Meet the maker

Hannah Shipway’s ceramic jour­ney

Mollie Makes - - Contents - Words: HE­LEN MARTIN Pho­to­graphs: RACHAEL SMITH

Pot­ter Hannah Shipway muses on the name of the glaze on her new beakers: “Just be­fore sun­rise on a frosty day?” Years in the mak­ing, they fea­ture blush pink at the rim, run­ning down to a cool grey speck­led mist. Del­i­cately beau­ti­ful, func­tional and hon­est, she de­scribes her pieces as part of her: “Of my fin­gers and my eyes and of­ten my bi­ceps, shoul­ders and aching back.”

Peo­ple feel deeply con­nected to Hannah’s pot­tery, as well as to her. Her work is highly cov­eted, served on and sold in Al­ba­tross Cafe in Bris­tol, next to vin­tage fur­ni­ture and trail­ing plants. Not al­ways a pot­ter, Hannah had ini­tially been dis­cour­aged to pur­sue that path decades ago, be­cause she’s left-handed. But, many years and a ca­reer in teach­ing later, she launched Jeri­cho Stu­dio Pot­tery.

We join Hannah in her Vic­to­rian home in Ox­ford, where she lives with her hus­band Michael and two minia­ture schnauzers, Timmy and Stan­ley. She has a cosy in­door stu­dio in the base­ment, along with a spe­cially de­signed show space in the kitchen area and a func­tional gar­den stu­dio for the kiln room and glaz­ing. What’s es­sen­tial when you’re work­ing on your pot­tery? Nat­u­ral light helps a lot. I also lis­ten to mu­sic – some­times it’s BBC Ra­dio 4 or 6, or a Spo­tify sound­track; Joni Mitchell, Suf­jan Stevens, John Mar­tyn. Or I have an au­dio book play­ing. Some­times I’ll hold a fin­ished ob­ject and re­mem­ber ex­actly what I was lis­ten­ing to when I threw it on the wheel. But the main thing is to be able to fo­cus, es­pe­cially when throw­ing, where my mind goes into a kind of clear med­i­ta­tive state. You co-de­signed your kitchen to show­case your pieces – have you al­ways had a pas­sion for de­sign and mak­ing? Yes, al­ways. My par­ents are

artists, and when I was grow­ing up I was sur­rounded by in­cred­i­ble 60s and 70s stu . We had very lit­tle money, but lived in a beau­ti­fully de­signed home be­cause mum and dad made ev­ery­thing them­selves. Loosely in­flu­enced by the early Con­ran style, I guess; from house­hold things to clothes and ex­cit­ing food. For me, it was just nor­mal to spend free time mak­ing things.

I co-de­signed my kitchen with a won­der­ful lo­cal cabi­net maker and fur­ni­ture de­signer, Oliver Legge ( www. oliv­er­legge­fur­ni­ture.co.uk). He was bril­liant to work with as we share a love of the kind of de­sign where func­tion­al­ity, beauty and crafts­man­ship are in­te­gral to each other. He will go far, I’m sure. What do you love most about what you do? I love ev­ery­thing about it. You get a lump of clay, which is ba­si­cally an an­cient bit of the earth, and you can make it into what­ever shape you like. Com­plete free­dom of choice. I like the jeop­ardy of throw­ing an ob­ject as thinly as pos­si­ble on the wheel to a point where it feels as if it’s at its ab­so­lute limit. I also love the alchemy of glaz­ing, where colours and tex­tures are com­pletely trans­formed by the 1200 C heat of the kiln. I love the fact that ev­ery­thing I make is unique. Is there an el­e­ment of sur­prise when you open the kiln? Oh yes! It’s why I love it so much and why I’m al­ways do­ing new de­signs, I want the kiln open­ing days to al­ways have that feel­ing of open­ing your stock­ing on Christ­mas morn­ing. Ev­ery time I open it I get a new sur­prise, not al­ways good, but some­times awe­some. I’m very ex­cited by some of my most re­cent glazes, which have taken a long time to get right. Do you cre­ate a mood board or sketch for a new de­sign? No, it all hap­pens in my head. If I start writ­ing things down, it’s as if it pours out of my head and I lose it. It’s one of the rea­sons I’d fail if I took an exam in it and had to put the de­sign stages down on pa­per. I’d im­me­di­ately lose the cre­ativ­ity.

Do you have to be a pa­tient per­son to work with pot­tery and not get too at­tached? Ex­actly, both of those things. I ac­tu­ally think be­com­ing a pot­ter has made me a much more pa­tient woman. I’m also more ready to ac­cept and em­brace fail­ure. The thing is, when you make a pot, it could lit­er­ally last for mil­len­nia. So a few days wait­ing while you make it is noth­ing. Are there any lessons or tips you can share? You can re­ally only learn how to be good at some­thing through a com­bi­na­tion of some suc­cesses and many fail­ures. Em­brace the fail­ures and learn from them. They are your friends. Tell us a lit­tle about all your tools; the wheel, kiln, shap­ing tools. How

“I want the kiln open­ing days to have that feel­ing of open­ing your stock­ing on Christ­mas morn­ing.”

de­signer 01 Lo­cal fur­ni­ture and cabi­net maker Oliver Legge worked with Hannah to de­sign her kitchen. 02 Hannah loves the fact that ev­ery sin­gle piece she makes is unique. 01

03 Hannah’s pieces are both sold and used as table­ware at her daugh­ter’s café in Bris­tol. 04 Ev­ery­day items are turned into use­ful tools. 05 Us­ing sgraf­fito to add dec­o­ra­tive touches to a plate. 02

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