Dee and I met Ray Finch at Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, U.K., about ten years ago. Toff Milway took us over to Winchcombe from his pottery, which is nearby in the Cotswolds. Ray was in his late 80s then, but still making pots. So was his co-worker Eddie Hopkins. Ray was gentle and courtly and seemed pleased to meet one of Dan Finnegan's students from the U.S. Eddie was lively and joking and wanted to be remembered to "Dan the Yank."
Now they're both gone. Eddie died in 2007 of a lung disease contracted from floodwater swallowed while he clung to the side of his house in deep water. Ray died yesterday, after a long life making pots.
Long before we actually met Ray and Eddie, I felt like I knew them both from the many stories Finnegan told while he taught our class in Alexandria, Va. 20 years ago. No one who paid attention in Dan's class (or at the bar afterward) could escape without knowing the personal geography of the old pottery at Winchcombe and its characters. And I know that a version of that story will appear soon in Dan's blog. So I won't risk making mistakes by telling Dan's stories here.
It's enough for me to count Ray as a kind of pottery grandfather. Ray taught Dan, Dan taught me. Before that, Michael Cardew taught Ray and Bernard Leach taught Cardew and so on. I don't claim any special knowledge or talent or skill because I'm at the bottom of that line of succession, but I do like being able to trace some small part of my lineage back that far.
We're a poorer place without master potters Ray Finch and Eddie Hopkins among us.