On a beautiful sunny day, Derbyshire artist , Ann Bates, visited Mid-England Barrow, to see her fourth modern barrow. Ann, of Ann Bates Ceramics, specialises in making completely individual urns, tailormade to suit the families wishes.
The following, taken from Ann’s website, tells her story:
“My interest in making my own pottery began in 1989 at a local evening class and the sheer joy of working with clay was immediate.
I soon realised that Ceramics is a vast subject and wanting to find out more about techniques, glazing and firings embarked on a course at Chesterfield College. The experience proved invaluable and led me to apply for a place on the Applied Art degree course at Derby University; I graduated in 2000 with a First Class (Hons) degree.
After I graduated my partner and I decided to become self-employed and share a building in Cromford, Derbyshire. He ran a quantity surveying practice and I had my own pottery workshop and showroom. This worked well until unfortunately my partner died. I was unable to carry on renting the building on my own and decided to move my pottery business and work from home.
Working with clay helped me through bereavement and I wanted to make something to acknowledge this. Through research I found that commercially produced funerary urns, of a permanent nature, often left me feeling cold and empty. There seemed to be nothing uplifting about them. They were simply a container for ashes, often smooth or shiny and without character.
I thought I could improve on this and set about designing and making my own one-off, hand built contemporary funerary urns and memory boxes, that I hoped, in a discreet way, might celebrate life and be of some comfort to those who remain.
An interest in ancient standing stones with their carved decoration and symbols gave me a starting point. This led to research into burial mounds of the Neolithic period and consequently to investigate the newly built barrows that have chambers with niches to hold funerary urns containing cremated remains. The Long Barrow in Wiltshire is constructed in a similar way to those built in Neolithic times and is the first to be built in Britain for 5000 years. Some of my urns now rest in this barrow, a place for contemplation where people come together to remember their loved ones, spend time and share memories.
More of these structures are being built as people search for meaningful and alternative ways to commemorate the dead. Sacred Stones have built a round barrow Willow Row in Cambridgeshire and Soulton Hall Long Barrow in Shropshire is under construction.
Each funerary urn is made using the slow and considered technique of hand building. This method is the earliest form of pottery-making and it feels natural for me to work in this way. Through it I feel a deep connection to the material and, by adopting markings used in the Neolithic period, to our ancestors. The spiral, the natural form of growth and symbol of everlasting life has captivated me and I use the symbol as my maker’s mark.”