I left RADA in 1981 and worked at Cranks for a few joyful months. I still love Winchcombe pottery, it has retained a loyal and appreciative following. The beauty,functionality and quality speaks for itself. We were allowed free meals on our shifts at the restaurant and eating off these bowls and plates was a real treat.
I was brought up with Ray Finch’s earthen ware pots, plates, bowls and soup dishes.They gave great joy and pleasure and they still do!! Thank you
Ray has been an inspiration to many of the children I teach and I feel privaliged to own one of his beautiful 1950s cider flagons.
Clare (and Family),
I’m sorry to hear that your Grandfather had passed away. I enjoyed reading about his impact upon the world. He would have been a good man to have known. My brother and my grandfather are/were also Ray Finch. Though, we hailed from Sacramento California. It’s interresting to see pictures, though I’m certain our branches are on different sides of the tree, there are some similar traits shared.
We lived in Gotherington for 11 years and now live in Lausanne, Switzerland, still surrounded by many Winchcombe pots, several of them Ray’s. What an inspiration, what a great life and to leave a legacy of pots all over the world, who could ask for more? Using the pots every day we will never forget the wonder of Ray’s work and that of the potters from Winchcombe and the pottery. May the tradition continue.
Andrew, Julie and Nathan.
My life has been enriched by briefly having met Ray in 1974 when I was training at Bromsgrove to be a teacher (Pottery was one of my activities). I use one of his teapots every day (and the cups and saucers on and off !). I started with some of ‘Trudie’s (Appin) plates’ back then. I have been inspired by Ray’s life of Christian artistic integrity and the working values of Winchcombe pottery. I remember visiting about 7 yrs ago and seeing an invitation poster ‘to Ray’s 90th – all are welcome!’. When, as a student, I asked about where one might find sound workshop experience in the 70′s, my wonderful ceramics tutor Terry Shone said straightaway ‘Ray finch, Winchcombe ! ‘. Such was he esteemed by discerning potters and teachers. Later when I attended Kent Potter John Solly’s evening classes, I learnt more about the ongoing activities of Ray Finch as John reported on Winchcombe reunions (as an ex-Winchcombe potter himself), celebrations including the launch of books about Ray and Winchcombe etc. Ray’s values and inspiration live on with me in his pots.
I first met the Finch family at Caerfai Bay in Pembrokeshire in the 1960s, as they used to holiday there. I went later with John Wilson (my ex husband) to Winchcombe Pottery to stay for the weekend and we selected quite a few pieces of pottery as a wedding gift to ourselves. The pottery is still in use and I still have most of the pieces intact (a casserole lid got broken unfortunately). I have since added some pieces to my collection. I loved the atmosphere at Winchcombe, and it was very inspiring to see a family working together doing something they really loved, in such beautiful surroundings. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with Ray Finch giving me tips on breadmaking, as he baked delicious wholemeal bread regularly. I think it was he who suggested using black treacle as the booster for the yeast. There was lots of lively debate and interesting conversation around that table. I was very sad to read that Ray had recently died, but on reflection his family was fortunate in having such a lovely father with them for so long.
I was lucky enough to meet Ray on a number of occasions over the last few years. Ray was such a talented and famous potter, but such a modest and quiet man. My last meeting with Ray was in late September 2011. I had taken a newly acquired cider jar of Ray’s along to the pottery to show the team. When I arrived Ray was sat out in the garden having a cup of tea, I went to join him along with Dave Wilson. Ray looked at the flagon and gave his thoughts, he then invited me into the house to view his own wonderful collection. I remember all the times I met Ray but I think that last meeting is the most memorable of all. He was a wonderful man and a talented, inspirational and legendary potter. He will be missed but never forgotten. He will live on not only through his own pots but also the many hundreds of potters whom he has influenced throughout the world.
The last time I visited Grandpa together with Lisa was in September. We heard him being up all night. He made tea, had a few pieces of toast and finished the chunky chocolate bar I had brought for him from Holland. During the day he kept dozing off, sometimes halfway a conversation. Or just as sweetheart great-granddaughter Thandie, dressed up in her doctor’s outfit, was taking his temperature or bandaging his sore arm. He seemed so much older, more fragile too. And a little confused. But he was also exactly the same person that I had instantly come to love when Lisa first took me to Winchcombe in 2003.
During that first, and several following visits he picked us up from the train station in Moreton-in-Marsh. Our 88 year old grandfather (well, not literally mine, but soon he gracefully called me his ‘adoptive granddaughter’) drove us through the Cotswolds hills, took us home to his freshly baked bread from an oven so ancient I had never seen, and apples already picked for the crumble that was to fatten us city girls up a little. We talked at the kitchen table and all enjoyed second helpings of delicious crumble with ice cream on top. On Saturday morning, before we were down for our breakfast tea, Grandpa was off to the pottery for a couple of hours’ work – to catch up on precious time lost while taxiing us from the station.
Lisa and I would go and see him in his workshop. And with hard-to-hide greedy eyes we’d scan the shelves for his pots that had not yet made it to the shop upstairs. And indeed to prevent them from making it there. I loved his tea bowls but revealed my ignorance of all matters regarding pottery when I asked him how long they had been in the oven and at what temperature. Oven?! He looked at me in disbelief. Kiln! And of course he thought it a disgrace that some people came to buy his pots only to sell them expensively ‘on this thing called ebay’. His pots were to be used. He had always felt it that way. And that’s indeed what I do every day.
Evenings were perhaps the best. We sat by the fire – this was before the floods of 2007, when there was still a real fireplace in his living room – and Grandpa treated us to a glass, and top-ups, of sloe gin, while we hoped to be also treated to stories of the past. He often smiled and sighed ‘oh girls I don’t remember!’ But some gems he shared with us, such as his earliest childhood memory of a nighttime bombing of London in 1917 – and how his mother played the piano as loud she could for her little boy not to hear the mayhem outside. And once he said a few words about how hard it had been, his choice to be a conscientious objector during the Second World War. He was in his twenties – and so many young men from Winchcombe never returned. He was quiet for a while then added that, probably, however, he would make the same choice again.
That summed him up. A man of deep-felt values and convictions (but not without deep-felt regrets). A few times we went for a walk up the hills, in Spring, the hedges white with blackthorn blossom, and I marveled at the fact that he had lived in this same valley ever since 1936. He told me about the small cottage up one of the hills that he had rented for 5 shillings a week when he first arrived (there’s a lovely picture ‘Ray in his cottage 1937’ on this website) and how happy he had been, every morning, walking down to another day’s work in the pottery. He embodied what might seem a contradiction: wholly devoted to one place and one profession, but with such genuine interest in the world at large. And concern. Two or three years ago, he wrote to me about his sadness seeing 16-year-old boys sent off to war in Afghanistan. It seemed so wrong. And he wondered, often I think, about the world that Amani and Thandie and his growing line of great-grandchildren will grow up in. And meanwhile he went on going into Winchcombe town, in his mid nineties, to buy his organic yoghurt and fair trade chocolate.
A few weeks ago now, we picked snowdrops from his garden and with heavy hearts we let the pretty white chalices fall on Grandpa’s coffin. Master Potter. Adoptive grandfather to me, and dear friend. I will treasure the memory of his thoughtfulness, his sincerity and unpretentiousness. Of quiet moments and candid conversations. And of course the many memories of his kindness. For one, I wonder whether it was to console himself, or Lisa and me, when as we left him on that gorgeous autumn day last September, he said, ‘Come on go now girls, I’ve come to dread goodbyes. But haven’t we been lucky with these few lovely days’?