Studio Visit by Photographer Jo Crawford

Last week photographer, Jo Crawford, came to take a look around our studio. Here are a few of the photographs she was kind enough to share with us. Wally the Whippet, unfortunately, doesn't belong to us, but is indeed very lovely. Thanks Jo!

Mathew West
Wilder: Pottery West x Labrador
 Crystal Glaze on porcelain plate

Crystal Glaze on porcelain plate

We were asked by Pippa, who runs Labrador Store, if we'd be interested in working with her to create an Edition - a special collection of 15 pieces which would somehow transcend the division between the sculptural object and the functional object.

Our answer was, yes, of course!

For a while, Matt had been itching to get his hands on (or in?) some porcelain, and I had been romancing over the prospect of gathering wood ash and creating some new glazes. So this is what we did. 

The Form

I'm not sure if Matt is capable of creating anything less than perfectly pure and simple in form. Although porcelain proved to be a completely different material to work with than our usual stoneware clay bodies, Matt produced some really gorgeous prototypes to work with, and it soon became apparent that we wanted to create a form that would act as a kind of 'plinth' for the glaze. The result is a bowl-like shape with three feet in the base (which are revealed via a labour intensive process of trimming away leather-hard clay. 

The Glaze

My dad built his own wood-fired bread oven in his garden and we gathered some wood ash from it after a pizza party. We think the wood is mainly from willow trees which grow vigorously by the stream at the bottom of my parents' land. With ash, you can be very specific about when the tree was cut and how long stored and dried, and so on, as it is said that these factors alter the nature of the glaze. I don't have this information for this project, but it is something i'm interested in for the future.

 I decided to work with 5 different variations upon one glaze. One is pure wood ash with water, which ended up being this gorgeous dribbly green; the second is wood ash over a simple matt white glaze; third is a smooth, glossy ash transparent over a tenmoku style glaze; fourth is a rusty, semi-matte glaze with ash and red iron oxide; the fifth has no ash, but is a crystal glaze with rutile and red iron oxide. Can you see a pattern (I love red iron oxide!)?



The Firing

We fired to 1280 degrees with a long soak and slow cool down. Perhaps we should have anticipated this, but our perfectly round plates completely altered shape in the firing. I opened the kiln to much delight, simply in love with these organic shapes and seriously interesting glazes, but Matt, the lover of regular and perfect forms, has taken a little longer to win over. For me, the whole project has been one of experimentation and unexpected results - we applied the knowledge we had learnt from studying books, combined with instinct and chance - and the results are quite pleasing. Further adventures in wood ash and porcelain coming soon!

The plates are available to buy from Labrador Store. 

Mathew WestComment
A glaze exploration

Mixing our own glazes is a big part of what we do. It's a real science and in the past we haven't necessarily been very scientific in our approach, instead adopting a more 'wait and see', experimental sensibility to our process. But I wanted to understand our glazes a little more and see if I could find a way of getting a gradated tonality to our current glaze library. Cue, mammoth blend test.

My blend test was essentially a gradual blend of ten different glazes - all of which took our base glaze that we use for our slate and gold glazes (without their oxides). The oxide additions included red iron oxide, manganese oxide, cobalt oxide, rutile, tin oxide and black iron oxide. I ended up with 52 test tiles! Actually, I didn't particularly like any of the results, BUT, the process taught me a lot about glaze exploration and I now have this useful skill in my armoury for future exploration.


Mathew West
some thoughts behind Brut

We've been working on some new pieces over the last couple of months and now we have a 'first edit' of a new collection to share with you. 

As a starting point our intention was to work with very simple, archetypal forms. We've been looking at the work of husband and wife photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. Their extensive collection of photographs - or typologies - capturing industrial architecture and structures, has really informed this new collection in their pragmatism and matter-of-fact sensibility.  

We've tried to be ruthless with the design as to make sure we don't add any features to the form which aren't ergonomically necessary. For example the 'U' shape of the spout references the industrial concrete arches, but is also a very functional way of creating a spout on a vessel which pours well. 

We decided to work with a speckled clay body and two colour-ways: slate and gold. The glazes are earthy and oozing in patina and gradation (just the way we like it). (We were getting pretty excited about concrete at this point.)

Like concrete, the tones and hues of the collection are in fact quite soft and raw. Although possibly the polar-opposite to the Bechers' photographs in subject, we've also used the paintings of Hammershoi as incidentals for this range. Something about the light in those interiors, the colours and the silence - it's something I can't quite put my finger on. They're amazing paintings. It is always important to us to work with the light - how the light is absorbed or reflects off the surface of the glaze is so intriguing. 

So, this is our first edit of the collection and we're tweaking a few things, trying out some porcelain and extending the colour options.




Mathew WestComment
New Stockist: Labrador

Labrador is a new online store established by Pippa Cook in 2016. Pippa spends time visiting and researching makers and artists to curate a wonderful collection of goods with one main intention -  to connect people to their homes and the world around them. Labrador also presents a series of special editions by artists and designers - keep your eyes peeled for some seriously special pieces.

Mathew West
Hole & Corner's British Craft Pavilion, London Design Week

We are excited to have been selected for the Hole & Corner curated British Craft Pavilion at The London Design Festival this September.

Launched in 2016, The British Craft Pavilion showcases 50 selected makers in a gallery space dedicated to entirely craft.

We're busy working on a new range which we hope to be showcasing during the Design Week - we'll be sharing our progress over on Instagram.

Mathew West
New Stockist: Midgley green

We're very pleased that our pieces are included in the new Midgley Green shop in Clevedon, Somerset. Founded by Katherine Midgley and Seamus Green, the duo describe themselves as "collaborators and curators for the discerning collectors of products crafted by both maker and place".

Mathew West