“Pottery was David’s passion. He achieved a lifetime’s work without support, not much money, in a wooden shed. He never compromised. He lived a rich life, never worked for others. And he had so many friends. Fantastic” SUE TURNER
To live is miracle enough
To live at all is miracle enough.
The doom of nations is another thing.
Here in my hammering blood-pulse is my proof.
Let every painter paint and poet sing
And all the sons of music ply their trade;
Machines are weaker than a beetle’s wing.
Swung out of sunlight into cosmic shade,
Come what come may the imagination’s heart
Is constellation high and can’t be weighed.
Nor greed nor fear can tear our faith apart
When every heart-beat hammers out the proof
That life itself is miracle enough.
– Mervyn Peake
This poem, on Mervyn Peake’s headstone, sums up my feelings about Dave. I knew him as a musician, friend, and lover of France as much as a potter, but am filled with admiration for the body of work he has left and the bravery with which he tackled his illness and his regrets.
I first met David many years ago when i visited Keramisto still as a customer and hadn’t yet dare apply for a stall myself! I remember being fascinated by his pots, his use of color, the textures he used for handles etc and the playful way it looked like he”d thrown them. We started chatting and although i was probably the hundredth customer that day who”d asked him how he”d done things he still enthusiastically talked me through everything in detail even with addresses of where to buy the colours etc! That was typical of David as i got to know him better over the years. He could always get very passionate about anything he wanted to talk about and he was always extremely helpful and kind, except of course, when he was downright rude! -sorry David;-)
We became good friends through a trip to Cordes sur Ciel organised by Keramisto quite a few years ago and since then we used to talk regularly on the phone. It was nice for me to have someone i could call in the middle of the day and talk English to (ps. i live in Holland!) and we usually had a good laugh. I had the feeling that David was sometimes a bit lonely so i think we helped each other out a bit!
He was also a massive shoulder of support for me with organising Clay2day. Any wild ideas or problems i could talk through with David and he usually had a practical solution and his enthusiasm always helped to boost the confidence. At the first two Clay2day”s David played an active part, first building a “tulip kiln” and the second doing majolica workshops. Unfortunately he couldn’t make the third one due to his health problems, but he still managed to be helpful and supportive even though i knew he was suffering.
I visited David a few weeks before he died, when he was still very much alive and working like a maniac. He had a head full of idea”s that needed making and not enough time. It was a struggle to drag him away at 9.30pm for a delicious Thai dinner in Hebden Bridge! He”d discovered a new technique of doing his majolica which gave him the depth he”d been looking for. I don”t think i”d ever seen him so determined and confident. I remember now all the times i”ve told him off on markets for belittling his work. I often heard him telling customers “oh that”s easy” when talking about his techniques or “it”s really cheap that” when talking about the gold and silver lusters he used and then he”d be “complaining” that he hadn’t sold much! Adding to the fact that i often found him half asleep behind his stall looking bored! But this “last” David was ready to take on the Saatchi gallery with a solo exhibition and i was looking forward to going to the opening! I feel sad that he didn’t get to see that happen but i think in his mind he was already there.
I”m really happy to have known you David, you”ll always have a special place in my heart and thanks for always being there.
I’m not sure when, perhaps the late eighties or early nineties I first met David at a Christmas craft fair at Newcastle Art Centre. He had a stand next to mine and in the centre was a large majolica plate dominating his display. I was astonished by it. The craftsmanship, the brushwork, the artistry, but above all the absolute presence of it made a huge impression on me.
On that plate David had painted a vase of daffodils set on a table on a ground of blue and white checks fading into the background. It had the feel of an early Dutch interior. At the time I was largely involved in making domestic stoneware with the odd individual piece. It was a revelation for me to see David’s work, so confident, so accomplished and then as I stood there he sold the plate for a remarkable £200 to a Newcastle based graphic designer! The buyer was so determined to have the piece but was short of the full amount and David generously sold it with an agreement that he would take instalments. Twenty years ago this was such an event for me to witness. It’s my earliest memory of true inspiration and endorsed the idea that there were possibilities outside of my own narrow experiences. At that moment I became aware that I also desperately wanted to make individual works that would stop you in your tracks.
