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I made a daisy! With ceramics artist Rita Floyd.

North Staffs News
North Staffs News
Ceramic artist Rita Floyd was specially selected by The Great Pottery Throw Down judge Keith Brymer Jones to be artist-in-residence during his recent Life, Clay and Everything exhibition for Appetite.
Keith’s exhibition ran from 5th to 26th February at Appetite’s Newcastle Common arts space.
The editor caught up with Rita for a chat - and to get a hands-on demonstration of her fabulous flower-making skills.
He made a daisy!
Channel 4’s The Great Pottery Throw Down airs its 2022 FINAL this evening (Sunday 6th March) at 7.45pm.

PODCAST: I made a daisy! With ceramics artist Rita Floyd
I made a daisy! With ceramics artist Rita Floyd.
Or read the full interview below…
Rita Floyd, ceramic artist.
Rita Floyd, ceramic artist.
Rita: I laugh when people call me an artist cause I come from the industry, and it’s like weird to think that I’m an artist, but I suppose I am.
I’m Rita, Rita Floyd, and I’m a flower maker.
So this is bone china clay, that’s used for flowers. That’s just vegetable oil. And that just stops the clay sticking to your fingers. So this is a little daisy petal, and that gives me the pattern. I’ve made this little pattern myself, out of clay. I used to be on piecework earning my wages, so I had to be very fast. 
Jerome: You’re making that very… well, it’s coming natural to you. 
Rita: Yeah. This is slow compared to how I used to do it. So I make nine petals. And then for the middle I use this tea-strainer. That’s what we always used in the industry.
Push it on there so you get the seeds, and then the petals go on, just edge to edge, and you follow round with them. So you’re making it a perfectly round daisy. 
Jerome: And that is beautiful and lifelike. 
Rita: They were all copied off real flowers, as far as I’m aware of in the industry, you know, when they were designed. The lady who trained me, she used to get a piece of clay and a flower and just go in the office, make one and then say right, we’re going to learn how to do this one.
So if you just dab your finger on the oil, give your hands little rub together.
Yeah. Just rub your hands. Just stops the clay sticking. So you’ve got to make five dozen an hour. All right?
So there you are, so just press on your marker, and take it off. That’s it. 
Jerome: So far so good, but… 
Rita: Taper it, taper it in There you go, and then just press again. So you’re making it nice and thin. That’s it. That’s nice. And then before you pull it off, just taper your petal in like that ,and roll it a little. 
That's the editor's daisy in the middle (in case you needed any clarity).
That's the editor's daisy in the middle (in case you needed any clarity).
Jerome: So how many people have come along this week to make these flowers?
Rita: We’ve been so busy, lots and lots , especially on the Saturday, but it’s really been busy this morning. 
Jerome: I think I’ve made that petal too fat. 
Rita: That’s okay.
Jerome: It feels almost, Rita, a bit like a confessional sitting here. What sort of conversations have you had with people? Any surprising conversations that you’ve had with people? 
Rita: I think we’ve had people talking really about what they did in the industry, bringing memories back, because people who’ve walked passed the window, and they’ve actually seen the flowers in the window.
There was a lady this morning just as I arrived, and she was walking past, she says, oh, this brings back memories. And she’d seen my flowers in the window. 
Jerome: So the people that have been making the flowers with you, have they mostly been people that have worked in the industry before? 
Rita: One or two, but there’s been children, children who always enjoy it. But yeah, there was a lady and, um, earlier on, she came, just over a week ago and she’s come back today and she was in the industry working and she’s just sat and made flowers this morning. 
Jerome: You see, I’m so concentrating on these petals that I haven’t even counted how many. 
Rita: No, you see, you’re doing it without thinking now, but it’s better. Yeah. It’s better doing it like that, you’re not thinking about what you’re doing. Want another two. You need to get your speed up though? I’m sorry.
One more. Yeah.
