Crockery featured on BBC’s Sherlock inspired by north London memories

Sherlock Holmes Crockery 2

Sherlock Holmes Crockery 2 - Credit: Archant

Ali Miller’s crockery is best known for being featured on BBC drama Sherlock, but the story behind her work is far more fascinating

Hampstead Heath Tea Set

Hampstead Heath Tea Set - Credit: Archant

When Ali Miller was a child she and her family would spend happy days out walking on Hampstead Heath. Armed with piles of books she would traipse the heath, all the while taking time to seek out the nature and beauty of her surroundings.

Now a 35-year-old artist and designer (although she wouldn’t call herself one) working in West Hampstead, the memories she has of a child on the heath have been reflected in her work, particularly in the ceramics that she has been making since 2010.

Books and crockery

Books and crockery - Credit: Archant

“I have my style and my way and my art comes from my personal history and my memories. It has been a very natural and organic process to make them,” says Miller.

“All the images I use are taken from books and magazines I had in my childhood home, including the ones of Hampstead Heath. The original image I used for the Hampstead Heath crockery actually had a picture of the heath behind it.”

Miller’s ceramics gained a splash of fame for the first time in 2012, when her Home Sweet Home tea set was featured on BBC drama Sherlock. In a scene from the finale of Series 2, The Reichenbach Fall, you see Sherlock pouring a cup of tea for nemesis Moriarty from crockery with the image of a map of the UK on it.

Forever drawing from past experience, the map design was inspired by a handkerchief that Miller’s grandfather owned. She had no idea the crockery was going to be used on the show.

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“I suppose it was one of my biggest successes so far, as it’s meant that internationally people really want that product. The fact that they were picked up by the props people is quite an honour.

“The evening the programme aired was quite bizarre and yet phenomenal. I wasn’t watching the programme but found out quite quickly about it after I received tons of emails and sold out within a few hours online.”

But although her work may be best known for its Sherlock cameo perhaps what’s most interesting about Miller’s work stems from the way it connects her to her family. A non-practising Jew, both sets of Miller’s grandparents escaped the Holocaust by moving their families across the seas. While her father’s parents escaped to Israel, her mother’s moved to London.

“I often try and use Judaism and Jewish text in my work,” she explains. “Judaism is centred on the family and that’s very important to me.

“We have Friday night dinners where we pray after every meal, and the idea that my ceramics bring people together and can be used to create and hold a memories like that is nice.”

While Miller freely admits that she is a “hoarder” her home sounds like an artist’s dream (although maybe not a neat freak’s). It continually provides the inspiration she needs to continue to create her work.

“I have a lot of things and they’re all kind of treasures and memories that I’ve kept. The products I make come organically from the domestic.”

Miller is looking to expand her interior work, but when I ask her where she sees herself in the future she laughs and says, “If only I knew”.

“I change my mind quite a lot but I would like to have more products for the home – fabric and wallpaper and cushions. As well as creating a core range maybe in another 10 years time I’ll come up with something that represents my new stage of life,” she adds.

“It might be audacious to say so, but I very much hope that I create artworks that will be passed down and regarded as heirlooms.”