Skip to content
Cart 0

Your cart is currently empty.

Hi Florence! Let's start at the beginning - what sparked your interest in pottery? 

I first encountered pottery at a taster session at the University of Bristol Pottery Society in freshers week - my flatmate and I went along as a bit of a joke (and then I became entirely addicted to it and spent the next four years of my degree making more pots than I did reading books.) 

Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a professional potter? 

Once I graduated I moved to Latvia to become apprenticed to Laima Grigone, a brilliant artist and potter making organic stoneware tableware in the middle of the Latvian wilderness. It was an amazing experience being there in the depths of winter, making plates and wedging clay and mixing glazes and generally making myself useful.  

It was an exercise both in discipline and creativity: each day I had to undertake work in the studio which was mainly very repetitive, but the evenings were my own to throw in the space undisturbed - it was peacefully intense, in the best way, and had a profound effect on my future career working as a production thrower under Jen Hamilton’s at the Village Pottery in Bristol, subsequently setting up a business, and now working part time as a Technical Demonstrator in Ceramics at Bath Spa University.  

It’s been a wild few years during which it’s been a total dream to become a tiny bit acquainted with what I consider to be both the most joyous and infuriating material on earth. 


Who are the people who have had the biggest impact on your work, whether as mentors or people who inspire you? 

Undoubtedly the potter Phoebe Smith has had an incredibly profound impact on my work both in terms of inspiration, encouragement, and criticism, but also in terms of sheer practical impact: once I returned from my apprenticeship I was working as a production thrower making lots of identical pots, and was looking to expand my palate a bit. I couldn’t afford to rent my own studio space so I emailed many Bristol-based potters asking to exchange labour for access to their space - Phoebe replied, and a partnership was born.  

I worked a morning a week for her doing her reclaim and sanding and cleaning and all the rubbish jobs, and in exchange I got to start making my own pots with my own name on in the afternoon. We worked really well together, and in a flash of generosity she asked me to look after her studio for her whilst she went on maternity leave in 2022 in exchange for teaching some classes.  

It was an opportunity that allowed me to set up my business without having to fear the financial impact of renting a space that would enable me to do that. It’s as Virginia Woolf said: a woman needs a room of her own to write. And Phoebe gave me that! A room of my own to make pots in.  

I still will not get over her generosity - and whilst she’s back from maternity leave now we work alongside one another a few days a week, which is an amazing feeling. She’s a brilliant and hugely knowledgeable potter, and I find huge inspiration in the way she works. 

How do you describe your pottery, in terms of form? 

I like to make pottery that feels nice to use, works well, and looks pleasing to the eye. I think the pots I make are quite calm - especially the flatware - I love to eat, and I hate for plates to be distracting.  

If it’s functional pottery - and that’s something I strive to make - that means it has to work in the right settings when in use: handles have to be big enough, rims have to feel soft on the lip: bowls have to stack within one another in the cupboard. 

And could you tell us a bit about your glazes, and how they’ve evolved? 

As I trained as a thrower (and not in glaze science) my journey into colour took me a little longer perhaps than most. For the first two years of making pots under my own name I decided to focus more on form than on colour. Primarily this was practical as I knew nothing about glaze science, but secondly I hoped it would allow me to see the shapes more clearly, and pay attention to my work as a whole body, aiming for cohesion across 25-30 shapes: all in white. 

When I was confident I had found my own style - relatively minimal, clean, unfussy - I then did a glaze course with the Ceramic Materials Workshop, which finally opened my eyes to colour - it was like taking off a blindfold. I mixed up a batch of tests of my new colours and glazed the insides of some wide rim bowls and getting those pots out of the kiln was a proper moment of revelation. People say Christmas comes around more often for potters - and that day certainly felt like Christmas.  

Since then I’ve expanded my palette of glaze finishes and introduced butter dishes and taller vase forms. At the moment I’m working on a series of larger vases, thrown in parts, which is proving a satisfying challenge. But I’m confident the glazes will look nice, at least - so now it’s almost the other way round! 

