Earlier this month we had the pleasure of spending the morning with London based ceramicist Elizabeth Macneal, Founder of Limehouse Ceramics. From her small studio at the end of her garden, Elizabeth spends her days hand-throwing clay and exploring new shapes, textures and glazes. We came across Elizabeth at Crafty Fox Market and absolutely fell in love with her clean and modern ceramics so couldn't wait to find out more on how it all started.
Can you tell us a bit about your story? How did you get started in the ceramics business?
I've always loved ceramics, and admired the work of my Great Aunt who is a potter. When my previous job as a Management Consultant meant I was put on a project away from home Monday-Friday, and I had a dire lack of social life as a result, I decided to try an evening course in ceramics. Well, I was hooked, despite the misshapen ugliness of the work I created at the beginning! After a short stint at an open studio, I decided to take the plunge and kit out my garden shed with a wheel, kiln and the right tools, and it all went slightly crazy. I've been completely overwhelmed by the response to my ceramics - I'm incredibly lucky in how well my first year has done, and how lovely my customers are.
What inspires you to keep creating and what process do you go through to make a piece of work?
I feel a real sense of pride when I open the kiln after a glaze firing, and see all of my glossy ceramics in their finished state. It really drives me to push myself with new shapes, ideas and glazes. I tend just to experiment as I go - I'll just decide to add a lip to a vase and make it a jug, carve out the clay in a new pattern for a different surface texture, or add holes to a salt cellar and turn it into a tea light holder. It's all quite spontaneous and usually means I have far more designs than I can realistically stock on my website, but which makes stalls a lot of fun. Meeting my customers is also wonderful - it's incredibly inspiring.
Where does your passion for ceramics come from and what attracts you to working in clay?
I love the combination of function and beauty that I find in ceramics. I have always enjoyed painting, but found the idea difficult that what I created had to stand merely on its own aesthetic terms. Whereas with ceramics, a mug will have a function even if it is not the most beautiful piece - and I love that it will be used every day and form a small part of someone's life.
Are you working on any special new designs or projects at the moment?
I am indeed - which is always a real highlight! I'm going to be bringing out teapots, large pitchers, dinner plates and side plates at the end of May. My husband is my glazemixer extraordinaire, and he has promised to experiment with some new glazes (especially some blue-greys and dusky pinks). One of my favourite parts of my job is creating new designs.
Describe a day in the life of a ceramicist...
I wake up early, and head straight out to the studio at the bottom of my garden. I weigh and slice the clay into the right weights, and throw all morning while listening to an audiobook (I'm currently 32 hours into 60 hours of War and Peace). I update my Instagram during lunch and send off any orders I've received that morning. In the afternoon, I trim the pieces I threw the day before. By 6pm, I'm usually exhausted, so I'll read a book or watch TV.
How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?
I never prioritise style over comfort - I can wear my clothes to lounge around the house in or out with friends (I adore sneakers and brogues). I also like to jazz up an outfit with a structured necklace.
What are your go-to wardrobe staples?
Definitely a pair of well-fitting black jeans, which I can wear with pretty much anything - day or evening.
Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to break into the industry?
Practice throwing as often as you can (it's amazing how quickly you improve). Connect with other potters on Instagram. Start off by selling at small markets and build from there.
If I wasn't running Limehouse Ceramics, I would be... A novelist.
The best thing about my job is... This is a tough one! Either opening the kiln after a glaze firing, or meeting customers and hearing their feedback on my work.
My guilty pleasure is... Peanut butter straight from the jar.
I collect... Books. Obsessively.
My favourite ceramicist is... Hilda Carr.
Words to live by... Don't live your fears, live your dreams.
A day isn't complete until... I've drunk a pint of tea.
My favourite London hang out is... Brunch at Raw Duck in Hackney.
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