How to buy, use and display studio pottery and ceramics
PUBLISHED: 17:55 11 May 2016 | UPDATED: 18:28 01 June 2016
With The Great Pottery Throwdown captivating viewers across the nation, pottery courses at capacity, and hipsters snapping up vintage studio pieces to display their succulents in and post on Instagram, studio pottery and ceramics are definitely having a moment.
But what to buy and how to use or display it?
The great news is, there are no rules when it comes to buying beyond choosing what you love, according to Andrea Sylvester of Sylvester Fine Art in Belsize Park, who stocks a strong selection of contemporary studio pottery at a range of price points.
Buy with your eye
Approach it the way you’d buy furniture and only buy what appeals to you aesthetically. Don’t be seduced by a good story. If you love the pot, the story will only enhance its beauty for you but if you don’t love it to begin with, it’s probably not for you. That’s the best way to ensure you’re investing in something you’ll continue to use forever (and so won’t have to replace as trends change).
Do some research
Follow your gut when it comes to buying pottery – you should love it and feel comfortable using it – but if you start to take a more academic interest the Contemporary Ceramics Centre in central London has lots of resources and know everything about modern ceramics. The V&A and the British Museum also both have wonderful collections where you can trace the evolution of a form over time and see how it’s still relevant or in use today.
Pottery can be used for anything
Studio pottery can be used every day. Most studio pottery is designed for use and that’s certainly what the potters do with it. Go to any potters’ house and you’ll see pots stuffed with cooking utensils, used on the dinner table, even in the garden. You can cook with it – clay is designed to go in the oven after all – you can eat off it, drink out of it, store things in it, present food on it, display flowers in it. And of course you can display it in its own right when not in use too.
Affordable tableware options are available
Some potters make more affordable tableware ranges, which can very comfortably be used every day. Mike Dodd, who I show at Sylvester Fine Art, makes work which can cost £1,000 or more for a single dish or jug, but he has a sort of diffusion line where pieces can cost as little as £16 for an ash glazed mug. What’s really special about these is that they are still beautiful, unique, individual, one-off pieces. Even if you buy a full set of tableware, no two pieces will be exactly the same. In this high-tech, mass-produced age, that is something to be treasured.
But don’t only put cheaper options to use
I’ve got a beautiful tea mug that cost £250 but I use it every day, I even put it in the dishwasher. I drink tea by the pint and I saw this cup and just fell in love with it. I know that not everybody would put a £250 mug in the dishwasher but handwash it and use it.
You don’t have to use an object for the purpose it was originally made
I’ve got a couple of Japanese tea bowls that I use next to my cooker for salt and pepper. Jugs make wonderful vases. Pots are great as pretty planters in the garden or for houseplants. Lidded jars are ideal to use to store dried foods. A small cup can be used as a toothbrush holder, pen pot, make up brush storage… the possibilities are endless. Don’t be constrained by the use on the label, if an object pleases you, then use it for anything you want.
Some ceramics really are just for display
My current exhibition is by a world famous South Korean potter Lee Kang-hyo, who is a master of the traditional Korean technique of Onggi, which allows him to make enormous, often man-sized pots. Aside from the price of his works, which are in the thousands, he is a museum class maker, his work is held in the collections of the V&A, the British Museum and other major museums around the world. Ultimately the pot is yours to do with as you see fit and if you prefer not to use it then just revel in its beauty and enjoy its unique qualities.
Sylvester Fine Art can be found at 64 Belsize Lane, London, NW3 5BJ, 020 7443 5990, sylvesterfineart.co.uk.
The gallery stocks studio pottery alongside prints by big name artists. The current exhibition of works by Lee Kang-hyo runs from May 11 to June 5