Author: James Waters

The sideboard has been central to nearly all of our stand designs at Craft Fairs for several years now. It was small, understated – gently modernist – and this felt in sympathy with the pots that we were showing. I customised the inside to accommodate slim wooden boxes with just sufficient headroom to fit the various shapes of tableware that we took to shows – we could fit an amazing amount of work in it, all neatly tucked away, hidden behind closed doors. Tidy.

James and Tilla Waters Lustre 2009










At Ceramic Art London 2015 the sideboard stayed at home. We felt the need for a change of ‘look’, something less buttoned-up. We didn’t want to hide pots anymore. For me this urge started when Tilla took her necklaces to Hereford Craft Fair last year. For once I wasn’t involved in the stand design or construction – it was totally her show. There were no feats of on-site carpentry – she pinned pieces of paper and fabric to the walls. Putting it up and taking it down were easy and relaxed. I really liked its style and this made me think differently about the solid, clean-lined, ‘fitted’ stands that hitherto I had taken some pride in making.

Hereford craft Fair 2014
















My imagination spiralled into extremes. In my dreams I arrived at CAL in a pick-up truck piled with old planks and crates and, using a hammer, nails, and a large ball of strong twine knocked up a freestyle, spontaneous construction. God knows how the pots were going to fit in to this idea …









Thankfully Tilla is less prone to such extremes. This year we found ourselves a trestle table.

I like its informality. We still used some of the wooden boxes that I made for the sideboard but, sitting under the table, this time not kept totally out of sight. Tilla designed some shelves that hang on strings (echoes of the strong twine…). Very un-James, but to my surprise I was quite converted.

But in this story the trestle table has another angle of influence. Like the sideboard we found it on Ebay. It arrived in a ridiculously huge lorry and the driver, handing it down to me, reassured me that it « …wasn’t heavy… ». It was only the following day that the sciatic pain started.

Sometimes it is good to take a break from work. But it is difficult to justify and often uncomfortable in the questions and doubts that it can reveal. Injuring my back gave me no choice but to take a break – no throwing for 2 months. It has thrown up difficult questions and uncovered doubts. It also feels like an opportunity to make a fresh start. The era of the trestle table.

trestle table

greenware coffee cups drying

greenware coffee cups drying

The last job to be done on a coffee cup before letting it dry prior to biscuit firing is applying the slip colour to the foot. It’s one of those jobs that is tempting to think will take no time at all and in fact ends up taking most of the morning …

I always enjoy seeing them lined up on the shelves afterwards though. No more wrapping up in plastic to stop them drying out; now the work of a few days can be seen at last.


Tilla and I each have our own wheel in the part of the workshop we call “the throwing room”.  The room has two small windows facing south towards the house, each with a radiator beneath it and our wheels set up before them. There is a symmetry to the room that reflects the collaborative nature of our work together. The radiators behind our wheels also point out differences in our contributions.

Tilla's wheel

Tilla’s wheel

James' wheel

James’ wheel



light from the fire in the kiln reflecting onto the floor

light from the fire in the kiln reflecting onto the floor

evidence of a spillage of slip on the workshop floor

evidence of a spillage of slip on the workshop floor

The fire in the kiln shines down onto the floor below. Evidence of a spillage of slip snakes its way across the floor. It’s tempting to admire such things when hanging around waiting to turn the kiln off!

Tilla posted a small piece about her bead making in the blog.  I really like the things that she is making. They are very much her own and quite liberated from the expectations that the pots bring with them about function and established forms and the particular “look” that my making gives things.

I took this image of some little beauties she made last night. She makes them at the kitchen table.

teapot under constructionWith Ceramic Art London around the corner we have starting making teapots again. These will be some glazed, decorated ones. This is peeking over Tilla’s shoulder.


James 26th Feb. 2014

teapot-construction-11 teapot-construction-21 Tilla-decorating-a-teapot

espresso james and tilla waters thrown porcelainI couldn’t resist taking an image of this espresso mug body, upside down on a chuck on Tilla’s wheel. I think they look particularly lovely at this stage – absolutely matt, fresh and direct.

Now she passes it back to me to have a handle put on and foot colour applied.

espresso mugs