My Craft: Pottery West

Pottery West is the ceramics studio of husband and wife duo Catherine and Matt West, whose earthy designs and beautiful product photography have amassed a loyal following. Here, Catherine recalls their journey.

Words Catherine West

Photographs India Hobson

We set up our Sheffield workspace Pottery West in 2015 with a desire to make functional but beautiful tableware and homeware. We’re both part of the ‘self-taught potters club’ — a growing group of makers — so we didn’t train via a traditional pottery apprenticeship, but came to ceramics through other routes.

We lived together when we studied at Goldsmiths University, with Matt studying design and myself fine art. We always wanted to work together on projects. After graduating we experimented with a few different creative projects, but when we started making pots — at first for fun — things just clicked, and our business has grown organically ever since.

We design and craft small-batch, wheel-thrown homeware with an emphasis on simple, ergonomic forms and tactile functional glazes. We follow traditional pottery techniques, working mainly in stoneware and firing in an electric kiln. 

When we started working with clay, it became apparent that Matt was all about throwing, while I was all about glazing, and things have stayed that way since. We’re both integral to the design stage of our pieces, producing drawings and prototypes. Matt will concentrate on the form, while I specialise in the glaze research and development, before both working on production. Everything is handmade by us in our studio in Sheffield.

Inspiration comes from all around us, but most often comes from things that are sculptural and painterly in the most elementary ways: texture, tone, light, and form. We’re designing a new collection at the moment and we’ve been studying the photographs of Berndt and Hilla Becher. We love the overtly utilitarian shapes of the architecture they photograph, and the sumptuously textured concrete; these are definitely visual stimuli for the aesthetic of our new pieces. However, possibly more important than inspiration in our design process is the question of function. We spend a lot of time imagining the context in which our ceramics will be used.  

Our craft is process driven and subject to an element of chance. We’ve avoided the application of surface pattern and overtly decorative forms; instead seeking to present the natural and beautiful tones, chance colourations, and distinctions that only hand-made and small-batch ceramics can give.

Since establishing the studio, alongside the development our own tableware ranges, we’ve been mostly working on the design and production of tableware for restaurants and coffee roasters. We love this kind of work because collaboration is an opportunity to try new things and offers many new challenges.

We’re really excited to be part of the pottery community at the moment. It feels like a vibrant time for the craft because there’s a lot of support and also great demand. People are now recognising the craftsmanship involved in ceramics, and are investing in the craft both financially and emotionally, too. Ironically, it’s the online and digital communities that are saving the traditional crafts by helping us makers connect to our audience.

Check out more of Pottery West’s work on their website and Instagram.