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OUR STORY

Where it began....

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Hello, my name is Alisdair Brooke-Taylor.

I spent 20 years cooking in some of the more interesting restaurants around the world. I travelled and worked with celebrated chefs, many recognised by being ranked within the best in the world. During that time, I developed an appreciation for hand made ceramics.

I slowly transitioned from a chef to becoming a potter over 8 years. In 2017 I decided to open my first venue. It was a small restaurant on the top of a windswept hill in Norland Yorkshire, surrounded by an idyllic moorland covered in wild blueberries and mushrooms. It was a setting where its beauty was matched by its harshness to the raw elements.  

 

The Moorcock Inn was opened on a financial shoestring, and while we could see all the potential for a beautiful restaurant, we had to make everything ourselves. This included building our own dining tables, and furniture, sewing napkins, and cutlery holders, and making candles; everything had a natural charm, and in many cases an imperfect charm.

With a manual kick wheel, a rolling pin, YouTube, a pallet of clay and a tiny 40-year-old kiln, I set out making the crockery too.  What started as a necessity turned into a passion, and finally my full focus today. 

The restaurant worked with wood fired ovens made by Dave Pynt who runs restaurant Burnt Ends in Singapore. This gave me access to a never-ending supply of wood ash, which naturally became the direction for glazes. A direction which went hand in hand with my wonky first pots to appreciate the wabi sabi aesthetic and embrace the character of imperfection. 

 

Anyone who works with ash glazes will tell you there is a lot of error involved while learning about the volatility and unpredictability and getting to grips with them. A lot of runny glazes ending in lost pots and damaged kiln shelves!

The trial and a lot of error working this way leads to an appreciation of the accidental magic that comes out of the kiln and a desire to try and understand why and if it can be repeated. 

As time went on different raw materials became the focus of the pots. The moorland we were surrounded by was the remains of an old sandstone quarry, a material high in silica and relatively simple to grind to a fine consistency. The stone could be added as a coarse sand to clay bodies, or to flour to add to glazes. I also used egg and seashells from the restaurant for added calcium to glazes (in place of ashes) and also copper wire from broken appliances, I collected stones from the local Ryburn river to add to glazes and even used discarded slag from the old shuttered coal burning refining mills along the canals to help flux the stones into glass.  Everything became a possibility.

OUR MATERIALS

and where we are now...

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I can no longer work full time in the kitchen and having chosen to close the restaurant and to focus on making ceramics, I have relocated my pottery from the UK back home to Australia where I make a range of functional pottery. A decision that was nicely framed by The Moorcock Inn being awarded 14th best restaurant in the United Kingdom shortly before the doors were locked forever.

Cooking has always held a special interest to me and I am continuing to share my interest by posting recipes hoping that many of you can enjoy my approach to being submerged in a lifestyle surrounded by exceptional food.

The pots I make are a combination of the minimally processed clays I dig in alpine Victoria, near the historical town I live in, Beechworth, which was initially a boom town during the Australian gold rush, The ground is littered with quartz and granite which I grind and mix together with the clay to add depth and to strengthen the pots.

Also, a small island near my family home in New South Wales is an outpost of volcanic basalt from thousands of years ago which I collect and grind to brush onto pots as a dark metallic addition to glazes; it runs underneath the glazes as a black paint, and bursts through as an orange metallic lustre on the surface. 

To temper the effects of finely ground stones in glazes I experiment with scallop and oyster shells which allow the rocks to become more fluid and make an attractive cover over the surface of the pots.

I use little decorative input aside from different liquid clays applied with homemade brushes, sometimes with the addition of ground stone. Coarsely ground granite contains silica, feldspars and mica which melt into glazes and add spontaneity. 

The unrepeatable flourish of these interactions is the more exciting part and often leads to a cup or a plate I can use every day and still find something new I hadn't noticed months or ever years later.

The interaction of the clay, collected stones, shells, bones, ashes or repurposed household materials allow the kiln firing and cooling to bring life and depth to my pots.

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