Symphonies, concertos and cadences in clay

Hannelore Meinhold-Morgan `composes' organically shaped pots that are unique, quirky and rather lovely.
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THERE IS always something going on at Boot Barn Pottery, the studio of the Oxfordshire potter Hannelore Meinhold-Morgan, a strong, confident lady with a wide smile. Anyone who enters her studio in Stonesfield, near Woodstock, receives a warm welcome.

Meinhold-Morgan works alone in her dimly lit pottery, hands and arms caked in clay, hair hidden beneath a tightly bound headscarf, and surrounded by classical music from an ageing radio. Around her, half-made pots, carefully moulded shards and old receipts lie in organised chaos.

Her deep smile is infectious and her gentle German accent hints at her Bavarian origins. Next door, her showroom is immaculate. Pots, candlesticks, wall plaques, plant stands, mirrors and jugs are neatly placed, with fading poppy stems poking out randomly from some.

After an initial career in journalism, Meinhold-Morgan trained as a potter in Germany before finally settling in England. She came to Stonesfield in the Eighties to be close to her three children, who all studied at Brasenose College, Oxford. She has exhibited in England and Germany and, following the success of her exhibition at the Old Fire Station in Oxford 10 years ago, she was offered Boot Barn Pottery in Stonesfield to revive the once commercially-run business with individual studio work.

Visitors are always welcome at the pottery and showroom, and pieces can be viewed, bought or commissioned.

Meinhold-Morgan is not doing this to get rich. "I run this as a business, but I don't want to become too commercial, turning out hundreds of similar bowls and plates. I need to develop, and my work is a search for the perfect expression of what I feel inside."

Each piece is unique and puts across a sense of vitality and common sense. Form and colour are of equal importance and the range of pieces Meinhold- Morgan has produced includes both functional and decorative pieces. Many of these have a charming, quirky quality. Goblets stand precariously straight on wiggly stems, and bowls take on organic forms such as shells and plants.

The work is consistently unusual, and is highly personal. "I have no one recognisable style," she explains. The methods she uses to make her pots vary accordingly; some pieces are thrown on a potter's wheel, others are hand-built, and some are a combination of the two. Some pieces may be cut to give clean edges and surfaces, while others are crudely sculpted using layers of twisted clay.

Meinhold-Morgan works with just a few glazes that she combines and varies according to her mood. "It's a bit like cooking; I vary it every time and learn as I go." The effects are breathtaking. Layers of glaze are worked together, often involving several firings, to give a translucent quality to the finished item. Clear blue, turquoise and emerald look almost gem-like. In contrast, she sometimes prefers to use heavy brownish reds and ochres in stony matt which are equally enthralling. On some works, the colours just fall into one another as if crudely dripped, while others have clear patterns. Her "crackled" glaze effect, used on huge bowls, gives striking results.

Among the many goods on display in the showroom at Stonesfield there is a wonderful mix of practical items, such as bulbous soup tureens and pretty bowls and jugs. Pelican jugs are particularly arresting, with huge, hand-sculpted spouts hanging like beaks. Glazed in blues and greens, the thin lines of dark metallic grey which streak through them resemble leaded stained glass.

As Meinhold-Morgan admits, "If I put my whole soul into it, it can be very satisfying. It is like poetry and music - only I compose pots."

Boot Barn Pottery (01993 891389) is at Boot Street, Stonesfield, Witney, Oxfordshire. Visitors are welcome, but it is advisable to make an appointment beforehand