NEW YORK ... NEW YORK - a potters tale by Paul Young


One Wednesday morning in September I had a phone call from a woman in London demanding to know " How much are the candlesticks in the window ?". Assuming she had been to the workshop and seen them the weekend before while I was closed, I began to apologise. " So sorry" I replied " I'd been peddling my wares at a show". "No, no", she said, "the ones in the magazine article". " Oh it's out then" I said........referring to the four-page piece the World of Interiors Magazine had published on the workshop. I knew it was about to be released, but two years from photo shoot to publication had somehow managed to dampen my enthusiasm. However it was out and along with it came a ticket on the no- exit roller coaster ride of "pot idle."

Neil and Sally MacDonnell called to congratulate me, followed by Polly and Garry Uttley. They both subscribe to W.O.I. and get current issues before it reaches the magazine shelves.

Later that day I was heading up to Rufford for the opening of their slipware show. So were Garry and Polly who brought their copy with them and gave me a first glimpse of what had been written about me. It was the first time I had anything published in such a prestigeous and international magazine - The Bible as it's known in the interiors trade. The photographs were beautiful, the journalist had done a wonderful job, it was very real, accurate and true. All in all I was very pleased with the piece.

Then came the big bang. Phone call after phone call from people wanting to come and see this small Victorian railway station building that became my workshop six years ago.

They came, they placed orders, they bought, they took pictures, they took time, lots of time! But I always remember how generous Lucie Rie was with her time, even in her 80's. Stock levels were up and with only one more show to do that Autumn, I had time to give and was pleased to do so.

The phone kept on ringing with enquiries from shops, galleries and designers in the U.K. paving the way for the international readers about a week later........ the first of which came from an architects office in New York, which I have to say, I thought was a wind-up from one of my potting friends.

This deep Southern States slowly spoken voice appeared in my ear. "This is Mr Schaeffer's office in New York, New York. Mr Schaeffer had read the article and wanted to know and see more of what I did. Wow, it had reached America.

The calls kept coming. Designers from Paris and Colorado wanting information and images. So, with help from friends we installed a CD re-writer in my computer
( salvaged from a doorstep by a friend of mine). I had the digital camera and with my new found wizardry in the dark arts, I was able to put images to disc and began posting them around the world.

More phone calls - The head of Sony Pictures Entertainment, California ( made it to the West Coast then). Tiffany, New York's Fifth Avenue. Followed by the Metropolitan Museum, who would really like to meet me. Looks like I'll have to go to New York then. Oh well, someone has to!

With only a small time window and depleting stock before the C.P.A. Oxford show, I book my ticket, hotel, buy a N.Y. map, check passport or maybe I need a visa ( post 9/11 ) and then tell my daughter that I'm taking her with me for her 18th birthday present. ( still slightly deaf in one ear, as she screamed at me down the phone ). New York means only one thing for a trendy 18 year old young woman - SHOPPING ( my least favourite pastime ). So we have to set out some ground rules between us in order to accommodate business first, then pleasure.

After much filling in of forms on the aeroplane, photographed and fingerprinted at customs, we clear Newark, New Jersey airport and catch the short bus ride into town. The Manhattan skyline from the other side of the Hudson River is a truly magical sight. Skyscrapers growing from the ground like huge hi-tech stalagmites. With nowhere else to build on this island, the only way is up. From the port authority bus terminal, a short but scary taxi tide, ( who dares wins, in this town ) takes us to the hotel. Very posh and demanding $200 deposit for room service!!

I refuse to pay and say the room is paid for and I'll not be requiring room service. No, not even for a cup of tea in the morning. It's on Fifth Avenue, on the 34th floor with magnificent views of down town Manhatten and Cental Park.

We dump our bags then hit the streets. Up town first, Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum only about a mile walk from the hotel, so at least I know where to go for my appointment.....then back towards mid-town. See how confidently American I've become in two hours. Alice spots Tiffany on the opposite side of the road. Armed with a shopping list from one of her school teachers, she wants me to part with $200 dollars for a bracelet to be reimbursed on our return to England. Once again I refuse to be parted from my dollars, not knowing what expenses the next few days will bring. Probably rather eat than take home a piece of jewellery ( parents are so sensible).

