Tag Archives: stoneware

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.

new glaze colours

Yellow, white, lilac, tenmoku, celadon and persimmon glazes.

Recently in the workshop I’ve been sniffing out potential recipes for the new stoneware work.

Thinking that the stoneware suits a more traditional, rustic look than our porcelain has lead me to classic glazes like celadon, tenmoku, chun. Even the names are seductive: these glazes have been used and loved so much that they’re not called just black, green, blue. They have places, stories and history associated with them and when traditional thrown forms (as many of ours are) are combined with classic glazes, there is often a sense of “rightness”.

I had a different approach with our old porcelain glazes; they were about the pleasure of colour, usually relying on modern commercially prepared glaze stains for colour rather than metal oxides and combinations of basic raw materials. I suspect that my interest in current trends (I’m loathe to use the word “fashion”) influenced our glaze palette and appealed to our customers accordingly. I have always wanted our work to look contemporary: there are some potters around today who are highly skilful in making traditional pots in traditional ways (wood-fired, ash glazed etc.) but I have no interest in trying to replicate pots seen in museums made in a previous age.

So my challenge is to find glazes which have that quiet rightness; which suit the rustic quality of the clay and our hand-made process and would be at home in a stylish, modern context. This group has the traditional celadon, tenmoku and persimmon glazes alongside lilac and yellow which are a little more bright and clean. It’s important that each glaze is nice on its own and within the group. Not all of these recipes are finalised and in production yet, there’s a bit more fine tuning to be done (and there is a chun in the pipeline) but I think we’re getting close and I like using a bit of old and a bit of new.

We have a small group of stoneware in our online shop and if you’re in London a selection of pieces from the range can also be purchased at The New Craftsmen in Mayfair.

plain and decorated pourers

plain and decorated pourers

When opening our twitter account last year, I gave very little thought to our bi-line, which reads,

“We are studio potters. Torn between love of purity and love of decoration. We’ve made quite a few mugs.”

I think I hit the nail on the head about being torn…

I love the purity of a single colour, the clean unfussiness giving full voice to the character of the glaze. Strong and resolved. The relationship between surface and form is easy; even with bright colours there’s harmony. There aren’t any awkward issues about matching / not going with / looking out of place. Plain glazed work almost seems to have the moral high ground; didn’t Michael Cardew say that a pot was 80% form and 20% decoration? The minimalism fits with a modern aesthetic, yet is classic – won’t ever look dated.

When visiting the V&A I’m always struck by the natural elegance of decoration on  pottery from Asia and the Middle East.

Iznik monochrome pottery dish Turkish C17th

Iznik monochrome pottery dish Turkish C17th

It can make me think there’s no point in even trying. And yet, I have a really strong desire to add decoration to our pots. I don’t think it’s just because I don’t make the pots and I want to leave my mark on them, but leather hard clay provides a fantastic ground for mark-making: brushing, sponging, carving and scratching all work beautifully. Although my strengths lie in surface treatment, I do enjoy working with the given form and pride myself on being able to avoid “wall papering”. And I think my decorative style has played a significant part in giving our work a strong, distinctive look.

However (this is the torn part) James and I have never found it easy to accommodate plain and decorated work side by side. We are most aware of the problem when selecting work for galleries and planning displays at craft fairs. We want to show the breadth of our range whilst also wanting coherence. The decorated work has a white ground (porcelain), which is unsympathetic to the plain colours. We separate them into two groups and each group is happier but the whole isn’t coherent. It’s a problem we’ve been aware of for years without feeling able to address… until now.

Over the last six months we’ve been wanting to move away from porcelain to something earthier and more characterful; a clay body that would lend itself to a more relaxed style of throwing for James and simpler decoration for me. So we’ve been trying out various stoneware clays and firing them in reduction. Below is a snap shot of the shelf in the workshop where we put the pots that we think are going in the right direction. And I can’t help thinking that the decorated pots are mingling happily with the plains.

new reduced stoneware range samples

new reduced stoneware range samples


stoneware lidded jarsAfter a ten year break I’ve done some throwing. I started with flower pots in the Summer and have recently finished these lidded jars.

I wanted to give myself a challenge and was curious to see whether I would like the different character of my throwing. They do have nice qualities but I think my strength lies in surface treatment.