by Clive Leeke, a fount of knowledge. We used Austrian scythes – light, sharp – as English scythes are heavy and hard to use: scything was done by Irish migrant labour in the UK so there’s less tradition behind it. The tools were very interesting: I use the canoe-shaped sharpening stones to make my volcanic glazes. Simon Fairlie has an extensive website with more information, as well as a great quote:

Phil Batten scoring 10 out of 10 for quality on lodged grass at the 2011 West Country Scythe Fair

Phil Batten scoring 10 out of 10 for quality on lodged grass at the 2011 West Country Scythe Fair

“Scything with a good tool relaxes the mind and attunes the body. As Levin says to his brother after a day’s mowing, in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina : “You can’t imagine what an effectual remedy it is for every sort of foolishness.”

thorn rangeI’ve been working for a while on a new range of work inspired by thorn trees in grassland. Getting the glazes right is taking a long time: I thought I had got there, only for the last set of pots to be firmly stuck to the kiln shelves. The next set should hopefully come through unstuck, but it will take a few more batches for the last bit of refinement to come.

thorn ready to fire Naming new work is also hard: it’s often only after months of sending the work out that the name really emerges. I’m struggling between calling them “thorn”, “a far green country”, or “green hills”. A prize of one of the stuck pots to anyone who can identify the source of the middle name! I’m also tempted by the letter ‘thorn’: on the web, þ, easily displayed using the name “&thorn”!

Any thought on names will be gratefully received – do you prefer the short, the poetic, or the descriptive?

thorn tests

10 responses to “grass, and green hills

  1. A far green country comes from the Lord of the Rings!
    Personally I prefer the shorter description and love ‘thorn’…..


  2. I like ‘thorn’ too: the word or the rune, or an alternation between the two. It’s concise, descriptive, evocative. Hard to do better. Very nice work indeed, Carys. I love the blasted-heath quality they convey. Am currently decluttering but would happily make space for one of these lovely objects. [Conflicted]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I go for poetic – so is that ‘thorn’ or ‘a far green country’? Hmmm …
    And btw the next bit of the quotation ‘under a swift sunrise’ should also be squirrelled away as a title, don’t you think? I think I am coming round to ‘thorn’. Maybe it’s the blasted heath mentioned above which took me to Egdon Heath and Thomas Hardy – I thought you might like this from ‘The Voice’

    Thus I; faltering forward,
    Leaves around me falling,
    Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
    And the woman calling.

    And I really like the green glaze…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth – I’ve taken the libery of making the poem italic as in your comment – WordPress lets me do this, which is unusual but good! Great quote too – now copied into my work-book.


  4. Sorry Carys – I should have italicised the four lines of poetry before I added the green glaze comment! Makes hardy sound weird….


  5. Quote too easy …LOTR rules ok. Definitely thorn for my money!! And many thanks for link to Austrian scythes. A Viennese friend here uses one and swears by it. Who would have thought there were scythe fairs and competitions though.


    • Sarah – another vote for ‘thorn’! I’m really glad I asked!
      The Austrian scythes were a revelation – light, blades easy to sharpen, and the group of people using them interesting and varied: gardeners, environmentalists, small-holders. Clive Leeke was harvesting spelt this week I think! I’m usually all about historic crafts & tools (billhooks, hedgelaying) but Austrian scythes are really great. About £100 for a new one (handle + blade + initial instruction), fyi, few second-hand about (a sort of tribute to them, I suppose!)


  6. ‘Thorn’ gets my vote too Carys. They look lovely – I particularly like the gold line you seem to be getting where the gloss and volcanic glazes meet. I too love LOTR, but simplicity wins for me every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Magpie {32} | The Cloud Pottery·

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