Author: Tilla Waters

Following the opening of our exhibition last week, James and I will be at Contemporary Ceramics in London again next week on Wednesday 13th March for a discussion with Sarah Griffin.

Contemporary Ceramics, 63 Gt. Russell Street, London WC1B 1BF

Sarah is an independent writer and curator specialising in Ceramics and Craft with a background in modern and contemporary art. She has taken a supportive interest in our work for many years so we were delighted by her suggestion of a Q&A to co-inside with our exhibition.

Sarah Griffin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t know what Sarah will ask us  – it will be unrehearsed, spontaneous and informal. The event will take place at Contemporary Ceramics, 63 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 1BF at midday.

This is a free event and open to all, however space and seating in the gallery is limited. If you would like to attend this event please RSVP to the gallery on the email link below, stating your name and that you would like to attend this event, then await confirmation that your place has been secured.      info@contemporaryceramics.uk

We hope to see you there!

James and Tilla Waters

At the end of the month we will be in London to open our first solo show. The exhibition is at Contemporary Ceramics . The Opening is February 28th (6 – 8 pm) and the exhibition closes on March 23rd.

Here are some of the pieces which will be exhibited.

dark clay lidded jars with sgraffito decoration. 11cm, 15cm

I have always loved sgraffito as a decorative technique and seem to have a bit of a thing for zigzags. The jar on the right is an example of a kind of decoration that I call paperfold. Here are a couple more examples on bowls …

bowl (approx 24cm dia) with paperfold decoration

bowl (approx 24cm dia) with paperfold decoration

I find the fineness and precision of doing this kind of decoration totally absorbing and am intrigued by the potential for trompe l’oeil …

… but have also been enjoying experimenting with a much freer way of decorating …

large breakfast mugs with brushed oxide decoration

square (8 x 8cm) mugs with brushed oxide decoration

small (350ml) teapot with brushed oxide decoration

You may have noticed that some of the above were made using darker clay … we also really like it  under coloured, transparent glazes …

medium (850ml) teapot with dark clay and chun glaze (detail)

breakfast mug with dark clay and copper red glaze

There are lots of smaller pieces, like teabowls …

teabowls glazed in soft yellow and tenmoku

and beakers …

beakers with oxide decoration and clear glaze

and plenty of teapots (James is particularly fond of this little one).

small (300ml) teapot with satin glaze

I hope you’re tempted to visit our exhibition. If you can’t come in person, Contemporary Ceramics have an excellent selling website where all the pieces will be listed and going live shortly after the exhibition opens.

There’s also a lovely article about us in the current issue (326 March / April 2024) of Ceramic Review.

Thank you so much for subscribing, reading and taking an interest in our pots!

Tilla x

 

This week we had a bit of a sort out in the store room… and decided to add quite a few pots to the sale section of our website. Here are some of them. We haven’t quite finished sorting so I dare say there’ll be more joining them next week. Thanks for subscribing and I hope you find a nice bargain! xT

Raw glazed vase. 11cm. Was £65 now £50.

 

Decorated breakfast mug. Was £60 now £45.

Decorated breakfast mug. Was £60 now £45.

Large lidded jar. Was £180 now £120.

Small decorated pourer. Was £60 now £45.

Decorated beakers and pourer. Were £40 / £60 now £30 / £45.

Who else is currently making tableware in the UK? On Tuesday I visited Ruthin Craft Centre in North Wales, curious to see our work alongside 21 other makers, many of whom I hadn’t been aware of.

First, I must say that the Craft Centre itself is a joy to be in. It is modern, well designed, spacious and peaceful with good toilets and café. Being in a stunning rural location makes it a destination venue – I was amazed by how many cars were in the carpark on a snowy January Tuesday.

On entering the exhibition in the main gallery my excitement became tinged with anxiety. The hushed, reverential atmosphere, soft lighting, white walls and plinths gave me a kind of stage fright. I sought for reassurance in our work – which I found – it was displayed well and looking good.

Our work, with tableware by Alistair Young and Lowri Davies behind.