However she has been given some money from her grandma for her birthday and wastes no time at all purchasing a Tiffany necklace for herself. Best not use your own money just for teachers.

For first-timers in New York we forgot the guide book rules on how to spot the tourists by constantly gazing upwards at the awesome architecture this city has to offer and standing waiting for the light to change before we cross the streets. Oh and yes the manhole covers really do belch steam, just like the movies.

We eventually walk ourselves to death, then sleep. Or sleep for some. I'm an early riser by nature, very often at the workshop by 5.00 am - but someone forgot to tell me about the time difference. Five hours behind. So it's 2.00 am New York time and I'm awake and ready to go to the workshop back home. At 3.00 am I get a phone call from New Yorkers in the UK asking if they can visit the workshop today.

"It may be difficult" I explain" as I'm in your home town". " My god it's so early there". "Not to worry, I was awake anyway".

I get dressed, take the lift (elevator) down to the lobby at 3.30 am and walk round the block to Sixth Avenue. Sitting on a bench I'm intrigued by an old black guy as he began taking off his shoes, followed by his socks. "Morning" I greet him. No reply. Instead he steps into the fountain and begins picking up the coins thrown there by tourists. Probably made enough for a bite to eat.

It's 4.00 am and the Deli is open. These Deli's are fantastic, so I purchase tea for two with bagels and head back through the hotel lobby, frowned on by the hotel reception staff who clearly know I've been to the Deli for breakfast instead of using room service.

I have an appointment at the Met today and am feeling a little nervous. I brought two pots with me in had luggage and although very well wrapped, I make a check on their completeness. I had to fill out a customs form declaring they were samples and not for sale. Putting them back in the bag I head for the Metropolitan Museum.

The Person I have spoken to on the telephone is keeper and curator of 20th Century Art and he comes to greet me in the entrance, as security will not let me through with bags. I'm security tagged and with my bag on my back, we head off on a personally guided tour of the museum, as he points out objects that may be of interest to me. I think he was impressed at my recognition of Pennsylvanian slipware dishes, which have their origin in European folk art.

I was introduced to curators, academics and experts in other fields. All so very polite, welcoming and interested in me. I was treated like a king and felt very humbled. I left the building with my head in the clouds and two pots in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

I met up with Alice for lunch with my head still up in the clouds. Seeing she had me at a moment of weakness and not one to miss an opportunity, I found myself agreeing to purchase a bracelet for her teacher. However it would come at a price - a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.What a beautiful sight, it's marbled inlay lobby, classic Art Deco lines and the view from the top is breathtaking. Glad I kept my bicycle clips on though. We gazed over to Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Chrysler building and Ground Zero and for a moment found myself saying a prayer for all those who had perished in such a shocking act. What strange times we now live in.

The following day with the Force still strong within me, armed with my new found light sabre ( ok C.D. images) and the aura of a saint, we set off cold calling on the numerous galleries whose details we had lifted from the internet. A lot of legwork but maybe something will come of it. Time to take in a show on Broadway. Try telling a musical theatre student that we don't have time. Ice skating in Central Park then home.

All this and more from a four page glossy magazine article. What next then ? Playboy centrefold? Well the claybody might stand up to it but I'm not sure about the flesh one!

Paul Young
Station Pottery

Paul will be exhibiting at Potfest in the Park, Potfest Bristol, Potfest Scotland and Potfest in the Peak.


slip decorated candlestick by Paul Young
slip decorated candlestick
Station Pottery workshop
Paul's workshop
slip decorated box with mermaids by Paul Young
box with mermaidshill with trees by Paul young
hill with trees
slip decorated jars by Paul Young
medium jars
New York skyline
New York view
New York at night
New York at night
slip decorated dovecote by Paul Young
Dove cote
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Metropolitan Museum, New York
bowl by Paul Young
small dark stemmed bowl
ice skating in Central Park
Ice skating in Central Park
Paul Young, firing his kiln
firing the kiln

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