Venture North with Northshore Pottery

Venture North with.... Northshore Pottery

We caught up with Jenny Mackenzie Ross of Northshore Pottery and heard about her love of Caithness and Sutherland’s natural environment and how the area’s ecology and geology inspire her work in artisan ceramics.

 

Image: Northshore Pottery

 

What do you love about what you do?

Making ceramics is a totally immersive occupation for me. I am inspired by the geology and the ecology of Caithness, so going out exploring our wonderful coastline is an essential part of my work practice as well as being a complete joy in its own right. The pleasure is repeated when I open my kiln to reveal new pieces that reflect the landscape that I love.

Image: Northshore Pottery

 

Why Caithness or Sutherland, how did you come by what you do?

I came to Caithness nearly 30 years ago, initially to work in a pottery in John O’Groats. I immediately felt very at home in the county, and happily have made my home here.

I had already completed a degree in Sculpture and spent some years on the west coast learning ceramic skills, so I was equipped to set up my own studio near Lybster. The studio opened in 1994 in a historic mill which we have converted.

Now I make a mixture of thrown functional tableware and contrasting abstract sculpture. It is a diverse output, and it means that the look and feel of the work that I have on show at the studio is constantly changing, I hope that people enjoy the element of surprise when they visit!

Image: Northshore Pottery

 

Why Venture North?

To discover the elemental. Enormous skies, wide open seascapes and rugged cliffs. To spend hours watching the birds. The sea cliffs are teaming with auks and gulls, the cries of curlews and lapwings fill the heathland air, dippers and herons enjoy the rivers and there many, many other species besides.

To discover a landscape peppered with ancient monuments, which you can enjoy without being shepherded by paths and signs, where you can walk where you like and let your imagination do the work. To forget what time of day it is because you are absorbed in the nature around you.

Image: Paul Castle – Strathy Point

 

Top 5 things to do in Caithness and Sutherland:

  1. Walk anywhere along the coast of South East Caithness without following a plan, by exploring up down the braes to the rocky shore wherever you find a break in the cliff you will find lots of unexpected things.
     
  2. Come to Caithness in April or May for the wildflowers, swaths of primroses carpet the cliff edges, the gorse is dripping with scented yellow blooms, and hungry bumble bees and the early butterflies are flocking to the meadow flowers. It is the most colourful time of year in Caithness
     
  3. Take a half day walk up Maiden Pap. Take the road marked to Braemore from Dunbeath and park at the end, by the phone box. Follow the track West, taking the detour around the estate buildings and kennels, until you are under the north side of this tiny by perfectly formed mountain. It is straight up for magnificent views of the Caithness flows and coast, the Orkney Isles, and over to the mountains of Sutherland. On a sunny day it is simply stunning!
     
  4. Get out on the sea, the best mode of transport would be a kayak, to get up close to the rocks and caves, but a boat trip is a brilliant second option. You will see Caithness from a completely different perspective. The cliffs have a sculptural magnificence when viewed from the water and are teeming with seabirds. Seals, porpoises and all sorts of other animals are also likely to make an appearance. In times gone by the sea was the way most journeys in and out of Caithness were made, so rounding a rocky headland to see a sheltered haven open out before you, gives you the perspective of the Vikings.
     
  5. Visit the north coast beaches. There are lots of beautiful sandy beaches to choose from, but Strathy East is my personal favourite, with its massive dune system and a cave tunnel that you will find at low tide.

Image: Northshore Pottery

About Venture North

Venture North is a co-operative organisation bringing together tourism businesses from the private and voluntary sector across Caithness and Sutherland to work together for the benefit of the area.

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