* Prices may differ from that shown
...But the men in white coats are not coming to take me away yet (I hope!)
So what do you do when you have gone on holiday hoping for sun, sand and, erm, sitting on the beach, yet all you get is rain, rain and more rain? Yep, make sure I book next year's holiday in the Med! Seriously though, we were taking a short holiday in the Channel Island of Jersey with our young son but were basically confined to indoor activities due to the bad weather. From past experience in Jersey, I knew that the Jersey Potteries were one of the more popular places on the island that attracted people who wanted to take shelter from the rain, so off we went, pack-a-macks and wellies at the ready (only joking about that bit) and made our way to the village of Gorey.
***A Little Insight***
The Potteries were first opened in the village of Gorey in 1946 by Charles and William Austin Potter, only to be bought out in 1954 by Clive and Jessie Jones. Three generations of the Jones family would become involved in the running of the Potteries over the next forty years, and to this day, they are still owned and run by the same family. Jersey Pottery exports products to as many as twenty countries, and was even asked to provide crockery to the 7 star Hotel Abu Dhabi in Dubai.
Located in a thoroughly modern setting with immaculate gardens, the Potteries also pride themselves on the cuisine of Spinnakers Restaurant, which I will go into a little later in the review.
After parking the hire car in the spacious car park, we entered through the main doors where the first sight that meets you is a display of old photographs of the potteries over the years. To the left of the main door is a touch screen where you can select video clips of the various things to see within the Potteries, thereby making your tour round a little easier to plan. The building itself is light and airy and the delicious aromas coming from Spinnakers Restaurant welcomes you as you enter the main hallway. In my opinion, this is quite a cunning layout because you cannot reach any other parts of the Potteries without passing the restaurant, so I personally think the idea is to get the hunger pangs going as you take in the rest of the place. Maybe that is just me being cynical!
***See How It's Made - Or Not!***
Anyone visiting the Potteries for the first time in, say, five years will notice an immense change in the way it is set out. Years ago, visitors could see many of the workers going about their working day, making the pots from scratch, painting, firing etc., but on this visit, I saw a maximum of two people at work. It occurred to me that maybe the pots were now made somewhere else within the building, out of the view of the general public, and that just a couple of volunteers agreed to sit on show to entertain the visitors. However, I may be wrong in my assumption and it could be that it was just a quiet day. Who knows? On our visit round the workshop, where the public were supposedly able to see the pots being made, there was no one actually working any clay, no one at the kilns and no one doing a great deal to be honest. We merely watched two artists painting the some plates, which in my opinion, was not overly inspiring.
This was the highlight of our tour round the Potteries, more so because it kept my son entertained for a good half hour. This really is for the kids, but many adults were making the most of the opportunity of going back to their childhood and painting pretty pictures - me included!! The idea of the Glaze Craze is to paint a piece of pottery of your choice, and then your item will be fired and finished and it is usually ready for your collection by the end of the week.
The Glaze Craze is situated at the back of the pottery shop. Quite simply, you choose a piece of plain white pottery off the shelf at the front of the Glaze Craze room. Items range from small dinosaurs and fish for the children, to larger items for adults such as vases, teapots, plaques etc. You take your item to one of the tables and help yourself to one of the aprons provided, if you wish. You are then provided with a pallet of various colours and away you go. Also available are pencils and various stencils to help with your drawing, together with ink pens and sponge shapes. When you are happy with your painting, you take it over to the counter where a member of staff will take your payment and contact details. Fees depend on which piece of pottery you choose, the smaller items such as the ornamental fish and dinosaurs are £5.00 and the larger items can range from £10.00 upwards. You then pay an additional £5.00 for the firing in the workshop. All items are usually available for collection each Friday. If you are on holiday, however, and you will no longer be around to collect the item yourself, you can arrange to have it delivered to your home address for an additional postage fee, depending on how large the item is. To give you an idea on prices, I paid £8.00 postage for a medium sized vase and a small dinosaur for my son, which in my opinion is quite reasonable considering the way it was parcelled up when I received it - very professional and well packaged.
***Shop 'Till You Drop (Or Run Out Of Money!)***
The Pottery Shop offers an extremely large selection of goods to buy, but be warned - it is expensive! Goods on offer include fruit bowls, mugs, dinner plates, serving dishes, vases, coasters and many smaller ornaments.
Although all the items are very professionally made and appear to be good quality, the design on a lot of the items were not really my cup of tea, and did seem a little garish. However, like many shops, you can usually find something to suit your taste if you look around. There was also a small section of the shop which sold small toys such as magic sets, puzzles, travelling games etc., but I could not imagine the connection of these toys with a pottery shop. I suppose one reason for these being sold was to keep the kids happy while mummy and daddy were looking at the boring stuff!
There is a section within the shop displaying discontinued stock which can be purchased, together with pottery items of years gone by - 70's Aztec patterns a prime example! You'll be pleased to hear that these are not for sale.
