By Eilidh Whiteford
Pull off the main road in the north Lewis village of Borve and down a small wooded valley with a gently trickling stream, a small slice of near paradise can be found at Borgh Pottery.
The recently refurbished Borgh Pottery is owned and run by potter Sue Blair and offers not only a vast selection of unique, hand-crafted, high-fired stoneware, but also a chance for refreshments with teas and coffees in the pottery's well-established gardens.
Sue moved to Lewis from Lancashire with her husband Alex in 1973, first setting up Stornoway Pottery just outside the main town, before moving to the current premises in Borve in 1978.
Over the following years, the pair saw their pottery business grow, supported from the off by friends, family and the local communities.
“The people that live here, friends, families, locals, they have been at the core of our business; and now it's almost the grandchildren that are coming it to buy stoneware,” said Sue.
In 1995 Sue and Alex opened the Borgh Pottery Garden, creating a sheltered environment for wildlife and birds – including a number of migratory species that rest up in the Borve valley, attracting both local and visiting bird watchers.
Sadly Alex passed away in 2013, and Sue decided to continue working alone. So 2015 saw a full refurbishment of the Borgh Pottery premises; a project which included moving Sue's workshop to the centre of the building, allowing visitors to see her creations in the making.
“I like the new set up,” said Sue, who holds a degree in Ceramics from Aberdeen's Gray's School of Art. “Previously, my wheel was tucked away in the back of the building and I'd to turn around to see people coming in. Now I can glance up and say hello to everyone, and they can see what goes into making the pots.”
And it is a lot of work that goes into each and every delicately hand-crafted cup, plate, pot, vase, mug and more, as Sue explained, a time-scale of around three weeks from 'wet clay to finished pot'.
Irresistible to touch, the finished wares have a spellbinding quality, no two exactly the same and each holding a unique story, from lump of clay to being thrown, turned, fired and glazed.
“People have come in having watched 'The Great Pottery Throw Down' on TV, which might have given a little insight to the process, but the reality is that an awful lot of work has gone into each piece that no-one ever sees – mixing glazes, packing the kiln twice, once for each firing,” said Sue, who creates all her own glazes from different powdered rocks and oxides.
The use of traditional techniques allows Sue flexibility and scope in her designs, and with two kilns firing at Borgh Pottery – one gas and one electric – the array of differing finishings is increased.
“Having both the gas and electric kilns gives the options for a huge range of stoneware glazes,” she said.
The stunning results of Sue's work instantly capture the attention of visitors stepping through the glass-bottle framed door of Borgh Pottery; and are complemented by a range of gift and home-ware items, selected to offer 'something a little different'.
To find out more about Sue and Borgh Pottery, you can visit the website - www.borghpottery.co.uk - Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BorghPottery – but nothing will quite match a visit to the refurbished pottery itself.