Art and Culture Costa Brava Have a Go Spain

The Pottery Workshop Challenge

Pottery Workshop Clay PIle
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Call me ceramically challenged

Kirstie Profile SmallAs a mother and son activity goes, a pottery workshop is a winning idea for a rainy afternoon. Matthew is top of his class at art, and I am top of the class at art in my head. And we are in Dali country, in La Bisbal D’Emporda, a region of the Costa Brava famous for ceramics. Earlier in the week we did food together. Now we will make great art and bond in the process. Or that’s what I’m thinking as I get off the bus..

It is Ghost recreated

The beautiful woman. The handsome guy. Soft palm stroking bronze moist curve. The Ghost film set is recreated in a studio in Costa Brava.

On the other side of the room.

Tragically on my side there is just me and a lump of clay. Despite my second class degree in drama and a body to die for, I have not been cast as Demi Moore in this scenario.

Because someone invited a ‘Lifestyle’ blogger to the party.

La Bispal Pottery Workshop

Matthew eyeing up the competition

The Queen of pots

Lucy, who blogs at Family Affairs and other Matters takes to pottery immediately, and so does her teenage son. They effortlessly demonstrate that their eye for interior design doesn’t stop at the front door of their London home. I poke at the unsightly lump of brown stuff. If I’m honest, it’s a pretty good metaphor of my house.

Pottery workshop La Bisbal

Some families have natural style..

My life without style

This competition (OK no one said it was a competition  – I’m reading between the lines now ) is sooo unfair! Lucy is currently up for a Brilliance in Blogging award from BritMums in the ‘lifestyle’ category. Lucy is great company, her blog is a good read, and despite her protestations that her life is as chaotic as mine, she definitely has a lifestyle. And the bald fact is that even if I were to spend the rest of my life tied with a silk scarve to the champagne bar at Harvey Nicks, I could never be accused of that. I live in a farming village and my street smells of cow pats. My dream country kitchen has turned into a mouse run. I woke up the other day and a mouse had eaten half a floorboard. And then stolen the bait tray. Our lilac bubble car is quite frankly embarrassing, even when parked next to a tractor. And before that we drove a Mondeo. If my lifestyle were pottery it would be a factory second.

Mishapen clay

This is how my life feels… well, sometimes

We’re off..

Our workshop is taking place at the Escola de Ceramica de La Bisbal, a centre that has pioneered pottery techniques across Spain. There are five or six wheels going at the same time, with various levels of expertise behind them. Lucy cups her hands around the soft clay and moulds. I want to be Lucy from now on, so I do the same. My instructor shapes his fingers like a pair of scissors. I copy him as he gently splashes water onto my hands and places them around the material on the wheel. He never loses contact with my eyes or my fingers. Is there some chemistry going on here?

Instructors at the Pottery Workshop Costa Brava

Instructors at work at the Pottery Workshop in La Bisbal

It might not be Ghost but it’s scary

Hmm. Not chemistry. Not even biology. It soon becomes clear my instructor is worried that if he leaves my fingers to their own devices, clots of goo will spatter the walls like a low budget horror movie. It’s true this pile of clay has a mind of its own. I push two fingers around the centre, and it flops off to the right. I try to rescue it by overcompensating with my thumb and it veers uncontrollably to the left. He removes my hands and attempts to do some emergency resuscitation on my lump. We try again; me doing scissors; paper; stone around the increasingly misshapen object, and him clutching my hands.

Boy learning pottery

Matthew’s efforts on the wheel are so much more successful than mine.

Soft clocks all round

After several lifetimes of sweaty palms and clumsy fingering, I am handed a cheese cutter. Now I’m back on solid ground. I might not be a complete natural at the potter’s wheel, but I have a real talent for nibbling away at cheese. He indicates I must pull the cutter under my bowl to separate it from the wheel. But the cutter turns my cheese into butter and the brown stuff flops into my palm. It’s starting to resemble one of Dali’s soft clocks.

Boy learning pottery

Matthew has a Ghost moment

OMG a soft clock? That’s art! Dali’s soft clocks are world famous. Have I accidentally created a masterpiece? Maybe I am artistic after all? I look hopefully at my teacher. He puts two fingers to his mouth, takes an imaginary drag and lines it up next to two others.

“Mum’s made another ash tray,” shouts Matthew, whose perfect bowls are lining up nicely next to the wheel.

Misshapen pot

“Ooh look, another ashtray.”

Meanwhile Lucy has moved up a notch and is now sculpting a Cath Kidston casserole dish. She also seems to have picked up a TV crew. In a pottery studio?  How did she do that? She is assuring them that she is no Demi Moore. Too right lady. I bagsied that part.

At home in the barn

The crew follow Lucy outside, where pots we painted earlier have reached the required temperature in the kiln. They have to be cooled down so we can take them home. A bed of straw is made and they are tipped out onto it.

Firing a pot

Cooling the pot after the kiln

Flames spark. My fellow potters are coughing and moving away. I am in a barn, with straw strewn at my feet. Kitchen implements are on fire. The smoke is impenetrable. A bucket of water appears along with some giant tweezers and a shovel. I have accelerated into my comfort zone. It’s like a normal tea time chez Pelling.

Perhaps I do have a lifestyle after all? Is it too late to enter the Brilliance in Blogging Lifestyle section? Mine is admittedly more farm than fame, more ghastly than ghostly. Maybe there is a gap in the market for brown ash trays? I hum Unchained Melody and look around for the TV crew.

They’ve packed up and gone home.

Boy between pots

Mum we do not need ash trays. Seriously.

Disclosure Note: Thanks to the Costa Brava tourist board for hosting me to enable me to bring you this story. All the experience, views and opinions are, as ever, entirely my own.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


  • Kirstie, if you compare yourself to someone always check first whom you’re comparing to. I took one look at that lady’s website, and hit CTRL-F4. Didn’t read a single post. Shouldn’t lifestyle be about life, not about furniture and gardening? Whereas compared to that your posts and Stuart’s are always inspiring to me. And I am often divided between unwillingness to give up some comforts of my city life and envy of your rural advantages. OK, so I may not have actual mice in the kitchen, the missus would not forgive me that easily, but I have dust puppies living outside the computer, and stuff overflow that clearly wouldn’t be tolerated by lifestyle papers. And your son looks better with clayey hands.

  • Hi Thomas,
    Each to their own I guess. I like her work and it’s about a lot more than furniture. I sometimes wish I had more scope to blog about all manner of things beyond travel and adventure.
    You mention stuff overflow…now that I am definitely familiar with. Every time we return home from a trip I vow to throw it all out but never do. One day perhaps the mice will take it away.
    Thank you for commenting. As ever, appreciated.

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