Peter White – from engineering to ill health to potting and the Great Pottery Throw DownOct 18, 2022
In March 2021, the Great Pottery Throw Down finalist Peter White sat down with Claire Waite Brown to chat all things ceramics, why his passion is to inspire others, and how a life-threatening moment changed everything.
In his own words, Peter had an unusual upbringing; “I was the child that took everything apart and put it back together.” Thankfully, during his schooling, his art teacher recognised his potential and encouraged him by putting on a small exhibition of his work, which led to being offered a place at an art school with a small bursary.
Unfortunately, his dad being ex-military and this being the 1960s, Peter was told that he wasn’t allowed to go; “I can remember my father saying ‘no long-haired students in my house. No, arty people. I don't want you to mess around. You're going to be an engineer like me.’”
Peter became an engineering apprentice and worked in the drawing room, on the side dabbling in art, his passion never wavering. Eventually, he started his own business and one day picked up a client who worked in children’s toys – he was finally in his element. Back then, pre-computers, he could go “off piste” and use his creativity to influence some of his professional work.
At home, Peter decided that illustrations and paintings weren’t enough, so he did what any engineer/artist would do – made his own pottery wheel of course! Remember, there was no internet at this point, and not many books to help him on his path, so Peter just drew some designs and got building. One day, a friend from the engineering company popped by, and it just so happened that he was a pottery teacher a long time ago. Two things immediately became apparent – not only was Peter’s wheel going the wrong way, but it was also going way too fast; where the norm is 250 rpm, his was at 600!
You’re probably wondering what led to Peter’s later-in-life university admission? Well, it was what he calls an "inevitable heart attack" on Christmas Eve. In the hospital, while in recovery, he came to the realisation that he didn’t like the man he was, and that to get his life back, and his health, he had to make a change. So, he sold his company, and enrolled at Middlesex University (after “bumming about for 6 months” – his words) to do a BA in ceramics, and later an MA in connection with tableware.
After a spell in teaching, and pre-TV stardom, Peter built a studio in his garden and became so prolific in creating his ceramics that his family pretty much instructed him to start selling immediately, which ultimately led to applying to and getting on to Channel 4’s hugely popular show Great Pottery Throw Down.
His business is now very much a family affair with his wife Gill organising and shipping the works, and his daughter Hannah keeping his social media and website updated – many hands make light work.
Peter is now in his 70s, and although he doesn’t feel it (or act it!) he is still a great believer in progress, which makes him even more fascinating to watch at work and follow in his processes. He’s still being commissioned, he’s still experimenting, and still gaining his confidence – not just his throwing skills, but even on TikTok!
Listen to this emotional, fascinating story in the episodes of the Creativity Found podcast.
PLUS, you can ask Peter and questions and chat in person about your own and others' thoughts and prejudices with regards to age and creativity/trying things, at our members' online meetup on
25 October, 10.30am UK time.
As a Creatively Curious or a Create a Scene member with Creativity Found, you get to meet up with other members every month (sometimes more frequently) at a Zoom meetup. At these fun, friendly, relaxed events you can jump right in and tell us all about yourself or what you're working on, or sit back and listen to other people's experiences, the choice is yours.
If you have not joined a membership yet, you can find out more here, or drop me a line to ask me anything.
Peter White teaches throwing and hand-building ceramics workshops in his studio, Woburn Sands Clay. Peter is a Creativity Found Collective member and you can find his page on our directory here.
Creativity Found Collective
The Creativity Found Collective is a membership for artists and crafters who share their creative skills with grown-ups through workshops, online courses, products or subscriptions. It is also a membership for business-support enterprises who use their expertise to help those artists and crafters to grow their businesses.
We promote their offerings on the website and connect them with a network of like-minded business owners.
All of this is backed up by the Creativity Found podcast, in which I chat with grown-ups who have found or re-found their creativity later in life.
You can find out more about the Creativity Found Collective membership here.
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