The Evolution of Pots


People often ask how we design our pots. It’s easier to say what we don’t do: we don’t (usually) design on paper then translate into clay; we don’t (consciously) look for inspiration in nature. We prefer to say that they “evolve”…….which requires further explanation.

One of the things we like about throwing as a way of making is the flexibility it allows. If we decide to make a shape slightly bigger/smaller; straighter/more curved etc. then we can. Sometimes James asks for feedback on the first few freshly thrown shapes on the shelf and we might decide they need to be more like, say, the one in the middle. James keeps records of what he throws – the weight, the kind of clay and the dimensions when wet, so that he can return to preferred forms. This creates a “survival of the fittest” environment that is, in a way, akin to a process of evolution.

I consider James’ appreciation of form to be more finely tuned than mine, but I have the advantage of coming with fresh eyes. We usually agree on which shape we prefer; usually one simply looks more right than the others. We are keen that the pots should also be nice to use – which is a longer term test. We make a point of using the pots ourselves in the house. Whether or not we are drawn to use something in a real, functional context over an extended period of time is a telling test for any pot!

There is probably greater scope for innovation in my input with glazes and decoration. We are frequently trying out new glazes. Some of them don’t make it past the initial test tile stage, some of them are short-lived and some of them continue in production for years, with minor adjustments to the recipe along the way. Meanwhile, James hones his knowledge of the optimum thickness for each glaze and its optimum position in the kiln.

Decoration/mark-making/surface treatment has always been the part I love the most and shows the greatest degree of evolution.  Leather hard clay is a wonderful surface to work on allowing me the techniques of sgraffito, brushwork, inlay and stencil. Initially I imposed the rule that I would do only wheel based decoration – as a way of ensuring integration of form and surface. In the last few years I’ve broken the rule. I’ve felt confident that I can decorate with sensitivity to the form and use a combination of wheel and freehand decoration resulting in a more playful / quirky look.

The images of the pourers below span eight years. They show development in form, decoration and photography. We only photograph the pots we’re most pleased with, so each image represents our best version at the particular time. I find it fascinating to look back at the evolution and wish I had a crystal ball.


Pourers 2006

Pourers 2006

Pourers 2008

Pourers 2008 – introducing coloured feet.

Pourers 2011

Pourers 2011 – introducing non wheel based decoration but still with rotational symmetry.

Pourers 2014

Pourers 2014 – introducing the circle motif and the idea of a front or “face”.


One thought on “The Evolution of Pots”

  1. Pingback: New Decoration - james & tilla waters

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