Pots, Baguettes and Summer: Two Weeks Spent Wood Firing and Painting

Wood-Fired Pot - Green Pottery Bowl
Why is it that, the minute I turn the calendar page from April to May, I feel haunted?
It seems like someone has accidentally triggered an invisible start button. Once the first few flowers begin to blossom in April, all of a sudden the garden explodes and its former monochrome stillness transcends into an almost overwhelming hurricane of new life. I suddenly find my precious, quiet morning time replaced with an ever-nagging Restlessness. Projects I had planned in theory and fantasized about in Winter’s retreat, suddenly pile up to giant waves of necessary activeness. Even though I sometimes love to ride on those waves, they now seem to pull me under the surface. Once, back up again, grasping for air, an internal mean voice asks sarcastically: “And when will you ever find the time to write your next blog?” Today I declared my independence, sat down, took a break and appreciated what had happened in the last six months. Sort of a “half-way-through creative Thanksgiving”.
My year had started with throwing loads of pots for a week long wood firing workshop with Sabine Nemet and Nick Collins in Moretonhampstead. Eight days and nights, the constant firing of the kiln was an adventure and really “hot stuff”. I wanted to experience the original way, the way potters all over the world have fired pots for thousands of years. I wanted to see my pots in the midst of fire being transformed by heat and designed by the powerful magic of flames and ashes.
Pottery Kiln - Wood-Firing Stoneware Pots
Rustic Stoneware Pottery - Wood-Fired
Grey Stoneware Bowl - Rustic Studio Pottery

A few days later, I had hardly processed the amazing results from the firing, I flew to France to teach a one-week painting workshop. And again, that, too, turned out to be a deep and satisfying experience.
So many different aspects of creativity and communal belonging. One insight I received as part of my time in France concerned the art of bread making and baguette, specifically – namely that things are sometimes easier than they seem. In my case, I had always thought baking baguette (that is the real authentic French type) was an almost unsolvable task. Sitting there, outside in the garden, overlooking the valley of the Vosges, I held a slice of fresh baguette from the local bakery in my hands. I turned it around, praying that it would reveal its magic recipe to me. When I shared this frustration with the group later that day, one of the participants said rather incidentally: “Oh, that’s so easy, just flour, water, yeast, salt and a 24-hour rest in the fridge!” This sounded almost too easy after my decade-long quest. But, I have to admit – when I later tried it at home – it worked effortlessly. The most wonderful baguette came out of the oven, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. A thin brown crust, airy texture, light yellow colour – paradise isn’t lost for sure. For all of you interested in the recipe, I am including it below.

On my way back to the UK, I stopped in Bale for a day and enjoyed swimming in the river Rhine. Having changed into my swimsuit in the old-fashioned changing room (Badhüsli), I allowed to river to carry me with it through the historic part of the city. A whole new experience of sight-seeing.

 © Le Rhin Bleu

Now summer is slowing me down since I can’t stand the heat. Even though I love the early mornings, when the sky begins to soften with light and a cool breeze offers its gentle invitation, I suffer the midday heat. Once the day reaches its zenith and the sun starts to burn a hole in my day, I feel beaten down by this all-encompassing, aggressive light which forces colours and shapes into boring uniformity and renders my state of being motionless. I surrender, knowing that trying to get things done anyway will lead nowhere. I try to keep things simple and move as little as possible. In the best of all cases, I manage to hold a book in my hands or, like today, write a blog.


You need:

400 gr. of white flour

1.5 tsp of salt

0.5 tsp of yeast

300 ml of lukewarm water

Baguette tray (3 baguettes)

Mix (with a wooden spoon) flour, salt, yeast and lukewarm water in a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling foil and leave it for 24 hours in the fridge until the dough shows bubbles.

Pour the dough onto a workspace which is slightly covered with flour and leave it for a 30-minutes’ bench rest. Split the dough with a dough scraper in 3 parts, form 3 baguettes (even though the dough is rather liquid) and place it in the baguette tray. Wait until the dough fills in the form. Use baking paper if needed. Preheat the oven to 250 celsius and place the tray in the middle section. Bake until a light brown crust is showing.


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