A little time later I bought my very first piece of hand made pottery. At Gossipgate Gallery in Alston I viewed David’s exhibition there and bought one of his mugs. It was decorated with multiple layers of wax resisted paintwork and had a copper lustre rim.
I am very happy that I still have it. Over the ensuing years I would meet David at various events and I would remind him of that time at the Newcastle craft fair. Most recently he spoke with me at my stand at Ceramic Art London in February of this year. After exchanging our memories again he told me his was ill.
I am glad that I knew him and I am glad that he knew me.
I don’t remember when I first met David. It seemed like I’ve always known him but that can’t be right. We’d usually meet at shows on the Continent, on ferries, at kiln firings – always by accident and always a very welcome surprise. Each meeting was like a journey into the unknown. He was unpredictable – in David world. At times cantankerous, tetchy, sharp, at others bouncy, playful, funny. His conversation ranged easily between history, music, geology, psychology, art, literature. He was well read and found an interest in anything and everything. It was always a pleasure to be in his company.
As a potter he was a natural bridge between the UK and mainland Europe, having spent such a long time in France and seemingly equally at home anywhere. Like him his work was a mixture of colourful and exuberant domestic ware and earthy mysterious ethnic sculpture. I suppose we are what we make and his work certainly reflected his character.
In June 2010 Chris and I were asked to invite a group of Potfest potters to take part in a potters’ market at Hohr-Grenzhausen in Germany. David was a must as part of the group. The town arranged accommodation and we spent several long days in each other’s company and the whole group got to know each other better.
David had quite a relaxed approach to shows. He’d often turn up last minute, not because he’d set off late but usually because he’d detoured on some interesting aside and forgotten the time. He’d come in saying “I’ve just been to this brilliant place” and want to talk about it while everyone else was panicking trying to get their stall together. Somehow his display was always ready on time but then he’d wander off chatting to others rather than selling his own work. We have a nice image of him sitting behind his stall in Hohr-Grenzhausen fast asleep.
Earlier this year we were once again invited as guests by the Association des Potiers Createurs Puisaye to be part of their show at le Couvent, Treigny in Burgundy. We already knew of David’s condition as he’d been concerned that he might not be up to taking part in Potfest in the Pens. Treigny was the following weekend and although we were desperate for him to come we thought it a big commitment and he might not be up for it. But no, he was determined to do both. We were to sail together from Hull to Zeebrugge. Sailing was at 7 with last boarding at 5.30. Chris and I got to Hull early only to find traffic jams all through the city but by exceeding speed limits and mad driving we made it in time and went on deck to watch for Dave’s car. Last boarding at 5.30 – Dave arrived at 6.30 and still got on board.
Treigny was once again a brilliant weekend together. We [ all nine of us ] stayed in the large house of an elderly couple on the outskirts of town and had a great time. One morning Dave went missing, no one had seen him and just assumed he’d gone on another Dave walkabout. We were all sitting down having breakfast at the show when along came Dave carrying a big brown paper bag. He’d heard that the best baker’s in the area was in a small town about 15 kilometres away and had been and brought us a huge pile of croissants to share. Probably the best we’ll ever have – nice one Dave.
The day after the show we all visited potters and potteries in near by St Amand en Puisaye . Dave was once again in his element in the old wood fired kilns. Still buying pots.
We said goodbye that afternoon as he drove off to nearby La Borne, another pottery village to yet again visit kilns and rummage through a local flea market before heading south to see long time friends in the Dordogne.
We wouldn’t meet again but will always remember that time together not in sadness but as a joyous time with good friends. Who could ask for more.
I remember meeting David for the first time in Potfest in the Pens, I remember him noticing that me and Levas needed some extra pins for our stand — and he just brought a handful of them without asking. I remember drinking wine with him one evening in a camping near Gouda, Holland. I’ve got his work at home and am glad it will remind me of him.
