Things to do when it rains… Part 1: Throw a pot

The Trossachs, even in summer, can be a wet place but the rain is what makes our woodland so green and lush, fills the lochs so that they sparkle when the sun does shine, and keeps the rivers and burns flowing and the waterfalls spectacular. Popular activities for visitors to the area are cycling, walking and water sports and many enthusiasts aren’t deterred by a little water falling from the sky, whether it’s a light smirr or a determined deluge. But not everyone is comfortable getting soaked so this is the first of two posts about things to do locally under cover. (They are also fun to do even when the sun is shining).

I had the good fortune to spend a couple of hours at the Whimsy in the Wild pottery studio near Aberfoyle with potter Cindy McLoughlin, whose work is inspired by the Scottish landscapes around her. Luckily for me, she also runs pottery workshops ranging from a couple of hours for complete novices learning to create a bowl on a wheel, through full day ‘throwing classes’ to three day workshops which extend the experience from making to glazing.

Cindy shows us how it’s done

As it happened, it was a glorious sunny day when I joined one of Cindy’s introductory throwing classes. Cindy’s pottery is at the top of the Duke’s Pass, a scenic road linking Aberfoyle with The Trossachs which I’ve written about before, and the surrounding hills and forest provide a beautiful backdrop. Our class began with a tour of Cindy’s workshop, an expert demonstration of throwing a bowl, and an explanation of the drying, firing and glazing stages required to produce a finished piece of pottery. Then it was time to get our hands dirty, cutting our own clay and throwing it in Cindy’s studio above the pottery.

We found our individual pottery wheels waiting in the upstairs studio.

Four is the maximum for a class meaning Cindy can give each person plenty of individual attention while they work at their wheel. Our afternoon class allowed enough time for two attempts at a small bowl. For the first, Cindy talked us through step-by-step, retrieved off-centre clay if required and gently guided us to produce an acceptably-shaped bowl. For our second attempt, we were on our own with scope to be as adventurous as we liked, although Cindy was on hand to advise and help whenever required. I failed to achieve the wider, shallower bowl I was aiming for with my second attempt but still ended the afternoon with two serviceable bowls and we all agreed that the ‘rustic wrinkle’ in my solo attempt was rather fetching.

Our finished bowls are laid out ready for drying, glazing and firing.

Throwing and shaping finished to our satisfaction, our bowls were laid out ready for Cindy to glaze and fire, and a short time later, our finished bowls were ready to collect. (If you live too far away for collection in person to be practical, you can arrange to have your finished pottery sent to you.)

The finished bowls, complete with (unintentional) rustic wrinkle.

This was a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon and Cindy was superb at demonstrating the techniques then guiding our solo attempts. You can see Cindy’s pottery on her Whimsy in the Wild website where you can also book her classes. Prices start at £49 per person including all materials and tea/coffee.