My hands are nothing much to write home about. Small and workmanlike, with short nails that break easily, they are just like my grandmother's. She was tiny, adroit, nimble and economical in her movements, and I have inherited some of that. But now I am a potter, I seem to have seen my hands for the first time and I truly value them. Touch and our hands are woven into the stories of our lives and, looking at my hands afresh, I am struck by all that they have done and continue to do. Recently, as I said goodbye to my 92 year old father in Yorkshire where he lives, I had a strong desire to hold both of his hands in mine for a moment, imprinting the feel of them and taking his warm touch away with me. My hands have carried, lifted, cooked, baked, washed up and ironed, they have held my babies, brushed, stroked, comforted and tickled. They have waved and beckoned, twisted and turned, pushed and pulled, literally thousands of times. They have helped me to express my most complicated thoughts, written miles, typed millions of words, carefully positioned plasters on sore little knees, sewn and mended, drawn and painted, played hundreds of card games, wiped the kitchen table at least once every day and mopped up many tears, a lot of them my own. They have held hundreds of other hands all through my life, and I like to think, when I work with the clay, pressing it down into the heart of my palm to shape it, that a tiny little bit of everything my hands have ever done, all that love, nurture, experience and history, goes into every piece.