Category Archives: newsletters

Teapots have a special appeal for potters; it’s a challenge to unite all the parts into one harmonious whole. Teapots have just one function to perform – but it’s a demanding one.

And they seem to have personalities.

The teapots we’re making now are very different to our first ones…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007. Decorated porcelain.

Note that there is colour on the knobs but not the feet of these rather curious beasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012. Decorated porcelain.

We made the first generation of these for CAL (Ceramic Art London) and sold them all during the event. The grey / orange colourway became a favourite and the decoration here is intricate but confident. The spout is small and high to leave room for the decoration, without compromising function. The matt (black) details became something of a signature in our work during this period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013. Plain porcelain.

There is a satisfying contrast here between the crisp precision of the matt colours (foot rings and knob) and the soft fluidity of the glaze wave. In a way, this contrast highlights one of the most appealing aspects of ceramics for me: the control in the making stage and the unpredictability in the kiln. Our porcelain glazes had a fine, ethereal quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013. Coloured stoneware / porcelain.

We were selected for the British Ceramics Biennial and made this tea set for it. We had been using un-glazed coloured clay for a body of non-functional work and wanted to feed the things we’d learned during that project into our domestic ware. I remember thinking it brought together the best of our skills: James’s making and my design. Its austerity is perhaps a bit out of place for something as homely / bourgeois as a tea set but we have used this teapot’s twin for years and become very fond of it.

stoneware cup and teapot by James and Tilla Waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015. Decorated stoneware.

This one is something of a hybrid in having the red details (now I’d call it a hang-over) from the porcelain days combined with the more traditional earthy ruggedness of reduction-fired stoneware. The mid-tone of the clay body makes a nice “ground” for bold, tonal decoration – which I was applying entirely in rotation on the wheel – no circles yet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017. Plain stoneware.

Most of our work at the moment is plain: un-decorated and glazed in a single colour. We have stopped adding coloured details and like the quiet simplicity. This is our celadon glaze. It is fired in reduction and its colour comes from iron oxide. For me it has the right level of character – it is interesting in a subtle way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017. Decorated stoneware.

I’m torn between the calm simplicity of plain work and a deep seated urge to decorate things but I think I’ve reconciled the two pretty well here in this teapot which came out of the kiln a few weeks ago. The decoration is ultra pared-down and I’ve embraced the texture and colour offered by the raw, un-glazed clay body.

This blog post is an adaptation of a series of posts I published on facebook recently.

Thank you for reading and you can see more of our teapots here.

Suddenly there are flowers everywhere.  I’ve been bringing them into the house and although I have lots of vases, many of them weren’t designed to be used as a vase. These are some of my favourites:

1My brother was an avid bottle hunter as a teenager and this is one he found in a bottle dump in the 1970s.

2We found this tiny glass bottle in the garden; it’s perfect for hedgerow flowers.

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I bought this beaker by Rupert Spira from CAA in London in the early 90s, I was a student and remember it seemed terribly expensive. I never use it to drink from but love it as a vase.

4This is one of our large tenmoku pourers – I think it complements these beautiful white narcissi perfectly.

 

5I bought this Derek Wilson pot from him at Ceramic Art London several years ago. I just liked it and had a hunch it would make a good vase.

 

6This is an early James (made during apprenticeship?) It doesn’t exactly declare its intended function but he used it to test one of his own glaze recipes (copper red) and I use it for short stemmed strong coloured flowers – including sweet peas later in the year.

 

7And last but not least: the trusty soy sauce bottle – perfect for medium height single stem flowers (especially yellow ones).

 

I hope you too are enjoying Spring.

 

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I gave this book to James for Christmas (yes – it was for me really). In the Autumn we delivered work to Oxford Ceramics where we found a beautiful black and white tea set by Lucie Rie. We were allowed to handle the pieces and eventually left the gallery thoroughly charmed and inspired by them.

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cups and saucers at Oxford Ceramics

These days one of the things I enjoy about biographies is the historical context; the packaging around the person. Lucie was the same age as my Granny and both were in London during the war, stoically doing what they could to be of use. After the war, the concept of Studio Ceramics was in its infancy which makes for fascinating comparisons with our experience of it now.

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Portrait of Lucie Rie by Hansi Bohm

It occurred to me that one of the reasons for her work developing the way it did was due to her unusual technique of applying the glazes with a brush, then single firing. It is much more typical to dip or pour glaze onto a biscuit fired pot, then fire it a second time. Lucie Rie’s method must have required much closer involvement; it would have taken longer to apply the glaze and demanded much gentler handling. Different coloured bands would have appeared as an inevitable part of the process as she was painting slips and glazes onto a bowl centred on the wheel. I suspect it would naturally follow that this approach would lead her to experiments with mark-making and materials.

Circumstances played an interesting role: when she started making pots she had to cycle her work across Vienna to fire it, so single fired in order to minimize the amount of travelling. By the time she set up her studio in London, complete with kiln, single-firing had simply become the way she was used to working. (She was Austrian, Jewish and escaped to London in 1938.)

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Hans Coper was also a key influence. They were both modernists, influenced by The Bauhaus and contemporary Architecture rather than seeing themselves as part of a ceramics tradition as Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew did. Coper must have been a most welcome kindred spirit and given her confidence in her own ideas about how to work as a potter.