More of Rita's floral creations, in Keith's Life, Clay and Everything exhibition for Appetite.
More of Rita's floral creations, in Keith's Life, Clay and Everything exhibition for Appetite.
Jerome: So how, how did this come about for you? How come you’ve been chosen to lead these workshops this week? 
Rita: Well, I worked with Keith on the Throw Down, the last series, not this series. I was the guest judge and I did the flower challenge. So they made a daisy, funnily enough, the contestants did. So when Keith had this exhibition, he asked if I’d come and be the artist in residence, and do the flowers. So really that’s how it all came about. 
Jerome: So what are we doing here now, you’ve got your tea strainer? 
Rita: Yeah. 
Jerome: This is creating the seeds in the very centre. 
Rita: But you’ve got to do your own. 
Jerome: You’re quite a task mistress. 
Rita: You have to be. I was taught by the best. She was a bit of a dragon actually, she was. She was brilliant. 
Jerome: So have I, did I squeeze that into the tea strainer…
Rita: Just do it a little bit more?
Jerome: Does it matter, I don’t need to roll that piece of clay again? 
Rita: You can, if you want to, or you can, it’s up to you. 
Jerome: I’m becoming a perfectionist. 
Rita: Yeah, yeah. But men would have done this, you know, originally it would have been a man’s job, before women were allowed to do the skilled jobs.
That’s lovely. Now squeeze it down, so you’re making like a nice, little round middle.
But men do well, actually, with flower making. 
Rita was guest judge for an episode of Channel 4's The Great Pottery Throw Down in 2021.
Rita was guest judge for an episode of Channel 4's The Great Pottery Throw Down in 2021.
Jerome: Do you feel there’s a bit of a renaissance at the moment then for this sort of skill? 
Rita: I hope so. I really hope so. Yeah.
That’s lovely. So when you’re putting your petals on, can I just show you the first one? Then put your petal on like that? So it’s tapered in at the bottom, then put your petals on side by side.
Jerome: I need to do them. I can’t do them opposite each other, I need to do them side by side…
Rita: Yes, I do think it’s, well, I hope it’s going to come back. That’s my wish really. Cause I make my own flowers now. I mean, I’ve worked in the industry a long time in the past, but I can design my own, which is nice, but I add the colour to my clay. So they come out. They’re not painted, they’re not glazed. The colour just goes in and they come out all different colours. 
Jerome: When I first got back to North Staffordshire last spring, I’d been away for quite a while, I sat in the gardens at Spode. 
Rita: Oh yeah. Yeah. 
Jerome: And it really occurred to me then that the whole ceramics industry, it’s it’s based on art, it’s not like the say the Black Country, which, you know, it was heavy industry that was remarkable about the place. We’re actually, we’re known for being crafters and artists. 
Rita: We’re very, very skilled. The people in North Staffordshire, they’re very skilled, very artistic. And I think just because we worked in the industry, and we did so many of whatever we were making, whether it was flowers, cups, saucers, whatever they were doing. I think it was a little bit undervalued to be perfectly honest, because it was such mass production, but that, that shouldn’t take away the skills that people had, and have still got.
Jerome: You can tell, looking at my daisy, that my skills are not in numbers. I’ve not been, I’ve not been able to put all of the little petals on my daisy. 
Rita: Do you want me make room for your last one? 
Jerome: It’s like the opposite of a four leaf clover. Is that passable? Does that pass as a daisy?
Rita: Shall I do you your stem? There you go, that’s your daisy. Now that’s unique. You see, they’ll never be another one like that.
Life, Clay and Everything by Keith Brymer Jones was on display at Appetite's Newcastle Common arts space throughtout February.
Life, Clay and Everything by Keith Brymer Jones was on display at Appetite's Newcastle Common arts space throughtout February.
Jerome: There’ll never be a seven leaf daisy! That’s fine.
What is it about creativity do you think? How important is creativity to you and the people you’ve met this week? 