The happiest working day of my life was in January 2011 when David agreed that I could work for him in return for knowledge and skills. I walked there from my flat over the road from his workshop – it was snowing and I felt so excited about the work ahead. What I could do, learn. When I got there, David was chopping wood for his stove, looking like he knew exactly what he was doing. Proper tradesman, I thought. He said to me, “I hope you wont be expecting to make any artistic breakthroughs – a lot of people come to pottery like that. Well, its not. Its a job. What can you do?” he then asked. I told him my work background, and so on. “uhhh. right..Anyway.. you seem normal” he said, and got me hand mixing bagfuls of red earthenware with some stoneware. I wedged for ages, then he seemed to soften up on me, he showed me some pulling techniques I”d asked for help with on the wheel. generous to the last, he let me freely use clay, telling me that working big taught me more about it. Throwing, Radio 4. Top notch imported coffee, pottery, clay, snow, valley – for this relocated Manchester lad, I was living the dream. The potters dream, anyway. Real work. Real skill.
I felt so grateful, so fortunate to have moved to Mytholmroyd and have David over the road. I couldn’t go there that often to work. Day job, my own workshop to run, etc. But I popped in often on the way home – see whats going on, get a story – a wonderful extemporization on chemistry, art history, or engineering. Every morning I went to day-job work and passed his gaff on the estate. I wondered what he”d be doing. (probably not there at the time I went past!). But I longed to be able to work more there with him. To do more pottery. Maybe become davids friend. I was optimistic. He”s gone too soon. But I had the best working day of my life with him in January. Every time I worked there, it just felt proper. I loved it. I never told him that. He never told me he was that ill.
One day, we went out for plaster, and he detoured to the disused brickworks. We schemed at how to lift off dense firebricks of the site. Mooching around. He told me about what it was like when he worked there. I took photos, we carried off half each of a 16in lintel (for over the stoke hole of the mad kiln he”d designed that we were going to build) – he balanced his half on his head! it was about a half mile back to the car. God knows what the locals thought as we tramped past, bricks in hand (on head). I”m going to go on that site again soon. I hounded down the owner, sorting out permission, with a truck. I”ll get shedloads of brick. Build that kiln. Davids sawn-off single mouth maniac kiln. I went round to tell him about accessing the site. I didnt know he was in hospital. David was a new friend. A teacher. A total inspiration. At the funeral wake, I learned a lot about him, from all these other people who knew him well. I was suprised at that. I miss him. I hate the fact that him and his wonderful craft wont be going on over the road anymore. But rest easy David. Generous man of great skill. Thank you for the Colour, the Culture, the craft and the Graft. Much Love.
David”s funeral was the saddest and most beautiful funeral I have ever been to.
When Chris Cox informed me of David”s death, I was saddened. For the next few days I thought about the times I had met, talked and socialised with him. Our stands were next to each other at the ceramics show “Ceramics South East” near Alysford and it was intensely hot.
This kept a fair number of people away from the show, so we had plenty of time to chat about the state of the studio ceramics scene, life, philosophy and the joy of clay. We met many more times at ceramics shows, camping at Art in Clay at Hatfield house a few times and others..
David”s honesty and thoughtfulness shone brightly, he was a sensitive and caring person, but not afraid to counter an injustice if seen.
I didn”t make much money at Ceramics South East because of the scorching weather, but I spent the whole lot on this piece of ceramic sculpture(below) that David made. It is one of my favourites in my collection and viewed almost daily. We have several other of his “Spikey platinum pots”.
I always respected his imaginative, skilful and colourful approach to clay. Susan and I will miss his gentle presence.
Condolences to his family.
I first met dave white in about 1973/74, in a house on Bridge Lanes, Hebdenbridge, where my good friend Linda Simonean lived. Dave often used to come round, bringing us sturdy, chunky mugs for our endless cups of tea by the open fire, discussing the meaning of life, how to pay the bills and who was going out with who… He brought the children beautiful little goblets with out handles, easy for small hands to grasp and guzzle Linda’s homemade ginger ale. He was already a potter and talked passionately about pottery – his work was avant garde but ancient and earthy. It was some 25 years later that dave and i met again at one of our ‘kitchen table’ music sessions, where he came to play hammer dulcimer. He was just the same as he was in 1973 but had mellowed with age. He was wiry and intense in his early twenties, with piercing eyes and short shrift for any southern nonsense! In later years, he remained kind and was still very understanding of any one having a tough time… He never changed really.
David, this is how I remember you.
