6 Suffolk ceramic artists you need to know about
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Art is a glorious thing, there’s no doubt about it. One of the beauties of crafting is that it knows no bounds – and no matter who you are or where you come from, everyone can get stuck in. A handful of Suffolk pottery lovers muse over why the artform brings them joy - and how you can get involved too.
Yoxford-based pottery teacher Nancy Main has over 25 years of experience. She first began her ceramics journey back in Bristol when she was working as a teacher – and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I think everyone has the experience of envisioning a drawing or painting at school, and then not quite being able to recreate that vision. For me, when I began making pottery, I found for the first time ever I could make things that I actually liked.”
Following years of practice behind the wheel, Nancy has come to love the tranquility that the hobby brings her, as she skillfully crafts a variety of pots, vases and dishes.
“There’s something very absorbing about putting your creative energy into your hands and ‘doing’ something, rather than ‘thinking’, which is how we seem to spend much of our lives.”
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Nancy, who runs Yoxford Makers alongside her husband Jason, has noticed there’s been a bit of resurgence in the pastime as of late – with more people wanting to lose themselves in the power of pottery.
“I think that interest has always been there, and pottery has never gone away - it’s just a bit more out in the open now. Shows like The Great Pottery Throw Down, combined with the experiences people have had through lockdown, mean more people want to get their hands covered in clay,” she says.
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Back in May, Nancy and Jason converted their former restaurant into what is now their pottery studio – and she hopes people will come express their creative side as lockdown restrictions slowly ease.
“The whole process of making something out of essentially what is earth is very good for our wellbeing. It reconnects us with ourselves, and allows us to express ourselves and make things which can be beautiful and useful.”
At just 19 years old, Suffolk-based Frankie Fisk is making a name for herself in art circles across the county thanks to her eye-catching ceramics works.
Frankie, who threw her first pot just two years ago, has swiftly become adept at crafting mugs, plates and vases. Explaining her passion behind the hobby, she says: “I love how clay, when wet, can become anything you want it to. It’s the most tactile and beautiful sculpting medium I have come across - it has such massive potential.
“I also love how natural it feels in my hands, it’s almost as though my body has all the information it needs to pull and push against the material just the right amount to create the natural curves and shapes needed for most basic structures. It feels very intuitive.”
Over the past year, the avid ceramicist has found solace in the comfort and relaxation the hobby brings, helping her forget the stresses brought about by the pandemic.
“I’ve found ceramics, and art in general, to be incredibly therapeutic. Being able to physically hold and play with a medium like clay is so rewarding, but also challenging. It’s something which you can become completely engrossed in, which means you can lose hours forgetting everything else that is happening, which at a time like this is incredibly important. And there is something incredibly satisfying about holding a cup of tea in a mug that your hands have sculpted - it just fits!”
Situated on the Suffolk coast is Ben Baglio – an Aldeburgh-based potter who first developed an interest in pottery back in 2009. He explains how his love of the skill first came about, and why, for him, less is more.
“I first became interested in ceramics as part of an MA course I was doing in 20th century design. I wrote my dissertation about a contemporary maker, and thought it might be a good idea to take some lessons so I could understand the process better - and from then on I was hooked!”
Twelve years on, and Ben has since relocated from London to Suffolk, where he now creates a variety of handmade stoneware and porcelain statement pieces. “I like making simple forms that are both useful and decorative, such as bowls, vases, and bottles. I keep my decoration to a minimum, as I want to emphasise the form.
“I’ve been experimenting with more colourful glazes, but usually only on the interiors, as I want people to be aware of the clay itself, as well as the glaze. Occasionally, I inlay stripes on my porcelain work which is a fairly laborious process - but very rewarding when it works well.”
As well as the reward that comes with handcrafting, Ben also loves the focus that his pottery brings him - and notes how important the artform has been to him over the last 15 months.
“It’s helped give me a focus, because there are so many processes in ceramics. It really gives you a feeling of nurturing something and bringing it to life. There's nothing quite so real and basic as getting your hands covered with clay - and the sense of improvement over time helps to build confidence, giving you real a feeling of pride.”
Just outside of Bury St Edmunds is Libbi Hutchence, owner of Handmade at Bramley Cottage. Having first fallen into pottery 15 years ago, she has since gone on to teach a number of students who have gone on to set up their own pottery businesses - as well open her own studio from her cottage in Culford.
“Being able to escape into my pottery studio over the last year has been a joy. It’s an ideal way to relax, as clay has a calming effect.”
With her own at-home sanctuary to retreat to, Libbi has been able to experiment with clay over the years – unleashing her creative side for all to see.
“One of my favourite pieces to make are my ‘facepots’. I started making them because I thought it would be funny to have a pot that looked like a caricature of my husband.”
After her initial facepots caught the attention of one of her clients, she was asked to make more - and since then has made hundreds.
“Each one is completely unique. I put different features on them, such as glasses, moustaches, freckles, eyelashes, and earrings. All you need to do is pop a plant for their hair. I never get bored of making them as they’re all unique, and I really enjoy seeing people’s faces light up when they see them at fairs and markets,” she says.
“Pottery was in my heart from the very time I ever touched clay, at about the age of five,” explains Rachael Pedersen. Based on the Essex-Suffolk border, she’s the owner of Rachael Ped Ceramics, and prides herself on her unique vision when it comes to claywork.
“I absolutely adore making things with my hands – anything from large garden sculptures to personalised mugs. I feel as a society we have become too used to the mass-produced, so I go the other way and revel in the wonkiness and freedom of handmade human creations,” she says.
Reflecting on lockdown, Rachael admits the last 15 months have actually helped fuel her creativity, as she says: “I had to temporarily close my Sudbury-based teaching business and work from home which was actually a real benefit to me. I found myself feeling even more expressive than usual, and being free with my work.”
For anyone who wants to experience that same sense of freedom, Rachael suggests just grabbing some clay and going for it. What have you got to lose, after all?
“Put your ego aside - you're going to make mistakes, but don't be put off. You will make your fair share of ‘wonky pots’, but if you're anything like me, you might find you prefer them! Don't ‘think’, and just ‘do’. It will change your life, like it did mine!”
Former-nurse-turned-potter Julia Edwards first fell in love with pottery by chance, after a trip to see some friends a few years back. “I remember visiting friends in Wales, and eating off plates my friend had made - it was such an amazingly simple but joyous experience,” she explains.
Fuelling her love for all things handmade, Julia embarked up a weekend residential course at Deborah Baynes’ pottery studio in Shotley before quickly becoming hooked.
“I had never touched clay up until this point. Following this, I did some evening courses and then some years later when we moved, I found Peter Harding of Suffolk Stoneware and had weekly lessons up until a couple of years ago.”
Since then, Julia has become a dab hand at both the pottery wheel and hand building – finding solace in forming wonderful creations using clay and water. “I really enjoy the fact that things take on their own shape and story, such as my garden gnomes. They came out of nowhere, and now these little characters just pop out of a lump of clay.
“To value something that you yourself have created is an incredibly tactile and comforting experience. Pottery seems to have found me, and fulfilled a need to be more grounded. I challenge anyone, who in anyway, feels an urge to create anything, to just go for it. What can go wrong?”