Seven Springs gardener (label)

Seven Springs gardener (label)

Seven Springs gardener (label)

Seven Springs Pottery

Marie Whitby's parents were the headmaster and mistress of the Merchant Taylors' School in Ashwell, Hertfordshire, a small country town close to the borders of Cambridgeshire. In 1947 the school opened a Further Education department, and at the age of fifteen Marie became one of its first students when she enrolled in the pottery class. She went on to study modelling at the Chelsea School of Art in the early 1950s.

Upon completion of her course she started work in the Properties Department of the Old Vic Theatre, making props from any suitable material that came to hand. After a trip to Africa following her four years at the Old Vic she returned to London and enrolled as a member at the Chelsea Pottery. She was keen to develop her skills in modelling people and admired the work turned out by Chelsea.

In 1964 she bought a shop in the High Street of her home town of Ashwell, and started Seven Springs Pottery. Her models all included people, and were dressed in Edwardian costume. She had previously made a model as a gift to commemorate the opening of a play that was set in the Edwardian period, and was attracted by the style. Her work was successful and in 1972 she moved to larger premises in Mill Street, Ashwell where she worked, assisted by her sister, Pauline, and various part-timers until she retired in 2001.

The pottery supplied eight retailers from as far away as Beverley in Yorkshire and Fowey in Cornwall. There were several American air bases near to Ashwell and business was brisk from the pottery. Marie was often asked to make special pieces - perhaps bearing a name, or with a particular theme. These pieces became her stock-in-trade; she enjoyed making them as each order provided her with a new theme to develop. A Japanese gentleman came to her with an order for a specialized piece, and before long she found herself with an increasing number of Japanese customers, particularly after one of her models was pictured in the Japanese equivalent of Vogue magazine.

Although Marie works very quickly, there is a wealth of detail in her models. She has the ability to convey a mental attitude or mood in her characters by giving them poses that display quite subtle body language. The textures and decoration are often achieved with the help of lino- and wood-cuts

Marie thoroughly enjoyed her work, and did it because it was fun. In 2001 she gave it up; not because ill-health, age or a down-turn in business, but because bureaucracy had taken the fun out of it. She felt that she was working for the Inland Revenue, the Customs and Excise and the local council rather than for herself.

In her retirement Marie does a lot of work for charity and enjoys collecting Peruvian pottery.

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