Pedddle HQ is based in Staffordshire, also known as the Potteries. Home to historic household names such as Wedgwood, it was once the heart of the UK’s ceramics industry. As a result, we love to celebrate all things ceramics, so this week we have a real treat from three of our stallholders; Sparkle Ceramics & Jewellery, Lorna Gilbert Ceramics and Clara Castner, who each love ceramics too!
We got to know each of these ceramicists better, to find out how they learnt their craft, what inspires them and what’s next for their businesses:
Pedddle: Where did you first become interested in the skills it takes to produce your products, and how did you learn them?
Sparkle Ceramics & Jewellery: I have always had an interest in arts and crafts since childhood. Having taken several adult classes in ceramics over the years, these have provided a really diverse skill set in different techniques, including hand building and wheel throwing.
My work is predominantly functional. I create one of a kind mugs and jugs. The new pieces I am currently working on are large platters, which are perfect for giving your table a unique style.
I also enjoy making art pieces, often for wall hangings. Classes are good fun and allow you to try things out in the company of other clay enthusiasts, which is really encouraging. After all, there’s only so much clay talk that your family can cope with before glazing over!
Lorna Gilbert Ceramics: I have always felt the pull of ceramics since touching on it during my fine art textile degree. I attended a part time pottery course for many years, alongside working as a florist. I love that ceramics is such a huge subject and that there is always more to learn. The most valuable skill I have learnt as a potter is patience – you need to give clay time.
Clara Castner: I sort of fell into ceramics! I always thought I would become a textile artist, as I’ve sewed for far more years than I care to admit, and signed up for an Art and Design Foundation Course thinking that might be how I went forward. I met the most inspirational ceramics tutor, Robert Cooper, and haven’t looked back!
I studied Ceramics at degree level at CSM, however I struggled for a couple of years to find my voice, before working with porcelain and starting to carve my vases.
Pedddle: We love to champion small businesses and creative souls. Why is shopping independent and locally so important to you?
Sparkle Ceramics & Jewellery: I think the habit of shopping from small, local, independent makers is key for the future of the shopping experience. We have so much creative talent in the UK – people who have spent years developing their skills. It is crucial to support these artisans to develop and maintain a flourishing arts and crafts sector, which in turn provides customers with such an amazing choice and variety.
Shopping at small independent shops means the local economy benefits and you know exactly where and how what you’re buying has been produced. There is often less packaging and fewer air miles associated with smaller independent retailers too.
Another huge plus point is that you get to know the person behind the brand and this can build strong connections and helps to build nurturing communities, whether that’s local or virtual.
Clara Castner: When you buy from an independent maker, we might well do a happy dance, but we are also buying more supplies to make more beautiful things. We are often buying our supplies from other local businesses too, and we support other makers. It keeps money in the local economy.
All the big shops have their place. However, without small independents, we lose individuality. I fear that often people genuinely don’t understand how much things should cost, and have got used to cheap food and fast fashion, and that takes such a toll on our planet. When you buy from a small maker, we buy food for our table, shoes for our children, service our cars, pay our mortgages. We don’t pay shareholders, and, crucially, we pay tax! Shopping small really does benefit us all.
Pedddle: Local markets are great for finding unique products and supporting local makers. What first made you consider selling your products at markets?
Sparkle Ceramics & Jewellery: Having been a regular market goer over the years it seemed like a natural idea to join in and take part in one myself.
Lorna Gilbert Ceramics: I’ve always loved going to markets and meeting the crafts people behind the products. Taking my pots to a maker’s market was a natural step to test the market.
Clara Castner: I believed I made something that was lovely enough that other people might want it in their homes. I had done some shows like Handmade in Britain at Kew, and Tent (part of London Design Festival), which I really enjoyed. But I wanted something I could do regularly, and start to get to know my customers.
Pedddle: What do you love most about selling at markets?
Sparkle Ceramics & Jewellery: I find markets and craft shows fascinating and such wonderfully creative places, where you can genuinely find handmade artisan work and meet the makers behind the products.
For me, the special thing about selling at markets is the interaction with customers and meeting other makers.
Lorna Gilbert Ceramics: There is nothing quite like having a stall at a market. The special thing is the face to face contact you have with your customers; they can ask you questions and you can get to know what sells well and what needs tweaking in your next range.
The camaraderie amongst stall holders is like a magic ingredient too, it connects you with a whole community of crafts people you wouldn’t otherwise get to know.
Clara Castner: You get to speak to your customer, and can share your passion with them. I find my work sells itself face to face, as I display my work so the colours pop out at you. Planning your market stall set up is key. I see lovely repeat customers who come and say hello, and that’s lovely.
Also, I have a network of fellow maker friends and its often the case that it’s a social event as much as a selling event, all catching up with one another. Working away in a studio alone, you can start to doubt yourself sometimes (the nature of many makers), and when you are at a market, you hear people say lovely things about your work.
When you make that sale there’s nothing like it. Someone is prepared to spend money that they have had to work for on something you made! It’s an amazing feeling.
Pedddle: Do you have a favourite market, and if so, why?
Sparkle Ceramics & Jewellery: Each market is so different, I can’t choose!
Lorna Gilbert Ceramics: My all-time favourite market is a local one to me, and it’s the Christmas Market at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley, West Yorkshire. It has a really beautiful curated selection of stalls mixed with live music, fairy lights and mulled wine. I’m keeping everything crossed that it can go ahead this year.
Clara Castner: I am really missing taking part with Crafty Fox at Mercato Metropolitano. It was an absolutely amazing venue, full of people and buzzing, and the ice cream is amazing! Hopefully we’ll be back soon.