You were a soulful man, who genuinely taught me that we are allowed to pursue our passion. Without you, there would be no clay world. Without you, I would not be who I am today. You knew clay and glaze to the best, learning from scratch through years of trial and error, respecting their characters and responses. You taught me how to dig clay out of a pit, mix them and make your own clay. College doesnʼt teach such things these days, when you can get a bag of any clay from suppliers.But there I was, in my dungaree, with sleeves up, physical labour in your back garden, covered with muck in the rain, which sometimes I hated doing. But I am glad I did. Because by doing so,I have recognised how you established a vast stock of your knowledge and experience. When I used to try writing down your tips, you used to say, ʻDonʼt write it! Just learn by doing it.ʼ I feel a bit sad that I donʼt have many memorable notebooks from that period, but I guess your tips are all in me. I have learnt through my body like you said, and I am thankful for your guidance.
You were a warm-hearted man, who always welcomed me, despite my irregular visits, you treated me as a valued individual whenever I worked there. You used to joke about my English and lack of Japanese-ness,saying that I was the rudest Japanese you ever met. Remember, this often happened when I made a mistake and swore in English accidentally.Then you had a look at my mistake and would say, ʻThatʼs rubbish!ʼ with a slight grin on your face. We shared laughter with your sense of humour, and you always thanked me with a smile wheneverI left the workshop, which made me feel warm.
You were an eccentric man, who said things straightforwardly, in an outspoken manner, which had nearly frightened me off. Your bold speaking hit my naiveness but maybe it was your way of lifting up my courage. You gradually made me a bolder person. Last month, when we were discussing about my project idea, you shouted at me saying ʻBollocks!ʼ and continued to tell me what I should do. Even though you were so ill, you still spoke out with your passion and tried to teach me something, like you always did. I am honoured that you shared your spirit and support.
You were a mysterious man, who appeared to prefer your own company. Maybe you were a private person, and I was a shy foreigner. We had a strange distance, you and me. Not too far but not too close. But I felt safe and protected. I have never asked you personal questions, but you told me many things about you with an opened heart, which I fully respected. Sometimes I felt I knew you a lot, and sometimes I didnʼt at all. It was a bit like our strange distance, that too I respected. ʻWe are going for a walk this afternoon.ʼ Your spontaneous surprises.You enjoyed walking from spring to winter. We chased sheep. We chased sunset. You gave me heather, just like you did to my mother. One minute you were sweet, and next minute you were bonkers.You were a bit like that, and I liked the way you were.
You were a patient man, who had never dismissed me, even though I failed to develop my courage quickly. It took me so long to get here, but you always took time to light the road ahead showing me the way in the darkness that I was wandering. When I got back into pottery in 2009, you were the ﬁrst person who celebrated for me.
You were a ﬁghter, who had never given up the hope. Since the diagnoses of cancer, you did not stop working with clay, never choosing to have a rest.ʻThis is what I love doing.ʼ you often said. ʻIʼve only got a limited time.ʼ sharpened your focus.You were proud and excited about the large piece of work, which needed two people to manoeuvre, with me and Sarah on the day before you set off to France. The work that you said I could come and help with in September. The work that it never happened to ﬁnish. You told me you were so angry with this illness, but that anger may help you survive longer. Then you showed me your palm, and said your life line had changed.I watched your big hands so many years.The hands that created your dreams. The hands that tried so hard to hold on to life.
I began to worry about you in this coming winter.You didnʼt like working in winter, especially after your dad died. You missed your dad dearly and winter might have become a sad time. That winter, I ﬁrst gave you a hug from me, ʻI hope you will come to my funeralʼ, you said. ʻDonʼt be silly!ʼ that was all I could say.
Here I am, at your funeral. Iʼve never thought this would come so soon. I miss you David. Your big hands. Your smile. Your yelling voice. Your humming voice. Your sense of humour. Your laughter. Your whistling singing to the Archers. Iʼve tried to recall everything of you, but I canʼt ﬁnd them all with my tears. I feel like a ship that lost an anchor. But from this day, I will shift this sadness into my courage. Otherwise, I guess you would yell at me again, saying ʻjust get on with it.ʼ
You were and always will be my mentor, my life teacher and my friend.
I will carry your soul with me forever. I will carry your spirit with me forever.
