Please name this pig – Ceramic art with Jon Barrett-Danes

 Located in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Selborne, is Jon Barrett-Dane’s little studio.

Packed to the rafters with his handmade herds of sheep, pigs, chickens, plates, bowls, cups and the occasional horse it is clear he keeps busy.

Thankfully – as he is just about to teach me how to make a ceramic pig of my own – his patience is just as abundant as his artistic talent.

 My experience with ceramics is minimal but Jon assures me that doesn’t matter. So under the watchful eyes of his collection of creatures we begin…
Somewhat ironically making the pig begins with rolling out sausage shapes. And I am so captivated I almost forget that I am meant to be copying which means Jon has turned four lumps of clay into perfect trotters before I have even begun.

The fact Jon has a natural flair comes as no surprise when you learn that ceramics have been in his family for at least four generations. With the earliest records show a pottery at Hoo in Kent in 1834.
Alas my only family trait which will help today is determination, my motivation being that I just want it to look like a pig. And having joined the trotters to the base we start to try and make this wish come true.

The body goes up quite quickly, a bit like building a pot.
Going around and around until it is high enough to join with rib-cage like pieces along the top to form the pig’s back.
We add texture with wire wool and build the front to a rustic point which will later become the snout.

Putting the tail on helps to build my confidence, because at least that part looks like the animal it is supposed to. Next is the face, with the crowning glory being putting the ears on. “The ears are the best bit,” agrees Jon. “Now there can be no doubt what animal it is.”

While it dries we take a step back and I find I am pleasantly surprised. I know what stands before me is largely down to Jon’s skill as a teacher but I am very happy with what I have made. All he needs now is a name.

Originally published in etc Magazine, April 2012.

 To find out more about Jon and his work please visit or


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