Newsletter

New studio build

The construction of my amazing new studio is due to finish this week so I thought this would be a good time to fill you in on the story so far. If you've been wondering me being quieter than normal recently - this is why!

Our house is on a corner plot next to a diagonal side road, making an unusual wedge-shaped space. Because of planning regulations I couldn't bring it too far forward and I wanted a studio big enough to run workshops in, so a custom built wedge shaped studio was the best solution. I suspect it's been a bit more challenging than average to build as nothing is square, but I love the unusual 5 sided space it makes!

I can't wait to move in and look forward to welcoming some of you for open studios or courses soon!

Home is what tells us who we are

Funnily enough, one of the things that convinced me of the importance of how you put your home together has nothing to do with homes at all.

You may not know this, but before I made the switch to making ceramics I used to work in museums, and while I was doing that I also did a part time phd. My research looked at how curators were working with community members to make new, more diverse and inclusive, history galleries. In the end I realised that what they were doing was jointly putting together a narrative that expressed the collective identity of the city.

As my research took me down this path I had to read up on a lot of stuff about visual culture and and cultural theory and identity formation and all sorts of other tangents. (If you want to see more about the research it's available via the UCL website).

The point here is that doing the research convinced me that what was on display mattered. It told that story of the city and the people who belogied there, what they were like, who they were, what they did - and who they were not.

I believe that our homes do much the same for us on a personal level. By choosing items to furnish and decorate our personal spaces, however modest they are, we are saying something. We could be making a statement to visitors about who we are - or who we want them to think we are. But ultimately our homes remind us of what we love and value most, and help us to be who we truly are.

 

Custom design: doing things fully

Chef Lee Westcott and I have been working together to develop some special new bowls specifically for a special new pre-desert he is planning for The Typing Room.

Starting with his intentions and my condiment dish we first change the angle of the walls to flare outwards. Then we added a foot to give the bowl more lift. Next we reduced the size slightly to fit the scale of the sorbet dish it will be presenting. The final design is now made and will be fired next week.

It's been a rewarding and interesting process to bring such specific requirements into the design process and I really love the little bowl we have created together, so I look forward to seeing it completed and in use.

Coincidentally I'm reading 'Cooked' by Michael Pollan and the moment and this process has chimed with his discussions about Chez Panisse and doing every task, even the smallest and most mundane in the fullest way possible. This bowl has demonstrated the value of really thinking through how best to do something.

Pots that connect

To start the new year - a bit more on my philosophy of pots.

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I use the strapline “pots that connect" because I believe that hand made ceramics like mine can help make connections. Each time we stop and enjoy a favourite mug it connects us with ourself. It encourages us to stop the distractions of remembering and planning and the endless whirring of the mind, to stop and notice where we are now, the feel of mug in our hand, the taste of our chosen tea. In turn it reminds of where we found the mug and why it appealed. In "The architecture of happiness" Alain de Botton argues that the way buildings are designed embodies particular values, be it cheapness for blocks of council flats or classical grandeur for the British Museum, and that then being around those buildings makes those values present in our lives. For me material culture, the objects we live with and use, do the same. So using a hand made mug of a design that appeals to you brings a different set of values into life than a mass produced one would.

When we choose a new a new serving bowl with a partner it connects us to each other and our shared home. When we select a piece to give as a gift it connects us with that person. The pot collects attachments of love, shared history, sharing and giving, and embodies them for us.

Buying hand crafted items also connects us to the maker and their story. Lewis Hyde argues in "The Gift" that the transaction of purchasing an item from its maker, despite being a financial transaction, is a form of personal connection – the opposite of buying a factory produced item that has been designed to be made as cheaply as possible and sold as expensive as possible in a shop staffed by people who care little about what they sell. These industrial transactions are intentionally impersonal and create an increasing disconnect. In contrast, when buying from a maker the product is deeply personal and in choosing to buy it the new owner creates a new relationship with the maker that is sustained in our subsequent use of the object.

Hand made things start out embedded in the maker's creative vision and practice and as they travel through our lives they collect associations connecting a network of people, places, materials and values.