Making lovely things with clay: George’s story

I joined this pottery class at the beginning. We’re about two or three months into it now. I live very locally, virtually on the doorstep.

I came, firstly, because it was something for an older person to do.

As I used to be reasonably creative when I was a schoolboy I thought it would be a nice thing to join the pottery class to give me some interest and get me involved with local community.

I’ve made lots of things.  This is a cheese board. It’s a decorative.  The original thing we made was these leaves which were an introduction to handling clay, really. Anita, our instructor, thought that if we started off with a leaf, which was a big ordinary leaf out of the garden and cut around them it would be easier. As they dry up they firm up and now we’re in a position so if we want to glaze them we can. In the meantime we’ve had other things to do. We’ve had pots with decorative things. Last week we made various other garden pots. We’ve got about 5 of us who come here regularly.

It’s very pleasant and therapeutic. I’ve got an enormous amount out of it. First of all, it’s ideally placed where I live. Secondly, it’s very pleasant. We’re a slightly older group. It’s quite nice for me to talk to some of the other older people.

I’ve been here [in Balsall Heath] for about 25 years. I ride a bicycle everywhere and, until very recently, I used to have every child in the road wanting bicycles repaired. I used to sit on the doorstep outside my house and show them how to repair punctures and how to repair their brakes.

Now my wrists are a bit arthritic and it’s too much of a strain. I didn’t charge them anything but in the end I used to say to the kids, you have to bring a pound for your puncture repair kits otherwise you’re not getting anything done. You have to show them how to have a little bit of investment.

I’m the chairman of seven streets residents association.  A lady who has died unfortunately, May Pearson, was well known in the area – She got me involved because I used to take her and others shopping or to the hospital or the doctors surgery because I had a car. So I got myself quite involved in the community. I had never intended to stay but I found myself completely at home and now I don’t intend to go anywhere else. It’s been very good for me and I feel like I can do something useful.

Most people would like to come to this pottery, I think, but a lack of confidence is a problem but doing this improves self esteem. I’ve always been an outgoing person so it makes no difference to me. I enjoy this because No man is an island. You need human contact. One of the things I like about coming here is that you can come and just have a cup of tea.

I tell people that I go to St Pauls and they say, I didn’t know it was there. It’s such a shame. It’s brilliant for people like myself.

4th August 2019  |  Marcus Belben