In my head, the exhibitors fell into two categories: the makers we know, with whom we’ve found warmth and familiarity through exhibiting alongside at events like Ceramic Art London and Origin over many years. We’ve shared highs and lows and bought eachother’s work.  That era is over for us now, and I suspect irrelevant for the next category  – the younger potters who’s shop front is Instagram and who need to engage their followers; to be as good at taking pictures and reels of their work as they are at making it. But that division ebbed away when I spent time with the work, saw and felt the commonality of clay and making by hand.

The different roles played by materials, expression, functionality and skill are evident in every piece, but the relationship between them and priority the maker gives them vary hugely, resulting in rich diversity.

Several makers favour tactile, matte surfaces; either by leaving the clay body unglazed (Sue Pryke, Alistair Young, Julija Pustovrh, Sasha Wardell, or through the use of matte glazes (Jono Smart, Borja Moronta) and some makers enjoy the contrast between glazed and unglazed areas (us, Pete Bodenham, Jaejun Lee, Bert Jones, Derek Wilson).

Tableware by Bert Jones

Tableware by Peter Bodenham (foreground) and Chris Keenan.

Surface decoration was joyful in the work of Irena Sibrijns and painterly – almost Fauvist – with Lowri Davies; sensitive and strong in David Stonehouse’s work.

Tableware by Borja Moronta and David Stonehouse in the background.

Tableware by Jaejun Lee and Pottery West.

Tableware by Jono Smart and Charlie Collier

 

I was disappointed by the “Do not Touch” signs everywhere. I can understand that the gallery have to protect against damage, but the physicality of tableware is so important to me that it felt a bit like going to a restaurant and not being allowed to eat. I did handle some of the exhibits whilst chatting with the gallery director and made some interesting discoveries: the decoration on the bases of Irena’s pots is more restrained and more lovely than on the parts you’re supposed to see… Bert Jones is an awesome thrower and his handles feel great…  the semi-matte glazes of Jo Davies and Pottery West feel waxy and seductive.

It’s now several days since my trip to Ruthin and I am still not sure what to think of it. On one hand it’s wonderful that well made, handmade tableware is held up for appreciation, the breadth of approach and outcome highlighted.  I found the exhibition fascinating and am delighted to be included in the selection… but the non-domestic, non-touching, gallery context cannot reveal the true comfort and beauty of a functional object, any more than images of a loved human can reveal their inner-beauty.

The exhibition is on until April 16th.

 

 

If it feels like a while since you’ve heard from us that’s because it is… it’s just over two years since my last newsletter. Why so quiet?

We’ve had plenty of news but none relating to our work, other than questioning its future. My last entry, (Diverse Decoration September 2020) reads as a retrospective, looking back at our work over the last twenty years and celebrating it… somewhat wistfully. We have had an unwanted, prolonged break from making which has been difficult. We have had to turn down orders and opportunities; reduce the number of galleries we supply to just two (Contemporary Ceramics in London and The Art Shop and Chapel, Abergavenny). We’ve had to be slow to complete commissions and are hugely thankful to all of you who’ve been patient and continued to buy our work, helping us keep things ticking over.

Large decorated teapot, part of a commission from 2021.

Country Living Magazine persevered and eventually persuaded us to be featured. Their lovely photographer, Eva Nemeth spent a couple of days here last November and even managed to coax a few smiles out of us! So, if you’re inclined, you can read a sweet, fuzzy article on us in the current (November) issue which is out now.

There’s a sense of gradual re-invention – James says he’s re-learning how to throw and wanting to throw better.

Freshly thrown teapot lids and spouts.

And with fewer pots available, I have brought greater intentionality to their decoration.

Unfinished lidded jars with zigzag decoration.

I have also resumed (after a thirty year break) my 2D work and am intrigued and motivated by the relationship between the two practices.

 

 

Drawing 10.03.22. pastel and pen, 50cm x 23cm.

You can see more of my drawings on Instagram @tilla_waters

Thank you so much for subscribing, reading, supporting etc. I hope it won’t be such a long gap next time.

Decorating a pot can feel like a risky business – although superficial it can make or break the appeal of the object. During the last eighteen years of decorating pots, I have tried not to be timid or conservative and have taken risks, resulting in an embarrassing number of “seconds”… and many I’m proud of.

They are all one-off individuals from small batches. I can remember specific occasions and people who bought some of the pots pictured below, and I like to imagine that they are still in one piece, serving frequent cuppas, pouring, being held and sipped from and generally bringing pleasure.

