Kathy, Sharon and the 5000 Papal Bowls.

Sharon Gardner recently attended one of our five day throwing courses. The following is a true story in Sharon’s own words and with her permission that I thought was worthy of sharing;

It’s strange how life can work, sometimes people come into your life for a reason. At 17 years old in 1983 I was asked to write a piece of coursework for my A level General Studies course, I had no idea what to write. I had recently completed an O level Ceramics course (See Photo 1)

Photo 1 – Sharon’s O level pots

I can remember sitting with my Dad on a Sunday afternoon reading The Times supplement, in the centre was a full page story of a female potter who had been commissioned to complete 5,000 communion bowls for Pope John Paul’s visit to Manchester and Liverpool 1982, I was inspired by this woman, at the end of the article was the name of her studio.  (See Photo 2)

Photo 2 – Article on Kathy and the Papal bowls

I spent all day on that Sunday calling 192 (that’s how we located phone numbers in in the mid 1980’s) to find out the woman’s telephone number, I plucked up the courage to call at 8 pm. Kathy Cartledge answered the ‘phone, she was polite, and I instantly warmed to this formidable woman. I asked if I could interview her for my coursework and add the interview as an appendix to the work, she agreed and I offered to call her back later; ‘no, let’s do it now,’ said Kathy. I was inspired and a little in awe of this well-known and professional person. My Dad searched the house for a pad and pen whilst I talked about the work I needed to complete and why. Kathy allowed me to interview her for over an hour, she told me how she obtained the commission and how she had needed to help of her whole family to complete the work.

Move forward 37 years later, I had a successful career in education and a family and lived in North Lincolnshire. My husband had encouraged me to re-visit my love of pottery a few years before. I had attended adult education classes, but I had never been shown how to throw a pot, as a gift he booked a cottage and a 5-day course at Bentham Pottery in North Yorkshire in September 2021 (see photo 3)

Photo 3 – Kathy Teaching Sharon how to throw at Bentham Pottery

We stayed in the cottage on the farm, it was a fabulous base for the course and to explore North Yorkshire.  On the Wednesday evening Barry was watching the England V Poland football match on the TV, I decided to watch the rest of Lee’s videos on the website that he had recommended prior to the course, I went on to read about the history of Burton in Lonsdale pottery and out of interest  read the history of Bentham Pottery … image my surprise when Photo 2 came into view … this was the woman I had interviewed 37 years earlier. I was overwhelmed with joy and admiration for the business that Lee and Kathy had created and couldn’t wait to tell them the next day.

Kathy and the Papal bowls

At coffee we all sat round the studio table, Kathy made drinks and we ate the dark chocolate KitKats that had become part of our daily routine, Cath, Ange, Debbie and I all sat relaxing and discussing our mornings work, I had to tell them all what I had discovered. I ask the group if they minded me telling them a short story whilst Kathy was present, they were all happy to hear how my life had come full circle and how I had spoken to this woman earlier in my life, Kathy cried and we all couldn’t believe the coincidence.

My only regret here is that I cannot phone my Dad to tell him the same story, unfortunately Ian Evans died on 4th Sept 2019, I would adore to tell him how he had run round the house looking for that pad and paper and how Kathy had wept at me recounting the story of a quiet 17 year old girl, sitting on the stairs of  1 Grosvenor Wood, Bewdley, Worcestershire, desperately scribbling down questions that later would create an outstanding piece of coursework, and how each time in my life I have been in an interview situation and asked the final interview question; ‘Who has inspired you in your life?’ I have told the story of a woman potter who created 5,000 communion bowls for the papal visit of 1982. A amazing and quite wonderful coincidence.

Sharon Gardner