Explore wild clay in a ceramics studio, participate in eco building, and have fun in La Rochebeaucourt-et-Argentine, France

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  • Last activity: 21 May 2024



 Min stay requested: at least a week



  • Description


    Are you interested in ceramic sculpture, or a ceramicist interested in exploring wild clay? Or would you like to work with lime and natural plasters? Come help me in France!

    I’m Joanna. I originally trained as an architect, but spent many years in East Africa, Nepal, the US, working in crisis zones as a film maker. I’m also a ceramicist with an interest in wild clays and in animal sculpture. I am living in a lovely part of France, slowly restoring an old cottage.

    The building is not a ruin but not yet quite habitable. As I am waiting for a roofer before progressing on the big building tasks, this summer I am focusing on ceramics and on my exploration of wild clay.

    I have a large, dry studio and two modern kilns.

    I have a large collection of clays, both commercial and dug from streams and fields in the UK and France and would love people to come help me explore and catalogue them - explore their raw qualities, and test how they fire - and maybe make expeditions to collect some more!

    I also have a potential workshop for carpentry, if I have help setting up the tools.

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    Help with Eco Projects
    DIY and building projects
    Creating/ Cooking family meals
    Help with Computers/ Internet
  • UN sustainability goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN sustainability goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN goals
    No poverty
    Zero hunger
    Good health and well-being
    Quality education
    Gender equality
    Clean water and sanitation
    Affordable and clean energy
    Decent work and economic growth
    Industries, innovation and infrastructure
    Reduce inequality
    Sustainable cities and communities
    Responsible consumption and production
    Climate action
    Life below water
    Life on land
    Peace, justice and strong institutions
    Partnerships for the goals
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    There would be an opportunity to learn about clay - how and where to find it, how it behaves in both raw unfired uses and in the kiln.

    I can teach the techniques of ceramic sculpture and surface decoration with slips and coloured engobes.

    There would be plenty of opportunity for making and firing your own pieces, and the project might suit an experienced ceramicist wanting to develop a new line of work away from their home studio; I have two modern high firing electric kilns and have worked in earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain using a wide variety of techniques from organic additives, hand building, and slip casting. I don’t have a wheel for throwing. I have the equipment to construct a raku kiln so that might be fun!

    Regarding building, the project would also suit those interested in experimenting with raw materials - clay, lime, wood - exploring and testing mixes for lime mortars, clay plastering and pigment colouring. Note I do not claim to be a teacher in this area, but can facilitate experience with the materials, and happy to pool knowledge and explore together.

  • Help


    With ceramics, help with processing, testing and cataloguing my large collection of raw clays sourced from France and the U.K.

    I am trying to develop my knowledge of glazes, and would particularly appreciate anyone experienced with making glazes from primary and ‘wild’ materials, and people who know about geology!

    Regarding building, work to be done includes mortaring the interior with lime, repairing and carving stonework, and renewing door frames. The interior walls are being pointed with lime mortar and stone sand from the local quarry - it's a lovely mix to work with, the ‘fun job’!

    Stone help tasks include re-opening existing windows in the exterior stone walls; dismantling and repairing a small section of stone wall (directed by a stonemason). The stone help on door jambs needs to be repaired, with some research into how this is done with the right mix for the stone - and door frames have to be fitted.

    Constructing a level first floor framework between existing oak joists, and fitting tongue and groove floorboards.

    Outdoors there's a courtyard to clear of random plants, and the remains of a small stone outhouse to dismantle.

    I’m looking for people with some experience of clay, building or craft ‘making’, or at least having a good feel for materials and being demonstrably good with your hands. Sincere apologies but I can’t offer the equivalent of a basic ceramics class for absolute beginners :)

  • Languages

    Languages spoken
    English: Fluent
    French: Intermediate

    This host offers a language exchange
    I'm really wanting to improve my French, so French speakers especially welcome! Previously we have been very successful in using Franglais :-) I'm happy to help with English, especially words used in building ....

  • Accommodation


    I can accommodate up to three people, plus anyone with a camper or their own tent. At the moment the accommodation is quite basic: a double trailer tent with its own kitchen, and a large bell tent. You are welcome to bring vans or campers, but sorry no dogs - the field is not fenced, and neither my neighbours nor the cat are big fans :-(

    I have a field kitchen with a big table and sofas to hang out; there is electricity but the mains water connection is still in process so we use rain collection tanks. There is a basic field shower and dry loo. It’s pretty warm until early October here.

    I can cater for any kind of diet but prefer to source it locally with regard to good environmental practice.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    The local area is beautiful and ecologically very interesting with birds, small animals, bats, owls… a hedgehog visits every evening and occasionally a small deer comes in! There are many lovely markets, but it is not big on ‘entertainments’. I have a kayak you can take to the local river which is full of fish and one of the cleanest in Europe; the area is great for cycling and there are day trips to the Dordogne vineyards or the caves at Lascaux. Paris is two hours away by train - a good day or weekend trip - likewise Bordeaux; the coast is about an hour’s drive.

    Please note that you will need independent health/accident insurance if you're not a French national.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Can host digital nomads

    Can host digital nomads

    Re digital nomads, I don't have a fibre connection but I do have excellent 4G reception if you are able to tether your laptop to your phone. I have worked online myself this way with no problems, likewise 4G streaming media works well.

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    There is room for a camper, and I also have several small tents that can be used as an adjunct if you have a small van.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week. Helping pace is fairly relaxed, but the focus is on getting things done, some days might require more ie if the weather threatens work - but it will even out :-)

Host ref number: 999785948482


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