I found it refreshing that Tony Birks, despite obviously having been a huge fan, pointed out examples of Rie’s work that he didn’t like. There were also several (different ones) which, despite being a huge fan, I don’t like. The point is that she was incredibly inventive and experimental so there were bound to be a few misses amongst the hits. And for me the “misses” (I feel a bit rude calling them that) are helpful encouragement to take risks, follow hunches etc.

She was also a perfectionist. I was reassured and amused to read that “she signed her name over 250 times to get a really good signature for the cover of this book.” I’ll have to remember that next time I want to accuse James of splitting hairs!

 

 

 

 

 

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Collaboration with Artist Aileen Harvey

Frequently, potters have professional images taken of their work for publicity purposes. So, last year, anticipating a new body of work resulting from our Arts Council of Wales project, we budgeted for professional photography. However on deeper consideration, we realised that we wanted to continue to photograph our work ourselves and were loath to give that job to someone else and change the photographic style.

Yet we found the idea of introducing a new artistic voice into the workshop appealing, so invited Aileen to be around us and record things that caught her eye while we worked, over a period of one week in December. We chose Aileen because we liked the work she’s done in other artists’ studios and felt there was a kinship between our aesthetics. Outcomes weren’t specified and we didn’t even have a clear idea of what we would do with the resulting images, but it would be lovely if one day they were to be exhibited alongside our cylindrical forms.

View  larger selection of images she took for us.

More of Aileen’s work.

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Our Functional Range

Meanwhile – on a completely different note – we have resumed work on our functional range, which as well as winning us the Homes and Gardens Ceramics / Glass Designers of the Year, has been honoured with selection for the British Ceramics Biennial.

We have always thought of our work on the cylindrical forms as being the “creative engine” of our whole practice and it’s lovely to see ideas translated and trickling through. Here are a couple of examples:

cup & saucerbreakfast mug

We haven’t generally made cups and saucers (probably partly because we don’t use them ourselves) but this one was commissioned, and having overcome our antipathy to the idea now find ourselves positively relishing its genteel character.

And the opportunity for decoration is – for me – a delight.

The breakfast mug on the right is a prototype for a new range we’re working on called “naked” as (like the cylinders) it is made from unglazed coloured clay. The idea partly came from Wedgwood’s jasperware and we like its warm, satiny feel.

Thankyou for signing up to the mailing list and reading this letter. If you have any comments or questions we would love to hear from you:
www.jamesandtillawaters.co.uk/keep-in-touch

Tilla, May 2013

Since the Autumn we have suspended normal production of functional pots and been mainly working on “cylindrical forms“.

Collaboration

During the project James has taken on a greater (equal) creative role. It hasn’t been a smooth path for him. Drawing has proved key in helping him to find a way in (a couple are posted on our blog). I’ve found his input very invigorating and we’ve both enjoyed the freedom to nick and develop each others’ ideas— something which is normally taboo between artists!

lunar group

 

This piece is called “lunar group” and is our entry for Welsh Artist of the Year 2013. The cylinder on the far right was made from four cylinders of different greys which were carefully cut then joined; the one on the far left has the effect of a “soft” horizon as there is a very thin mid grey between the two larger areas. James’ technical precision has been invaluable in allowing us to realise creative ideas with coloured clay.

Colour

Ferrero Rocherfinger printred label

 

 

 

 

As we’d hoped, colour has been playing an important part in the new cylinders. We have developed a technique of dipping into watery solutions of colour which give a “bloom” or “veil” to the surface, as seen on the cylinder on the left (“ferrero rocher”). We have also been enjoying creating impressions of depth and luminosity as seen above, centre (“finger print”) and above, right (“red label”).

We will be entering these three for the British Ceramics Biennial 2013.

The cylinders pictured in this newsletter are some of my favourites. You can see more of the recent cylindrical forms on a new page of our website…

Developments to our website

In January we started a blog. We hope it gives another visual dimension to the website and a window on to our aesthetic.

We will shortly be adding selling pages to our website. We will hold a micro range of functional work in stock, available to purchase at the click of a button. Another page will allow you to  choose from a bigger range of shapes and glazes and commission pieces to be made to order.

Homes and Gardens Design Awards 2013

We have been short-listed in the Ceramics and Glass category. The winner will be announced on March 6th at the British Museum in London. See who the other candidates are and find more details…

Thank you for reading.

If you have any comments or questions please feel free to get in touch with us via our contact form

Tilla, February 2013

Our big, exciting news is that we have been awarded a grant from the Arts Council of Wales to develop our “cylindrical forms”.

We made our first cylindrical forms in 2010 as an experiment to see what would happen if we removed the demands of function and invested more time into each piece. We showed the results at Origin and sold most of them.

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“Five Sketches” which sold at Origin 2010

The cylinders have been gradually evolving since then and we were delighted that Ruthin Craft Centre
invited us to show some with them last month at COLLECT.

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“Circle Series” which sold at Collect 2012

The grant will allow us to take time away from making our standard functional work and concentrate on the cylinders.

The cylinders have clearly been well received but they have been fraught with technical problems. Only about half of our output has been successful – making them barely viable to produce. This is the main concern that we will be addressing during our grant assisted period.

Greater technical reliability may encourage us to consider increasing scale (bigger pots aren’t necessarily
better or nicer pots), and we will be expanding our colour palette, whilst aiming to preserve the
qualities of subtlety and quietness.

We are still committed to making functional pots. The repetitive processes and demands of function
provide the foundation of our practice. But the expressive and experimental potential in the cylinders
offer what feels like the perfect counterpoint.