Clay Vessels and Happy Accidents

I began my creative career in black and white photography. I still take photographs of little obscure details that inspire my approach to the clay; a curl of a shell, a flower tightly in bud or a pleasing door latch. I’d always wanted to learn how to throw a pot. The process of forming a vessel on the potter’s wheel out of moving clay between the hands completely fascinated me. This led me to believe that it might be a way of making that would suit me very well. I graduated last year from 3 years’ study at City Lit in London, (the centre for adult learning) where I had many opportunities to play with clay, learn different techniques and experiment with new ideas all under expert guidance from my tutors.

When I left college I had a clear vision of wanting to throw functional porcelain. The work that I produce now is essentially a development of what I began at City Lit. I am still utterly transfixed when working at the wheel. I get completely lost in the clay between my hands and find that this is when the new ideas start to form. I have quite a specific style that I am always developing and expanding. I am currently working on a new series of pieces using a very coarse porcelain to contrast to the current very smooth clay and also some bold new glaze colours. I am discovering that throwing is a lifelong journey (and I am just at the beginning really!) therefore the more I make, the more new things I find I am able to do which keeps things fresh, challenging and makes me fall in love with the clay all over again.

I really admire the work of Henry Moore, Hans Coper and James and Tilla Waters. The latter really inspired me to take greater note of the underneath of my pots. I throw in porcelain clay on the wheel where the basic shape is formed, but the majority of the shape and detail comes from a great deal of turning (cutting away the excess clay) and smoothing once the pot has dried slightly. I have developed a range of glazes to enhance the work, that also makes them very functional. I use shiny and matt glazes, both clear and richly coloured with oxides. The pots are also polished after glaze firing to give a very smooth finish. I like to put all the detailing in the underneath of my pots, where it can be discovered by the hands. I like that it is slightly secretive, surprising and often hidden from view.

My studio brings me a solitude and contemplation that I love. I feel this is evident in how my work looks. I am fortunate to live and work in a very beautiful part of the Cotswolds and my daily commute between home and studio brings great inspiration for my day. I hasten to add that my commute involves a pair of wellies, 2 stiles, a field of sheep and some beautiful farmland. There is nothing quite like a peaceful studio, a fresh bag of clay, a cup of tea and a clear day ahead of me.

Radio 3 and 4 are a constant companion as is the teapot. Social media is now essential for keeping myself and customers up to date with what is happening in the studio and the creative world at large. I am also very glad of visitors who often drop by for tea and cake. I’m beginning to question the wisdom of installing a sofa in the studio though.

I pay a lot of attention to the ‘feel’ of my pots. I want them to feel as good as they look, if not better. I think that how a pot feels in the hand is an element that is often overlooked; the weight, the balance and the finish to the surface. I take great delight in putting so much work into the bases and footrings, as this is often a part of the pot that is just an afterthought. I plan the whole pot around what the base will contain. I deliberately leave the throwing marks on the insides as I enjoy the contrast between the freshly thrown surface and the highly finished exteriors.

There is an on going joke in my family about ‘putting things in the cupboard and keeping it for best’. I take great objection to this way of thinking! The beautiful things I have in my life I want on display, to be both used and enjoyed. I really delight in using my pots both at home and in the studio kitchen and love that, once washed up, they are proudly placed back on the display shelves. I use them both for cooking in and eating from. They are very robust, much more so than other ceramic as they are fired to a very high temperature. Visitors are always given tea in one of my cups to experience them directly. I really hope that my customers will develop their own relationship with my pots. Whether constantly in use or purely for display, it’s really up to them to enjoy. If they bring people as much pleasure as I have had in making them, I will be a very happy potter.

Being a part of New Designers at the Business Design Centre Islington last year was a very exciting privilege and I am also thrilled to be unveiling my new studio to coincide with ‘Warwickshire Open Studios 2012’ (open daily 30th June -15th July), which will be a great opportunity for me to connect with more customers and for people to experience where and how I work.

I am looking forward to experimenting further this year with some new colours and textures to compliment my current range of pots. I will also be looking for some new opportunities for selling and displaying my work. If I had to give advice to anyone interested in becoming a professional potter, I would say pay attention to the ‘mishaps’. Some of my favourite pieces or ideas have come from a happy accident!

Further information

Elisabeth Edwards website:

Facebook page: Elisabeth Edwards Ceramics

Follow Elisabeth on Twitter: @eeceramics

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