Arra Fletcher - Islay's Potter from Persabus Pottery

What is your pottery philosophy?
Arra Fletcher To be able to turn an idea or a drawing into a three dimensional object. There is nothing more satisfying than following a piece from conception to the opening of the kiln door. I have lifted out pieces around one hundred an odd degrees Celsius through impatience. After a few burn blisters I have learned patience. Alternatively a pair of welder's gloves come in handy. All the products are made on site and use the rich details and history from the carved stones and crosses on Islay.

An interesting fact about you that no one really knows?
It's not really that interesting, but I've been playing guitar since aged eleven, nine of those years with blues band 95° proof, and I can't read a note of music to save myself. I learn everything by ear, and the odd person has said that I should maybe give them a good clean out more often . This has been fun when playing in the Islay Jazz Festival, with a musician who is telling you all about the song you are both going to play, and you smile all knowingly thinking 'what the hell's he on about? That's when you realize what colour adrenaline is, and I tell Brian and Sheena ' Never again!'.

What has been gained in your time in Islay?
Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle in Bowmore; the wave power station in Portnahaven; the reopening of Ardbeg and Bruichladdich distilleries; two Indian resteraunts, a brewery, a swimming pool, the whisky and jazz festivals. It has all definitely helped tourism, with more people coming over a slightly longer season. Also various small arts and crafts businesses.

What has been lost?
At the tender age of thirty years and thirty six months (no laughing please), I have seen a few characters pass on. These were people we were all the richer for knowing, and all the poorer for losing. Although they are gone, the stories and antics live on, which I think is very important. But there are more up and coming characters. When I was kid it seemed everyone and their dog cut peats for winter fuel, which has all but disappeared. The joys of this included adders, midges, deer ticks, clegs, leaky wellies and bogged tractors, to name but a few of the things which could bite or sting you. And all to the tune of the peeweeps singing overhead in the moss. God bless oil fired central heating, I hear you say. Being a farmer's son, I have seen farming decline and diversify. There are fewer tenant farms. Hardly anyone makes hay. It's not just a job - it's a way of life which is disappearing fast. A few shops spring to mind. Bobby Hodkinsons, Campbells, MacIlraiths, Islay Farmers and the creamery. And every farmer's and fisherman's tailor, Andrew Irvine and Sons, with their mobile clothes shop, which has ceased doing the rounds.

What is your vision for Islay?
The first thing that I would like to see is new affordable housing for locals, and not pie in the sky hundred thousand pound rip offs that no one can afford. There should be more apprenticeships and decent tax breaks or incentives for businesses. With all the money Gordon Brown takes from Islay's revenue, surely he wouldn't miss a few quid to help young people start a job. Young people are the lifeblood of any community and more needs to be done to help them work and live here. When I left school, a large percentage of the kids left for education or jobs on the mainland. That's a hell of a drain on the island. Fantastic opportunities for some of them, but what a shame there aren't the same opportunities for them to return to Islay and settle here once again if they so choose. Islay must not be allowed to turn into a retiral home or theme park; we need people of all ages to sustain our communities.

Arra Fletcher no longer lives on Islay, he has moved to the mainland. His sister in law now runs the pottery as "Persabus Ceramics Cafe".




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