Why handmade is best: The ceramic designers who are creating pieces to be cherished for a lifetime

The growing emphasis on handmade interiors is reviving interest in the tactile appeal of handmade ceramics, finds Amelia Thorpe.

Few materials express the work of the human hand as eloquently as ceramics. From bowls thrown on a wheel to coil pots painstakingly pinched into shape, the human touch creates a tactile quality with aesthetic and emotional appeal, which is appealing to a new generation of designers.

‘The growing interest in art pottery is an acknowledgement of the importance of craftsmanship, quality and individuality–and the rejection of mass production,’ says Lucy Vaughan, co-founder of the eponymous company, which recently launched a new range of earthenware Leckford tiles inspired by 1970s design and given a stippled matt glaze to create a rich, layered texture that are perfectly in tune with the current mood for handmade interiors.

Ceramics are also top of the agenda at Maker & Son, the fast-growing interiors brand that is earning a reputation for a growing portfolio of furniture and tableware and, this month, is launching a range of ceramics by artist Jennifer Morris.

Felix Conran, third generation of the celebrated design family, who set up the company with his furniture designer father Alex Willcox, says: ‘The mug that you drink tea from, the tableware that you eat from–these can be beautiful things that deserve to be elevated, not disposable. These are objects for life.’ He also highlights their practicality. ‘They are not pieces meant to live on a shelf—they are to be used and appreciated, not only visually, but also as functional items.’

At Maker & Son, the ceramic mugs and platters herald the beginning of more collaborative launches with independent artists and craftspeople. ‘It wasn’t so long ago that organic food wasn’t available and, now, it is very common,’ says Mr Conran. ‘People want to know where their food comes from and how it is grown and, in a similar way, we will see more and more of this approach in the fashion and homeware industries as people start to look for objects of provenance and those that can be relied on as being of very good quality.’

He, too, emphasises the unique nature and beauty of handmade ceramics. ‘The mark of the maker and of the hand is in every single one of these objects, because they are not made by machines,’ he says. ‘Where once subtly different results may have been seen as imperfections, now they are appreciated as a mark of a story to be told.’

Different materials produce equally different results, as ceramicist Sally Marien explains. ‘Earthenware and stoneware are fired at lower temperatures than porcelain, so they tend to have a more rustic, earthy look, with more warmth,’ she says. ‘Porcelain is high firing and behaves in a completely different way, with an elasticity that means it collapses if worked too much, making it much more of a challenge, but the results are exquisite.’ Thin-thrown pieces can be almost translucent. ‘When the sun shines on a piece of porcelain, it sings,’ she adds.

Like Mr Conran, Mrs Marien believes that the resurgence of interest in pottery comes from a renewed interest in the handmade, a sense that the magic of transforming a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel can transfer to the finished article. ‘If you are passionate about what you are making, it has to come out in what you produce,’ she says. ‘To eat something off a plate that has been made by hand makes the food taste that much sweeter.

‘It is linked to our desire to preserve the planet, to get rid of plastic and avoid things that come off a conveyor belt,’ she adds. ‘We want to be more natural and connected to the earth and, in a way, pottery represents that. After all, it has been around for thousands of years.’

From The Chelsea Barracks Collection by Albion Nord, Sally Marien’s Radnor tableware includes handmade porcelain dinner plates, cereal bowls, side plates, soup bowls and mugs, prices from £130 for a twin set of mugs — www.albion-nord.com


Glazed ceramic Leckford table lamp, £452, Vaughan —  www.vaughandesigns.com


Ceramics by Jennifer Morris, from £125, Maker & Son — www.makerandson.com