Graham Taylor - a man in great demand for his historic pottery work
The latest in an occasional series of portraits of Creative Coquetdale Folk by Katie Scott. This week Graham Taylor, potter, experimental archaeologist and ancient pottery technology specialist.
Graham is in great demand by many prestigious museums and heritage sites. You may well have seen him on TV. He has been in many programmes, including The Great British Pottery Throwdown. If you enjoy visiting historical sites, and museums, you will almost certainly have come across his amazing work. You might also have seen his creations in films, e.g. Tarzan, as it was Graham who created the huge African pots!
Born in Tynemouth in 1954, he was raised by parents who were keen to show him, and his younger sister, all sorts of art and artefacts which are housed in North East museums. The family moved to Rothbury in 1966. For a time, they ran an antique shop, at Townfoot. After school, Graham studied 3-D art; specialising in ceramics and glass, at university in Manchester.
After perfecting his pottery techniques working with the world-renowned Joe Finch, Graham and his wife (artist Lynda Taylor, of Crown Studio, Rothbury) worked for over 20 years in Lesotho, Africa.
Returning to Northumberland, Graham created a workshop, kiln and pottery in Elson. He soon became friendly with the archaeologists working for the National Park. ‘There was an excavation in the Ingram Valley – bronze age stuff. I was asked to make a replica for the Visitor Centre. This was my introduction to replica pottery.’ Then followed making Roman lamps for Hadrian’s Wall Tourism. His extraordinary abilities began to be recognised and he was requested to make replicas from all periods, in many places. ‘It really snowballed’ he tells me. ‘Through doing all the research over the years, reading and studying, I learned so much about different clays, methods of firing, different glazes, from different ages. Graham is incredibly knowledgeable and eloquent about all kinds of pottery, from all eras.
Graham moved his workshop to Rothbury in 2006. He offers demonstrations, talks, workshops and more. His obvious love and knowledge of his subject makes learning from him entertaining and effortless – www.pottedhistory.co.uk/
Of all the stories he tells me, my favourite is about the bowl he made for the British Museum earlier this year. A replica of a silver Roman bowl found in Croatia. It is unique as it has a plumbing system inside it. It’s called a Tantalus Bowl. The 4th Century bowl looks like a regular drinking vessel, but it has a secret pipe within it which would begin draining any liquid poured into the bowl if it reached a certain quantity. ‘How tantalising!’ I laugh. ‘Yes’ Graham responds, ‘Tantalus was punished by the gods by always being left wanting, if he reached for fruit, it was always just out of reach, if he wanted to drink, the liquid would simply drain away’. You can watch Graham making the bowl: https://youtu.be/biC47lx0YsQ
Anything current I ask? ‘Well I am sworn to secrecy, but I have just finished making 115 huge Roman Amphora for a big TV company. I cannot say more!’ Graham also hints at a Channel 4 documentary coming soon. So, we will just have to watch and wait!
Katie Scott was talking with Graham Taylor