My inclination to explore decorative techniques and ideas has resulted in considerable diversity which I would like to show you. Some are boldly tonal:

decorated small plate (stoneware) 2020

decorated breakfast cups (stoneware) 2017

decorated small mug (stoneware) 2018

But I have also enjoyed using colour, its energy and exuberance feels life affirming:

decorated teabowls (porcelain) 2012

decorated large mugs and teapot (stoneware) 2020

decorated beakers (porcelain) 2014

decorated small pourer (stoneware) 2019

Some are very quiet:

decorated teabowl (stoneware) 2018

decorated small pourer (stoneware) 2018

decorated small teapot (stoneware) 2017

decorated large plate (stoneware) 2018

decorated teabowl (stoneware) 2017

…and minimal:

decorated small pourer (stoneware) 2018

decorated small pourer (stoneware) 2018

decorated small mugs (stoneware) 2018

decorated bowl (stoneware) 2016

red dot breakfast cups (porcelain) 2009

(perhaps this last image is stretching the meaning of decoration).

Some have muted colours and an earthy feel:

decorated coffee cups (stoneware) 2016

decorated beaker (stoneware) 2018

decorated breakfast cup (porcelain) 2014

There is an intensity or vigour to the earliest decoration:

decorated teabowls (porcelain) 2014

decorated beakers (porcelain) 2006

decorated small and large pourers (porcelain) 2014

 

…which became more pared down and graphic:

Unglazed teapot 2014

decorated teapot (porcelain) 2014

decorated coffee cup (stoneware) 2020

decorated small pourers (stoneware) 2018

decorated small pourer (stoneware) 2019

decorated breakfast cup (stoneware) 2020

Thanks for reading / looking. I hope you have enjoyed my decoration!

I wouldn’t say that I have ever “hit the ground running”. I’m a slow burner; creative ideas take a long time to develop in my head, then take a long time to be realised, followed by lengthy periods of honing. As a result, our store room gradually accumulates experiments / prototypes / samples which for various reasons aren’t considered suitable for our website or any of the galleries we supply.

Usually we sell these “seconds” at our Open Studio in July, but of course, unfortunately, this year the event has been cancelled. We are all living differently, working differently and shopping differently, and so now (although they are sort of work in progress) my first generation brooches are available on our website shop.

#8 yellow sqaure. Length, 7 cm.

I’m new to making brooches but old to working with clay and have found the combination of novelty / familiarity very favourable to creativity. Somehow it’s easy to be playful.

Some potential brooches, at greenware stage, before being fired.

I have many unanswered questions like “are they nicer glazed or un-glazed?” and “which shapes do I prefer: straight or curved edges?” The answers will probably come through making more. At the moment it doesn’t matter, I just need to put in the hours and let them evolve.

#17 piano. Length: 5 cm.

#1. Length approx. 4 cm.

#9 length approx. 4.2 cm.

I would love to come up with a more elegant solution to the backs. I have used commercial brooch backs and araldite: strong and practical, but amateur.

brooch backs.

I will give half of the proceeds to the mental health charity, Mind. I’m aware of the huge strain lots of people are under at the moment, including our youngest daughter who had been recovering from anorexia but is now back in hospital.

My brooches have been joyful light relief for me during lock-down; I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them.

Thank you for subscribing, reading and buying our work.

 

 

Our work is in The Tate Modern. Well, it will be in the Tate Edit shop at Tate Modern from October 16th to be accurate.

In the Summer The Tate put out Open Call on Instagram. They were looking for objects by UK based makers / designers, to be beautiful and useful for the home. I thought our work could be the kind of thing they were after, so applied.

