PENINSULA LIFE • OUR HERITAGE
An artisans dream, Bridge Pottery is a visual feast. Tucked away in the village of Cheriton below Llanmadoc, the collection of stone and wooden cabins are bordered by leafy woodlands and a gentle river, the Burry Pill. A long open building with a corrugated roof houses numerous kilns and bunches of upended dried flowers blow in the breeze.
Artist and potter, Micki Schloessingk set up her studio on the Gower Peninsula back in 1987 and has been here ever since. Specialising in wood firing and salt glazes, her range of pots are designed to respond imaginatively to practical needs in the kitchen. Micki’s work lines the walls and tables of the gallery, calling to be picked up, used and enjoyed.
The studio is bright, airy and gloriously cluttered. Half finished pieces, tools, sea shells and a clay splashed radio bathe in sunlight that filters through the large windows in the high vaulted ceiling.
We’ve come to meet with Chris Jenkins who currently works alongside and learns from Micki at the pottery. Previously a chef at the Britannia Inn in Llanmadoc, he’s familiar with our beers and enjoys a Lighthouse lager in the afternoon. Sitting at the kickwheel in the studio, Chris deftly centred the clay and began drawing out a form; a custom order of beer tankards for a friend. It was mesmerising to watch. As a tall mug took shape between his capable hands, we chatted about Chris’ life on the Gower Peninsula and how his work is influenced by the landscape around him.
“It’s very hard to not be influenced by Gower - working in these surroundings I just absorb everything. When you’re walking through the lanes, or clifftops there are so many surfaces and textures that are so interesting like the rocks and cliff faces that can be translated into ceramic work.
My bread and butter glaze, the one that I use the most, I call my Gower glaze. Half of the materials that I use in that glaze are actually dug from along this river, the Burry Pill.
It’s just the place. It’s an incredible space to be and I can’t see myself being anywhere else in the world. If someone gave me an opportunity to pick anywhere, I would choose Gower. The people here are so lovely. I’ve been part of this tight knit community for the last decade between being here at the pottery and working up the road at the Brit.
It’s so nice!
I haven’t always wanted to be a potter - there was one time when I did pottery when I was 7 in Saint Fagans and I sorta forgot about it. And in my first year of university I rediscovered it and ever since then it’s been my thing. I went to Swansea College of Art and studied fine art mainly focusing on charcoal drawing and portraiture.
Discovering pottery was a total chance thing. I was just in the ceramics department and a technician showed me how to centre on the wheel and I got completely addicted and couldn't stop.
I have such a drive to do it! It gives me a sense of purpose, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I think it’s just the intimacy and how consuming it is.
I mostly make tableware and some gardenware as well - my favourite form that I make is my teapots.
When you’re on the wheel you can’t think of anything other than what you’re doing right in that moment. It’s very meditative, doing the same motions over and over - it’s like the way of kungfu."
Chris lives in Loughor, the small estuary-side village on the edge of the peninsula. His daily commute sees him drive nearly the full length of North Gower, following the estuary and marshlands as they open up into the Bristol Channel. We asked Chris to describe his life on Gower in three words:
Wild, calm & colourful.
Bridge pottery is immersed in its surrounding landscape. Chris’ words beautifully capture the dynamic nature of his environment. How the seasons change, bringing new shades of life and vibrancy all year round. It’s easy to see this reflected in his lifestyle and work; especially in his beloved teapots.