Do you have any favourite pieces to make?  

Butter dishes (because butter is my favourite food, and I like throwing the knobs). 

Our customers at Land Tales love your pasta bowls. What do you think makes the perfect pasta bowl? 

A bowl that’s big enough - most people like 60g of pasta minimum, which you have to consider the volume of when cooked. A size that’s easily overlooked given the shrinkage of clay - lots of stoneware clays shrink around 14.5% when fired which means the bowl you initially throw ends up looking huge. 

Florence Ceramics pasta bowl at Land Tales


Is there such a thing as a typical week for you?  

Most of my weeks look very similar: Monday to Wednesday I work on my own pots in the studio in the daytimes. I try and get there before 9 most days, but the work looks very different depending on what I’ve got on - I might be throwing, turning, cleaning, admin-ing, ordering materials, sanding, waxing, glazing, loading the kiln or drinking coffee.  

On Monday and Tuesday evenings I teach evening classes from 6.30-9, so I try to get most of my work done by 4.30 so I can have a little break between the making headspace and the teaching headspace.  

On Thursdays and Fridays I work at Bath Spa University in the Ceramics department, and my days look very different depending on the time of year. Sometimes I’m doing inductions or teaching throwing workshops or loading kilns, or firing the raku or gas kilns. But mostly my job is to help students make things - whether they’re studying Fine Art or Product Design - the ceramics studios are open to the entire school, so I’ll often find myself helping a student make a massive mask or troubleshoot a glaze for a prototype. It’s an amazing experience to work in an academic ceramics environment as someone who didn’t study ceramics at uni: there’s a whole world of potential within clay that far exceeds mugs.  

Other than that I try to keep my stockists updated and my website partially stocked - I take commissions from private clients and restaurants and cafes, too - it’s a bit of a juggle sometimes but I really enjoy organising my own schedule and working with my hands. It feels great to see projects from beginning to end. 

Is there any advice you'd give to an aspiring potter?

Try to focus on developing skills rather than products: you’ll never be able to make your dream mug if you don’t have the dexterity to make it yet. Try to break down making into steps, and then perfect those steps - pottery is all about repetition, and learning the skills so that you can make whatever you want to make is a great exercise in patience.  

I’m constantly humbled by the material; I constantly encounter problems for the first time; I frequently discover there was a hole in the bag I used to cover something so it got too dry, or the kiln misfired, or a tried and tested glaze applied slightly too thickly run onto the kiln shelf and ruined the pot.  

I’m certainly not saying that I’ve mastered the patience of clay yet, but it is a lot easier if you cut yourself some slack for the impossibility of the task that is turning an organic material into a predictable shape. It’s just mud, after all, and if it defeats you (and it sometimes will) you have to try to take a step back and let yourself rest and rediscover the joy of it. Easier said than done. Just try to remember that when it’s going well it’s immensely satisfying. 

We love that advice! And finally, is there something you'd particularly like to make in the future, or a new clay-based challenge you're keen to take on? 

Scaling up is something I am keen to explore this year. I recently went to Ceramic Art London, an art fair with some astonishing international ceramicists present which was an eye-opener in terms of scale: so many big pots! Taking up space! It felt very refreshing to see work not only of that quality but also of that size - big pots take guts and commitment and I hope to find myself one day at the point where I am brave enough to commit to scale like that.  

The intersection of functionality with pieces of this scale also provides an interesting conflict for me - I am keen to understand more about decorative pottery and potentially dip my toe into a line of work that feels more fanciful. We can only dream! 


All studio images courtesy of Florence Ceramics. Pasta Bowl image copyright Land Tales.

Continue reading
Crafting a responsible and sustainable retail business
Read more
Crafting a responsible and sustainable retail business
A summer pop up shop
Read more
A summer pop up shop
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published..

Select options