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Interview with an artist - Pottery West

Catherine and Matt West are Goldsmiths graduates, a husband and wife duo and self confessed ceramic obsessives. Together, they form Pottery West, specialising in simple, functional and understated ceramic homeware for everyday use. They have recently moved their studio from Exchange Place to Persistence Works in order to concentrate more on the ceramic side of their practice.

Catherine and Matt chat with us about their new studio, what inspires their making and their recent successes and highlights to date. You can see more of their work on their website, and swoon at their fantastic images over on Instagram.

Both Catherine and Matt have recently become mentors on our Starter Studio programme; a scheme designed to help early career ceramicists and silversmith s advance their careers. The programme offers access to to shared workspace and equipment, technical and mentor support, business advice and occasional commission and exhibition opportunities. Applications are now open for this programme, follow the link to find out more.

Can you describe your creative practice to someone who may not be familiar with it?

We are a husband and wife duo creating functional ceramic tableware and homeware. We specialise in wheel-thrown stoneware, combining simple forms with tactile glazes.

How long have you had a studio at Yorkshire Artspace and what brought you here?

We’ve been with the Yorkshire Artspace for three years (I think). We actually began renting a studio before we made pots. When we first moved to Sheffield we just wanted a space to make things. Matt had been using the space for woodwork and Catherine had been suing it as a writing space. Around the same time we took some classes with Penny Withers at Persistence Works and became hooked. Next came a wheel, then a kiln, then everything really fell into place and Pottery West was born!

You have recently moved studio building to Persistence Works - what do you like most about your new studio?

Our studio at Exchange Place had morphed into a pottery over time and as a consequence wasn’t a particularly orderly or functional space. At Persistence Works, we’ve created a more coherent space which feels a little smarter. But most of all I like the building – I’m a bit of a concrete fan.

What are you in the process of making at the moment?

We’re prototyping a new tea and coffee set, including a teapot. We’re often working on orders so it is really exciting to be able to devote some time for purely design and development.

How does having a studio here support your practice?

It’s great to be part of a bigger network of makers and artists. We receive so much advice from makers who’ve been doing what they’re doing for a long time, and that information is so helpful and encouraging. We’ve received some great networking opportunities through being studio holders too as its just another platform for people to find you on.

Whose work do you most admire in the world of ceramics?

It’s quite a tough question! I really love the playful forms of a ceramic artist called Jessica Coates – she’s a potter we follow on Instagram – she is extremently experimental with form making and glazing and devotes her practice to this rather than function and batch production, so the opposite of us really! We’re also friendly with a local potter, Nigel Cunis, who is creating pots from the clay in his garden. The extensive process he puts the clay through from mud to ceramic is really quite impressive.

What has been your highlight over the last year?

We bought a new kiln and that has changed our lives! We are able to produce pots with so much more consistency and efficiency. We were also commissioned to make some bowls for L’Enclume in the Lake District. It’s one of our favourite restaurants and the place we went for our honeymoon, so we were really quite excited about.