The Future of UK’s Independent Ceramic Industry

The UK has always been associated with ceramics and pottery and, over the past few years, the country’s ceramic industry has gone through a revival thanks to independent makers and designers celebrating craftsmanship and using social media to connect with their customers. According to data, the sector grew 45% between 2009 and 2013, and since 2013 the employment in this industry has kept on increasing.

To find out about the current situation and what’s next, we chatted with 4 ceramicists and potters across the country to hear their views and predictions.

Olivia Fiddes

Olivia Fiddes is a Scottish ceramic artist based in London that creates homeware and objects using hand building techniques. When asked about why ceramics have become so popular over the past years Olivia says “There’s clearly been a shift away from ‘fast-fashion’ and consumption to more support for local, ethical and traditional businesses. Even if you aren’t able to be a ‘maker’ yourself you can be involved in that lifestyle by supporting makers and by having these goods in your home. I think shops and businesses definitely see this and have looked to sourcing products from artists, designers and craftspeople who value quality and self-expression. As a customer there is nothing more special than a one-off or limited run product, which handmade ceramics tend to be.

Photo by Olivia Fiddes

For Olivia, this shift in the way we consume products is also influenced by the current financial situation, “We’re spending rather than saving our money more because houses and families are more distant. We’re willing to spend money enjoying our everyday and living in the present, whether that is on special tableware, a holiday or going out for meals.

Photo by Johanna Tagada / Photo by Association

Ana Abellán

Spanish ceramicist Ana Abellán started working with ceramics 5 years ago after moving to Edinburgh and attending an evening course for adults. Ana agrees with Olivia when it comes to the value of owning something special, “We all want to have unique things, things that have a meaning – I really believe in quality over quantity. I don’t want to have ten cups made with a machine somewhere in China, I’d rather have one handmade cup that has some kind of special energy“. The way we live right now has also influenced how we interact with things around us and Ana thinks that “Society has lost the connection with nature and beauty. I think we need to relearn how to slow down and appreciate the beauty inherent in simple things we have around us, although I am the first one on that list – I am always rushing everywhere trying to get too many things done.

Photo by David Guillen

When asked about what ceramic artists need to do to supply customer needs in the near future Ana says that “Ceramic artists have done a great job over the last few years, promoting themselves, sharing more and making ceramics more attractive. Getting in touch with customers and listening to them is important, as well as being affordable but valued.

Photo by David Guillen

Home Thrown Studio

Gem Mordle from Home Thrown Studio also got interested in ceramics after taking up an evening class when she moved to Dorset 8 years ago. For Gem, the recession has had a positive impact on consumer behaviour, “I’ve definitely seen a rise in appreciation for ceramics and everything and anything hand crafted over the last couple of years. People want to spend their money on objects or clothing that are hand made and have a sense of authenticity about them. Lots of my customers seem to really appreciate the personality of my wares and the fact they are all original and have a story. It’s also really nice to be able to meet customers face to face at local markets, as so much shopping is done online these days.

Photo by Home Thrown Studio

Despite oversees manufacturing and the easy access to cheap homeware, Gem feels positive about the current situation of the industry and its future, “I feel over the past years that ceramicists and potters are being put back on the map. There has been a bit of a revival with the Great British Throw Down, the Kickstarter campaign for The Clay College in Stoke and a handful of universities are starting up their ceramic courses again so I think we can be hopeful. I am inspired daily by the ceramic community on Instagram, and feel that social media is a great platform for contemporary potters to exhibit their work and keep in touch with their customers.

Photo by Home Thrown Studio

Natalie J Wood

Scottish designer Natalie J Wood studied at Gray’s School of Art and felt attracted to ceramics due to its complexity and flexibility. For Natalie, social media has played a key role in the development of her businesses and educating customers about what’s behind a product, “It has helped me connect to new audiences. To promote events I’m linked with. I feel as a designer/maker Instagram has been a great platform for visual based work. You can instantly gauge what about your work people connect to the most. It challenges you in a way to create a larger story with your work. Now people want to understand more about behind the scenes and how making is a part of your life. In turn that gives the work more value because people can understand it on more than just a visual level.

Photo by Sean Dooley

Natalie considers function an important factor for current and future customers, “I think the industry is becoming more about micro manufacturing and independent brands. People are becoming more concerned about where the products they buy are coming from and having a story behind a piece makes it something special. I also think that in a backlash to throwaway culture our society is less about the ornate and there is a rise in the beauty of function. Objects that have purpose but also become decoration. I know I sell water carafes but a large number of people use them as vases, which I think is great! I’ve been a long time advocate of the William Morris quote ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ But I think now that use and beauty are becoming one and the same.

Photo by Sean Dooley

2 Comments on “The Future of UK’s Independent Ceramic Industry”

  1. I really enjoyed this article as a Ceramist living in Argentina .
    This doesn’t only happen in the UK , it is slso staring in my country . I’ve got a workshop and everyday I see more & more people interested in making or buying special objects made with their hands or exclusive handmade .
    I’d love to get in touch eith these Ceramists , could you send me their mails ???

    1. Hi Silvana,

      Thanks a lot for your comment! You can find their email addresses on each of the ceramists’ websites.

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