Mary Chappelhow has been throwing pots since she was a schoolgirl. So it’s no wonder she makes it look so easy.
But when she lets Tebay Services’ Farmshop buyer Tracey Clowes take a turn on the potter’s wheel in episode two of A Lake District Farmshop tomorrow night, it’s clear just how much skill and experience is required to turn a lump of clay into a piece of beautiful, functional stoneware.
“I love that I start with a blob of mud and end up with something you can use,” Mary says. “In the kiln it transforms from clay back into stone.”
Mary’s business, Interlude Ceramics, has close ties with Tebay Services.
The award-winning motorway services area on the M6 – currently starring in the Channel 4 series – is part of the same family business as Rheged near Penrith, where Mary founded her business two decades ago – she was their first resident artist.
Now based in a studio at Brougham Hall near Penrith among a community of artists and makers, Mary creates wheel-thrown stoneware pottery inspired by the Cumbrian landscape.
Her distinctive mugs, jugs, bowls and pots come in four different natural glazes, which mirror the colours of the lakes, fells, rivers and sky in different seasons.
“You’ve got to take inspiration from what’s around you,” says Mary, who grew up on a hill farm near Ravenstonedale and loves fellwalking with her beloved rescue collies.
In A Lake District Farmshop, filmed by Purple Productions, she demonstrates how she puts the finishing touch on every hand-thrown mug, using her fingers to create subtle vertical lines inside each vessel: “They’re like the rivers cutting through the fells and creating the valleys.”
Mary is a former Guinness World Record holder – she was crowned the fastest potter in the world nearly 20 years ago after throwing 83 pots in an hour.
These days, however, she’s more interested in quality, not quantity, crafting items designed to be used and loved for a lifetime.
During her visit to Interlude Ceramics, Tebay Services’ head of lifestyle Tracey is left in no doubt about how much love and care goes into every pot.
“I’m like a child in a sweetie shop in this room full of beautiful things,” Tracey says in episode two. “The amount of skill that goes into making something this elegant, it’s an amazing thing.”
Episode two of A Lake District Farmshop is on Channel 4 tomorrow at 8pm. The first episode is available on catch-up.