Background

It was during my time at college that I became fascinated by the art of throwing on the potters wheel. I was 19 years old, and spent most of my spare time studying a wide variety of pots and their makers, and trying to get to grips with the movement of clay on the wheel. Seeing pots from around the world, old and new, and visiting makers and workshops in the UK, inspired me to pursue the craft. The continuation of such a rich tradition is what really captivated me, and it still does to this day. 

After my time at college, I became an apprentice at Whichford Pottery in the Cotswolds, UK. I knew that it would take years of training to acquire the skills necessary to make a living from pottery, so the opportunity to join one of the best handmade production potteries in the country was too good to miss. My apprenticeship at Whichford Pottery has been very influential to me. The skills I learnt there are really valuable to me, and allow me to make my own designs fluently and with confidence. Alongside my job at Whichford, I was able to set up a studio at home. To satisfy my intrigue in stoneware clays and glazes, I converted an old electric kiln to run on gas, and started to make reduction-fired stoneware pots in the evenings and on weekends. 

 

Soon after I began to make pots at home, Jim Keeling - founder of Whichford Pottery - teamed up with Oxford University and Japanese potters from Bizen to build two Anagama (single chamber) wood-fired kilns in Wytham Woods, Oxford. These long firings (6 days or more) give the pots very interesting, natural surfaces and finishes that aren't found any other way. This was a great introduction to kiln building, wood firing, and the kind of pots you can produce with this way of working. 

After 7 years of honing my skills at Whichford, the invitation from Svend Bayer to join the Kigbeare Kiln Project, and the chance to live and work in Devon, was another opportunity I couldn't resist. I moved in March 2020, and will continue to make pots here for the foreseeable future. 

Approach

I make pots for use. Functional pots for the home and garden. Great pots, beautiful pots, can enhance a meal, from preparation, to cooking to presentation. How you display and serve that meal makes a difference - pots are, and have always been, integral to this. There needn’t be a distinction made between ‘art’ and function, it really doesn’t matter. Simply put, it’s a case of using beautiful things that can enrich your daily life.

I’m keen to continue and promote the tradition of handmade pottery. It’s important to look to the past to help inform the present. Be it techniques of making, forms, decoration, glazes or kiln design - we can learn from the past masters and aim to evolve. Making pots from the ground up (literally) is the best way to learn and develop.

I love the philosophy of the best pots being ‘born and not made’. You can’t contrive a beautiful pot. You can only make and observe, and when you see it, stop. For me, pottery has a lot to do with form. Michael Cardew called it ‘the majesty of form’. Once a pot is taken off the wheel, it can’t improve. A great form will remain no matter what decoration, finish or firing it’s exposed to. Pottery is also about choice. Choices made during the making and firing processes define our character. Pots therefore, have this ability to communicate the maker’s character and vitality to the user. Every handmade pot offers this personal connection, even when the maker's identity has long been forgotten. This is part of the reason I see no need to sign my pots - it's not about who made them, just the spirit and feel with which they're made. 

Charlie Collier

DSC_0614.jpeg