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Made London

We are approaching Craft Fair Season. Having done Origin for several years we were left with a gap in our Autumn slot when it ceased, so we thought we’d try out Made. It is in a lovely building in central London which is a good start and we’ve heard good reports from other makers. We will be showing lots of new functional pieces and are hoping that both James and I will be able to be at the stand. We will be on the ground floor (stand 78). We have lots of two for the price of one tickets so please let us know if you would like us to send you one.



After a shockingly long hiatus, we’re about to send some new work to CAA. We have concentrated on the new unglazed coloured clay pieces. This work started a year ago with our British Ceramics Biennial entry then we showcased it  earlier this year at CAL. I think it is some of our most successful  work in combining function with abstract graphics. Our design process is always one of gradual, successive fine tuning over a long period. We’ve been honing the colour palette and developing our favourite motifs.

coloured small breakfast mugs james and tilla waters

coloured small breakfast mugs

coloured clay pourers July 14 james and tilla waters

coloured clay pourers July 14

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!

Wesley-Barrell window display

On Thursday the winners will be announced and I will have had a say in who they are. Applying for craft fairs, competitions, awards etc. becomes routine for most makers so I felt very privileged on this occasion, to be on the other side of the fence as it were.

The short-listed entries were selected in April. The judges gathered in a meeting room in Central London and looked at hundreds of images. There were conversations you would expect: “Is it well made, is it technically accomplished?” and “Is it an interesting and original design or rather derivative?”; “what a shame the images aren’t better” etc.

But, far more interesting were discussions around the word “like”. I’ve often thought that what we “like” is downplayed. It sounds intellectually flimsy so we feel a need to back up our likes or dislikes with often rather arbitrary criteria. What we like describes our taste and Taste has scary associations of class snobbery, yet to have “bad taste” would be as shameful as having bad breath. Deep down I sympathise with the person (who were they and did they ever actually say it?) who said “I don’t know much about Art but I know what I like.” (My father was unable to hum in tune but was often moved to tears by Mozart.)

“Fashionable” was another interesting word in our judging conversations. Being a believer in classic good design makes me wary of Fashion trends, yet often the more “contemporary” looking entries were also the more experimental and interesting ones. Here the old adage applies: “Good design never goes out of fashion”. Some of the judges were considering how the image would look in a magazine but my angle was more “would I like to live with it?”

There have been some very difficult decisions to make and I’ve felt the uncomfortable weight of responsibility. There are two generous cash prizes and useful mentoring sessions at stake – not to mention the publicity and endorsement the winners will enjoy. Nonetheless, it has been a pleasure as well as an honour to judge.

Tilla,   June 9th 2014





decorated teapotsWe are busy making stock for CAL (Ceramic Art London). These are some decorated teapots drying before their first firing – looking promising but a long way off being “in the bag”. The functional demands on a teapot are obviously great which means they’re difficult to do well.

They should pour well, feel nice to hold; the lid fit well,  be light and balanced – and of course look good. They only have to fall short in one respect to be proclaimed a “second”.

However, if all goes well they could be one of our best products – James’ perfectionist attention to detail in the making and my surface design – that’s collaboration. Now we just wait with fingers crossed.

ceramic bead necklace james and tilla watersThese are some of my coloured clay bead necklaces. I have been road testing them and find them very “wearable”. Two are threaded onto sterling silver snake chains and one onto some rather nice hemp twine. I like the DIY rustic nature of the hemp and it seems to be very strong, but it’s also nice to have that silver element with the chains.

I’ve been interested in making necklaces for a long time  – since discovering Grace Girvan and Alison Mcleod at our first Origin in 2006. I think I’m beginning to develop a personal style. This latest making project was sparked off by a necklace which I saw in the shop at Oriel Myrddin in the Summer. It is made by Lovehate Australia; I tried it on but didn’t feel it was quite me – the wrong scale for my body somehow. I love making the necklaces – it’s largely about combining colours and shapes – as I do when decorating pots, but in a different context.  I’m hoping to sell some one day. Please tell me what you think of them!

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ceramic bead necklace James and Tilla Waters

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ceramic beads James and Tilla Waters

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

P1010026In my spare time I’ve been making ceramic beads. These are some of the latest – un fired as yet so the colours will be brighter when finished. I make them by rolling soft coloured clay around a paintbrush handle. My inspiration came from a necklace I saw at Oriel Myrddin made by Lovehate.

I’m particularly excited about the composite ones. (But also nervous that they will fall apart in the kiln). It’s really hard to cut at ninety degrees (a bit like slicing a loaf of bread neatly but more so) which is why some of them have wiggles – I decided to go with it and consider it a positive quality!