Rita: Oh, I think it’s really important, especially, I think as well, to be honest with you, I think COVID has changed a lot of people’s attitudes to things. I think it’s made, made me realise what’s important and what isn’t important, and you’ve got to get your priorities right.
And I think, especially during lockdown, a lot of these craft activities have got people through it. I know it got me through it because like I said, I do my own work as well. So I got my clay at home and I was working, not everyday. But some days when I was feeling a bit, you know, because I think it got in everybody’s heads. And I just think, get my clay out, get my colours out, do some experimenting. And it just, I was lost in it and I think that’s what people get, and I think people sitting with me making flowers, gets them talking. 
Jerome: Well, I think you might be able to sort of dish the dirt maybe on some of the conversations you’ve had this week… 
Rita: No, but, it’s amazing! Like the lady I was talking about earlier, Barbara, she was. I think she’s 80, well in her eighties, she said she was 87, I think. And she’s been talking memories, and she brought me something in today that she made about 60 years ago, all the little flowers that she put on this little horseshoe. And it was amazing. She was talking about her memories.
And so I think it gets people talking and it evokes memories for people. And I think they then remember, it’s bringing memories back to them. 
Jerome: Yeah, yeah. What’s the youngest person that’s made a flower with you? 
Rita: A little girl, just four, four years old. She was named Lily and she made a daisy. I said, would you like to make a Lily? She says, no, make a daisy. So she made a daisy. 
Jerome: And have the younger people, have they taken to it like a duck to water? 
Rita: Yeah. Yes, they do, and I think when you’re trained, when you’re young, you do pick it up quick. I think quicker. And this is, I wish we could train people to do, to do this skill, but with the industry declining so much, there are, there haven’t been any jobs available for people to do this, which is a shame because if we don’t train people, we’re going to lose the skills eventually. Cause obviously we’re not going to be around forever. So I think that’s a crying shame. There ought to be some opportunities for young people to actually sit, not just do it a few minutes, just sit and learn and be trained, like I was trained, even though there isn’t a job at the end of it, there should be a way around that somewhere that we can do the research. Yeah. 
Jerome: Because learning a skill like this, it’s not just about skills for industry, is it, skills for jobs? It’s actually learning the skills to create a passtime for yourself. We all know what passtimes like this add to our wellbeing and mental health. 
Rita: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Especially, I think with the young people, I think sometimes we forget about how they feel. You know, we tend to concentrate more on older people. But I think younger people have gone through it really, really badly this past couple years with their education, stopping and starting. So I think it’s important that they, they get some opportunities to do things like this. 
Appetite's Newcastle Common arts space in the town centre.
Appetite's Newcastle Common arts space in the town centre.
Jerome: So having worked in the industry and now you’re all leading workshops like this. Do you describe yourself as an industrialist, or as an artist? 
Rita: Well, I laugh when people call me an artist cause I come from the industry, and it’s like weird to think that I’m an artist, but I suppose I am. But I’ll always have that in my heart that I came from the industry. And I’m proud of that because, so I’ve got a bit of both, I suppose. I’m lucky enough to be able to do my own work as well. Um, after 50 years of being a flower maker. 
Jerome: How many flowers do you think you’ve made over those years, Rita? 
Rita: Millions, probably. I used to make nearly forty dozen in a day. Every day. Must be, it must be millions, if you think about it. 
Jerome: Well, I’ve made the one! I think I’m fairly proud of how it’s turned out!
Rita: That’s fantastic. You’ve got the job! Start on Monday.
Jerome: Cheers Rita!
Rita: Thank you!
Channel 4’s The Great Pottery Throw Down airs its 2022 FINAL this evening at 7.45pm.
Find out more about Appetite, and Keith Brymer Jones’ exhibition, here: Life, Clay and Everything.
Jerome has been commissioned by Appetite to report on all activities at their Newcastle Common arts space. Look out for more soon.
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