Instagram post in May

Earlier in the year we had had an un-planned hiatus in production and when the Open Call came it the seemed the right time for a fresh challenge. I applied with two of our products: a decorated beaker and a decorated pourer. I chose them because the shapes are relatively quick and easy for James to throw (being upright and not having lids or handles) and moreover, both forms lend themselves perfectly to my decoration.  We were shortlisted and subsequently the Tate placed an order.

decorated beakers h: 10cm 2019

beaker “backs”

I hope the pots suit the venue. I see them appealing to visitors who have an interest in contemporary Art and Design as much as Craft or Studio Pottery. In my presentation at the Tate, one of the interview panel commented “I can see you’re influenced by Constructivism…” she may be right but I suspect a more powerful influence came long before I had any knowledge of Art History, in the forms of dolly mixture and fuzzy felt… the influence of aesthetic play on a child.

decorated pourer h: 11.5cm

When people have said to us “Pottery is so therapeutic isn’t it?” James and I have tended to look at them askance, not wanting to disagree, acknowledging that for some people in some situations it is therapeutic, yet not really able to relate. After all, the first two weeks of my apprenticeship were spent learning to use a packing tape dispenser so that the tape was straight and un-creased. We were taught that Pottery was a SERIOUS business; that everything mattered and had to be RIGHT (see archive post The Perfectionist Problem).

Some twenty years on from having mastered a tape dispenser I think I get it. Pottery is therapeutic. It is because it matters that I can give it my full attention. All other concerns (which possibly matter more) are (temporarily) waived as I visit a place of pure shape, colour and design… bliss!

Thanks for reading.

For more examples of our decorated work please look here.

 

 

 

Like buses, three exhibitions have come at once! But they are at very different venues and are showing very different kinds of work. From quiet, functional work for every day use at Ruthin Craft Centre to dramatic one-off, titled pieces at the National Eisteddfod to bottles with clean forms and restrained surface design in Liverpool.

Aelwyd at Ruthin Craft Centre. Photo: Stephen Heaton

Aelwyd (Welsh for hearth) is an exhibition of contemporary domestic objects including a selection of our tableware. It is curated by Elen Bonner and runs until October 13th at Ruthin Craft Centre.

Very different work but still in North Wales; ten of our jug forms have been selected for this year’s National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst, Conwy which runs from August 3rd – 10th.

#114 transparency h: 23cm

We’ve made a new group of bottles specially for RE:Collected, an exhibition about collecting Craft at Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool which runs from August 3rd to September 14th.

Some of the bottles made for Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool.

Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter and reading my post. I hope you enjoy seeing examples of our work, either in the flesh at these exhibitions, or in image form on our website or on Instagram

 

 

 

 

 

My decoration seems to exist within a context of gradual evolution; nothing is ever totally new but everything is unique. For months on end I’m happy to repeat favourite themes and colours and then suddenly a new idea or colour occurs to me which prompts innovation. Recently there have been three new ingredients prompting quite radical newness!

  1. Squares. Squares are the new circles.

Decorated coffee cups. Diameter approx 7.5 cm

Decorated coffee cup (back)

2. Vertical (is the new horizontal).

Small decorated pourer (back).

Small decorated pourers. h: 11cm

3. Red (in moderation).

Teabowl. Diameter approx. 10 cm

Small decorated pourers h: 11cm

decorated stoneware coffee cup

I hope you enjoyed seeing my new decoration as much I enjoyed making it and thank you for reading / looking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We always knew that making mainly functional pots by hand is not an easy way to make a living but we (somewhat blindly) trusted that, if we applied ourselves and were able to remain creatively engaged, people would like our work and we would do OK.

When we were contacted by the V&A last month about acquiring some of our work it felt like the highest compliment we could wish for. I was glad that they wanted decorated work (otherwise my input would have been tiny). They chose a teapot from our website shop and asked us to make a breakfast cup and pourer to go with it. This is the group:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love seeing ceramics at the V&A – there are pieces I enjoy every time (Lucie Rie for example) but it’s such a vast collection that I always find fresh inspiration from previously unnoticed pots.

It’s slightly strange to think that  those pots will never be used – the teapot will never make a nice brew and the cup won’t touch anyone’s lips. But it’s great to think they could inspire future potters!

And thank you for supporting us – it means a lot!

 

This weekend we will be showing our tableware in Abergavenny as part of the Food Festival. There will be five other ceramicists upstairs in the lovely calm, light space of the Chapel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are some of my favourite pieces from the latest firings which we’ll be showing:

decorated beakers

decorated teabowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

medium teapot glazed in persimmon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

medium bowl glazed in chun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and our ever-popular breakfast mugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Food Festival is on Saturday and Sunday (September 15th – 16th) and the Makers’ Market is from 10am – 5pm both days. You can read more about the festival here.

There was a fantastic atmosphere there last year so do come if you can.