In our first Sector Spotlight on Creative Industries, we hear from Andrew Appleby who is the Managing Director of Fursbreck Pottery – also known as the Harray Potter.
Andrew has loved working with clay since childhood and an interest in archaeology helped him learn about Neolithic pottery. While at school he started worked for Peggy Foy Pottery. He then went to Art School and worked at another pottery that taught him about rapid production. He moved to Orkney in 1975, and set up his pottery at Fursbreck Farm. He moved to his current premises at the old Harray School three years later and has worked there ever since. He now employs two apprentices who work alongside him and his son.
Can you describe a typical day in your role as Managing Director of the pottery?
I often start around 5.30am to 6am, I will complete ongoing tasks, such as glazing and kiln packing. It is not unusual to start a large batch of throwing. I take a wee break around 8.15am and go sea swimming. This really freshens me up for the rest of the day. I will then pick my grandson up and take him to school, but only twice a week.
I am then back at the pottery for 9.50am when we open. I work on all current projects, answer emails, do the paperwork and serve customers if I have no staff in. Throwing is very important, this keeps everything moving. On a good day, I can throw 250 to 300 pieces. I always stop production at 5pm. I do routine cleaning, totalling up the takings, if any and generally wind down. We close at 5.50pm so by wine time, I’m ready to relax.
How did you end up in this role?
I loved pottery from the age of three. All I did at school was hide in the Art Room and work with clay. From 11 years onward, I took up archaeology. Discovering pottery from Neolithic to late Medieval intrigued me and I learned a lot.
I worked for Peggy Foy Pottery whilst at school. This is where I made my first piece in 1953. It was a mushroom, and I’m still making them. At the age of 15, I hitch hiked with my brother Malcolm from Kent to Orkney. We were both searching for somewhere to live eventually. Malcolm chose Deeside. I moved to Orkney in 1975, 11 years later.
I’d been to Art School and worked in a sweatshop Pottery in Baker St. This gave me the training to do rapid production, which I still practice. I rented an old hen battery house on Fursbreck Farm. Within a week folk were saying, ‘You must visit the Harray Potter…he’s just magic! I bought the old Harray School three years later. I wrote a cheque, posted it and then told the bank. ‘Anything else we can help you with?’ the manager asked. ‘Later, maybe’, I replied. How things have changed! Anyway, I have been here ever since and my reputation hath grown.
I have two apprentices, who are learning very well indeed. My son Nicky is now learning and potting with great skill.
What is the best thing about your job?
Being creative. Being my own boss and having freedom to live my life just as I wish.
What is the worst thing about your job?
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
Utter trust in my team. Respect, fun, certainly communicating, which I’m not the best at. Definitely attention to detail and always improving skills.
What qualifications do you have?
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
Yes… It takes a while to learn, but is so creative and exciting along the way. I see that with all the ones I have trained and taught over the decades. They have that feeling of freedom too and self respect.
Visit Harray Pottery on: