South Molton potter’s potted history

Joseph Bulmer

Biography charts potter’s 50 years at the wheel

THE life’s work of a South Molton master potter is the subject of a new book written by one of his keenest collectors.

Stuart Bass has created 100s of ornate pie funnels – or pie birds – during the last 35 years. His work is collected by aficionados all over the world and has now been carefully documented in a colourful new reference book by author June Tyler.

The book, Collecting Stuart Bass Pie Funnels, contains a short biography of Stuart and his potteries as well as more than 400 photos of his pie funnels and of his earlier work.

It charts Stuart’s career from the early days as a student at Bideford School of Art in the 1950s. It goes on to describe how he began producing figural pie funnels for a lucrative American collectors’ market in the mid 1970s and how during the next 20 years, the small cottage industry blossomed from the Church Street workshop.

Pie funnels were designed in the Victorian era to prevent the pie juices spilling onto the pastry or the floor of the oven and also to support the pie crust and stop it from sagging. They have since become collectors’ items and some have fetched high prices at auction.

As well as traditional funnels, Stuart’s designs have featured animals, birds, and a whole host of characters including nursery rhyme and folklore characters, clowns, fungi, monks and choirboys.

Writer June has amassed a comprehensive collection of his work during the last 14 years, examples of which form the basis of her book.

“I hope that by looking through this book more people will recognise the vivid imagination, creativity and skill that made these works of art, and will appreciate the talent that is Stuart Bass,” she said.

Now semi-retired, Stuart continues to live in South Molton and still produces a small number of pie funnels.

“It is wonderful to see a life’s work in print,” he said.

The book is available to buy and can be ordered from most book shops using ISBN 9780956597601.

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