Thank you for everything you did to me. Hope you ﬁnd your dad and no more sad winter. May you rest in peace.
David and I attended the same church ,St Hildas on Gibralter Road in Halifax. In 1969 my close friend Jennifer Hoyle got married. This is a photograph of David, his brother, his parents and myself at this event.
I became and Art Teacher and bought some of Davids ceramic work not knowing that it was his. His ceramic studies leave a connection with the man that he was.
You made pots and I write poems. Here is one I made for you. With love. Pru Kitching
Of all the pots of yours I have,
and there are lots, despite the ban
you imposed on further buying,
I like this best.
Its form as wayward as your hair,
the spout , your eyebrows, raised,
the side indents are like your specs,
the handle your moustache, of course.
And the colours are that shirt you used to wear.
I use it every day. If ever it breaks
I’ll glue it back together, fill it with flowers,
because, like you, it is unique
and cannot be replaced.
I knew Dave since about 1972, he lodged at my parents late 70’s / early 80’s until he got the pottery at Brier Hey. I worked for him from about 1984 to 1988.
Last time I saw him was in late 2010, when I took my old Dad down to the pottery, and they sat chatting for a while. I remembered then being in the workshop when Charlie would call in to see Dave, and they’d sit and chat with the gruffness that concealed the love between them. Charlie was so proud of Dave’s achievements.
I loved working with Dave. We used to travel about in his succession of dodgy ex-post office vans, up to the moors above Todmorden to dig clay, fill up the van until it was right down on the springs, then slo-o-owly back to the pottery in Mytholmroyd to process it through the state of the art machinery. Dave never bought any machinery, always modified scrap engines, made from old washing machines, drills, and bits of angle-iron, or whatever he could find. I used to prepare the clay, make slip, pour & empty moulds, fettle, cut, clean and decorate the slipware, so Dave had time to make things.
Work days began with coffee, and chopping wood if there was no firing on a cold day. He had a tiny but ferociously hot French woodburning stove which meant you could sit still doing delicate work even in the depths of winter. In the early years, he was living in the workshop, but managed to persuade him to find a house eventually, which meant he could rearrange the workshop, and build the display area. He had an old tape cassette recorder, and a pile of dusty tapes of diverse music, Spanish classical guitars or whatever, which went on when radio 4 got too annoying. Later he had his dulcimer in the pottery.
When he built the gas kiln in the middle of the workshop, it was very unpredictable, and we overfired a few pots before he mastered it better. I sold some of them at car boot sales, splitting the cash with him, and the rest of them we saved up to smash outside on frustrating days. With a hammer. Came in useful for filling the pothholes outside the workshop, before the tarmac.
We bounced ideas off each other – I made some sponge shapes to use to decorate some bowls I made, he liked them, and used them himself on some of his. I made a bowl with daffodils on for my mum, and brought it back to my house in 2010, but broke it a few months back. Wish I’d photographed it now.
Dave was always organised, although he had the air of a man surrounded by dust-devils. He kept meticulous records of all ideas that worked and those that didn’t – I used to have a pottery ideas – book there too, which I shared with him – he used to write comments, mostly encouraging. We tried some of them, but never did try the feathers / leaves in nepheline syenite in a raku firing. As I’m not potting these days, I’ll leave that out there for somebody – Dave thought it was a nice idea.
Dave was charming, infuriating, delightful, rude, empathic, talented, resourceful, intelligent, funny, adventurous, kind, curious, and without guile. i was already missing him, having called many times at the pottery, but now I know he’s gone, and not just to France this time. I will always remember him kindly- he was a good friend.
I discovered David’s work on a trip to the UK. I collect bowls and fell in love with one of his simple designs so on a trip back to the UK I purchased another, then I had a friend post another one to me. I’m very sad to hear of his death. I hope I will be able to find more of his work when I visit next.
I was very sad to learn of Dave’s death. We became were friends in the late 80s. I sometimes used to go to traction engine rallies with Dave – he like to be near the hardware stalls rather than anything arty or crafty and he sold a lot of garden pots in those days. He also used to have a stall at the regular craft weekends at Shibden Hall and sometimes took his wheel so people could have a go. He lived in the pottery back then, and had the occasional bath at his Dads!