When Michael Cardew left St. Ives in 1926 to take on the then disused Winchcombe Pottery, he needed help and turned to the wonderfully named Elijah Comfort who had worked at the pottery before it closed down. Elijah was happy to get back to his old routine of making domestic earthenware for everyday use, these pots sold well and provided Cardew with a steady income. That was a very long time ago but Winchcombe Pottery has remained a production pottery, these days concentrating on more durable stoneware.
Last year I attended the ClayArt Wales festival up in Ruthin where one of the featured events was a slipware firing in the traditional wood-fired bottle kiln. Paul Young was in charge and one of the helpers was Matt Grimmitt who I later found out is the Great, Great grandson of Elijah Comfort.
Three years ago Matt was running a multi million pound sales depot for a food distribution company. He became disillusioned with his work and one day could take no more so he enrolled on a part time pottery course at Evesham College. A few years earlier, prompted by stories that his Grandmother told him about Elijah, he had started collecting old Winchcombe slipware. His grandmother was sad that there were very few of Elijah’s pots left in the family due mainly to the fact it all got used and broken over time.
Like many of us, Matt started trawling through eBay, looking for pots. Buying a piece of old Winchcombe slipware made by Elijah from slipware potter Doug Fitch became a life-changing event for Matt as Doug invited him to spend a week at his Devon pottery making pots. Before the end of the week Matt knew that he had found his true vocation and he hasn’t looked back since.
Matt really enjoys making old country pot shapes such as Pancheons, Moneyboxes, Jugs and Costrels. Not very practical for today’s use but he just loves making them. At the moment he uses an electric kiln but hopes to soon be wood firing. Matt and Doug are working on an updraught oil drum kiln which would fit snuggly in his small garden and hopefully not smoke the neighbours out too much!