Elwick Mill, Continuing the legacy…

fullsizerender On entering the Elwick Mill pottery one of the first things you will notice is the life-sized terracotta model of a tall, slim young girl, This terracotta girl looks out of the window across the bay and over Balfour village seemingly protecting the gallery and all its rich, lustrous pots. Keeping an eye on things. This terracotta girl is a model of Emma Le-Mar and was made by my father and Emma  when she was about 12 years old. Emma was a student of my dad’s from the age of 9. For years, they worked together on a variety of beautiful, weird and wonderful pottery projects. When you look at Emma’s marvellous creations you can see my dad’s influence in the shapes and rich singing colours. I was delighted to learn that recently Emma has decided to turn a childhood passion in to a profession- She is setting up her own business as a potter. I’m no expert on ceramics but I’m pretty sure that the formulas for glazes are like precious recipes passed on to those who we trust. I think that Emma will have these recipes stored in her heart and her head and it’s reassuring and comforting to know that she will continue to practice the alchemy of pottery and, in doing this, will help to keep my father’s colours alive.



“I was born in 1995 in Orkney, a windswept archipelago of islands off the north coast of Scotland; the small island of Shapinsay was where I spent most of the first 17 years of my life. I feel lucky to have experienced this way of life – so much freedom, knowing everyone on the island, so I knew that a friendly face was never hard to find.
For my 9th birthday (2006) my parents gave me a pottery lesson with the local potter, David Holmes, in his studio at Elwick Mill; I instantly fell in love with the art and my “lessons” continued for years. Under David’s apprenticeship and encouragement I learnt about all the processes involved in making a pot; starting from digging clay out of the ground, all the way through to taking the finished article out of the kiln. Every session was different, and often was determined by the wind direction, which affected the little stove in the studio which he kept stoked up to make even the bitter winter days still fun. I grew to understand that you can never be sure how a pot will look when you finally take it out of the kiln and his ever optimistic outlook and philosophical acceptance was infectious. Without the complete skill set that David provided for me, I would not be able to turn this hobby into a profession…Now I am ready to go head first into pottery as I start my own business in Australia, the next leg of my adventure. Having lived in Edinburgh for three years I am ready to get back to island life in Phillip Island, Victoria.” Emma Le-Mar

I was also touched to come across this tender tribute to my dad on Emma’s website. It means a lot to see how my dad and his pottery made an impact on other people’s lives:

“David Holmes was born in Yorkshire in 1945, He then moved to live on the isle of Shapinsay in the Orkney islands in 2002, I had the joy of knowing him and the privilege of being his apprentice from 2006-2013. He taught me everything I know about pottery and thanks to him I have been able to continue learning more about this art as well as now starting my own business. I hope to continue his legacy in my work.

As an out of the box thinker David always had new ideas to try and projects to work on, from re-building and restoring the wheel at his mill to making pots as large as himself, he had even planned to make the largest pot in the world! Unfortunately cancer took him before his time and he was unable to complete all of these projects, I hope to continue with the more feasible of his projects as only David’s skill could match his ever active imagination.

David Holmes was always deeply invested in his community where ever he was. He saw the value in running a local music group and gave his time weekly ensure it thrived; he ever organised and preformed a solo in a concert by the community for the community. As well as helping the island with bigger projects such as contributing to the installation and upkeep of the windmill on Shapinsay, that still brings in clean energy and much funding for these and other community groups.

The ‘Kilns, Fire and Fun’ pottery camps that David hosted were a massive hit with both the attendees and the locals, providing an opportunity for all pottery abilities to come and experience the joys of potting in Orkney.  As with everything he did, these camp brought the community together by including social nights with local music as our pizzas cooked in his handmade pizza oven.

Healthy living was a core part of David’s belief system and his way of living should be an inspiration to us all. He would run miles every day and ate vegan to ensure he only put the best foods into his temple of a body. He did not have a bad bone in his body, and I for one will remember him for the depth of his genuine kindness as well as all the incredible things that he did. He continues to be a massive inspiration to my work as well as my life. It was a privilege to know David Holmes and I shall forever be thankful for the time we had together.” Emma Le-Mar

You can view Emma’s pots by clicking here or visiting her Facebook page.
Thank you Emma!


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