***Fancy a Cuppa?***
Spinnakers, situated on the left hand side of the main hallway as you enter the Potteries, is an exceptionally large restaurant. Just outside the entrance leading into cafe, you will find a wooden stand with the menu on it to enable you to get an idea of what refreshments are on offer. The cafe offers an extremely varied choice of food including hot meals, snacks, sandwiches, kids' meals, tea, coffee and soft drinks. It also hosts a bar serving draft beers, wines and spirits. The cafe is very spacious inside with large pine tables and chairs, together with available high chairs and boosters seats for the smaller members of your family. My son doesn't usually have a particularly large appetite so we opted for the children's portion of chicken nuggets and chips. This very generous helping came in a cardboard fun box (my son wanted to know where his plate was...like mother like son!) but he tucked in quite happily. The food is not exactly cheap but you do get your money's worth in the size of the portions. On this occasion, we also chose tea for two which came in a nice large white tea pot with matching mugs.
On a separate visit, I chose the cream tea consisting of a cup of tea (surprise surprise) and a very large home-made scone with fresh Jersey cream and jam. I must admit the queuing system does get a little hectic at busy periods because the counter staff work their way along the line and take your order, for it to be waiting for you at the cash desk. Essentially, you can be near the back of the queue when your order is taken and by the time you reach the cash desk, you have to try to find your drinks amongst the other orders that are waiting for customers. It does work, but can get a little confusing if there are a lot of customers.
For anyone wishing to eat alfresco there is a large seating area just outside with umbrellas to shade diners from the sun (when there is sun!) This is a particularly nice atmosphere in which to eat your lunch as you are surrounded by the immaculate gardens, together with a small pond containing Koi Carp. A very peaceful environment.
One thing I did notice when we were in Spinnakers was the number of locals who were dining there. It appears to be quite a popular meeting place for Jersey people, in addition to tourists. Proof in itself of the quality of the food!
Situated just to the side of Spinnakers is a lovely little play area which I found to be a great help in keeping my little fella happy for a short while. There are many things to do for the little ones including bead roller coasters, a see-saw and large video screen where movies are shown. Whilst we were there, there were some Disney cartoons playing. With a soft play mat flooring, this is an ideal way to occupy small children for the times when the old boredom hits.
***Private Functions and Corporate Events***
Spinnakers also has a good reputation for private functions and corporate events. There are posters all round the cafe offering various options for kids' parties, private parties etc. You can choose a theme, decide exactly what you want, whether it be just a quiet family get together, or a big event with entertainment, balloons etc. It offers seating for up to 300 and you can even take advantage of the party organiser to help with the arrangements of the party. Whilst we were there, there was a very small birthday party going on for a seven year old little girl. All the tables were nicely laid out and balloons were everywhere! A staff member came through with a birthday cake and candles and everyone seemed to be having a great time!
***They Do Weddings Too***
If you fancy tying the old proverbial knot in Jersey, then the Potteries is an option you may wish to consider. The Wedding Team will make all the necessary arrangements for you and even sort out your wedding list. Although you can pass a morning away walking round the potteries and enjoying the fine cuisine, this would not be my personal choice for a wedding venue, but there are some lovely gardens here which would make a nice backdrop so some people may find it more to their taste.
***Out and About***
Yes, the Potteries have expended! There are three Jersey Pottery Cafes within Jersey's capital of St Helier, together with Jersey Pottery Gifts & Flowers and Jersey Pottery - Le Riche Capital.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, there is a fairly large car park. The complex is thoroughly wheelchair/buggy friendly and I do not recall seeing any steps whatsoever. As usual, toilets are available for customers' use.
If you are not planning a trip to Jersey in the near future, you can have a look at the Pottery website and make your purchasers on-line. (website address at the end of the review) You simply need to register with the website and you are then free to purchase. However, you are free to browse through the online catalogue available on the homepage of the website.
Tel 00 44 (0) 1534 850850
***Would I Recommend***
Yes! Although the pottery styles and colours may not be to everyone's taste, it does make for an interesting little tour and the Glaze Craze was certainly the highlight of our visit. All the children seem to love the idea of making their own little pottery item and this seemed a very popular section of the potteries with other visitors. As the title of my reviews says, I did go potty this year and painted myself a little flower vase which I enjoyed doing and, to be honest, it hasn't come out too badly. Unlike many of the attractions in Jersey, it is free to get in, though the prices of some of the pottery on sale certainly make up for the fact! On previous visits, I have really enjoyed watching the pots being made in the workshop and I did find this aspect to be a little bit of a disappointment this year. However, there could be many explanations as to why not many people were working - workers on coffee breaks, or just working in other parts of the building etc.
One final piece of advice: if you do manage to get there and decide to paint a piece of pottery in the Glaze Craze, try and get there at the weekend or very early on in the week in order to get your painted pot back before you leave for home. This will save you money in having it posted to you. I think the pots are sent down for firing either on a Monday or Tuesday so try and get it in before then.
Thanks reading, hope you enjoyed, and remember... try not to get too potty!
(Reviewed on Ciao and Dooyoo)