Meet the maker
Hannah Shipway’s ceramic journey
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