Nigel Lambert potter
“Nigel’s slip decorated wood-fired earthenware has earned him international recognition. His thrown and altered pots combine bold contemporary shapes, with his unique style of decoration and strong sense of function. They are a joy to behold.”
This year I will again be offering my summer pottery courses . A unique opportunity to learn and experience the joy of handling clay, working on the potter's wheel, trying different decorating techniques, and even firing a wood fired kiln.
Below is an article that was written for Ceramic Review Magazine. It's expresses how I feel about pottery, and why I make the work I do.
POTS IN USE.
I had just finished my course at Cornwall College. Inspired and enthused by all I had been taught, I began working at a pottery in North Devon. Discovering that Richard Launder, whose work I had seen and much admired was living and working in the next village, I called in to see the results of his latest saltglaze firing and was invited to stay for lunch. Sitting outside in the Autumn sunshine, simple food was brought out in an eclectic mix of plates and dishes, saltglaze, slipware and glazed stoneware, with the milk for tea poured from an old Devon jug.
Although not the first time I had seen studio pottery in use, I was struck by the variety and combination of different clays, glazes and decorations and the mix of old and new. I felt excited at the possibilities of finding my own expression in making domestic ware. I had often heard a particular phraseas I visited potters when on breaks from college; I would enthuse about their domestic ware and they would reply “this is just my bread and butter work, and this..” indicating something larger and more individual “......is what I really make”. In that one sentence, pots that were intended for everyday use were relegated to a second division. I felt strongly that I wanted to change this apparent hierarchy in pottery , I wanted to express my creativity in pots that would be used as part of daily life.
I went to college in the early eighties, the course was built on teaching the practical skills of running a studio pottery, including kiln building and making our own tools. We were taught about clays and glazes, digging samples from the fields and testing them under different firing conditions. Towards the end of the course we had the chance to build a small kiln or a leach kick wheel to take away with us. Enjoying woodwork, I built my own wheel and used it for many years in my pottery.
I had embarked on the course with no specific interest in domestic ware, this all changed when I walked through the door of the throwing room, and saw pots filling all the shelves; rows and rows of jugs, plates stacked high on wareboards and regimented ranks of mugs all waiting for handles. Second year students were drinking tea out of mugs they had made themselves, and within a few weeks, we first year students also had our own mugs, bowls, and plates. Though heavy and poorly thrown, I had experienced that great sense of satisfaction in using my own pots, an excitement that comes back to me every time I unpack the kiln.(envisaging my pots finding their place in someone’s kitchen, mugs destined to have hands cupped around coffee or chocolate..)
In 1987 I moved to Bristol and set up my own studio. I started to take more of a interest in the pleasures of cooking. This being the late 80’s I was looking at The Cranks book, and using recipes from The Bean Book by Rose Elliot, both of these used photographs of hand made pottery from the workshops of Winchcombe, Andrew and Joanna Young, and Richard Batterham. The food and pots seemed to be perfectly matched, ingredients grown with love and care, cooked with love and care and eaten from pots made with consideration of how the finished meal would look. Never interested in reproducing the style of those pots myself, I wanted my work to have that same involvement with the food on the table. I began approaching food and cooking from another direction. Bristol’s huge fruit and vegetable markets opened my eyes to a whole new range of tastes and flavours. We lived in Montpelier, an inner-city area of Bristol, our journey home from the studios each night took us past Indian and Chinese supermarkets and Licata’s Italian Deli with colourful pavement displays: peppers, aubergines, olives, garlic, fruit from all corners of the world and pasta of different shapes and sizes. All this exposure to the different cultures and foods of a vibrant city had a lasting impact on the way I felt about the studio pottery I wished to make.
I began throwing dishes to serve soft ribbons of linguine, bowls to be spread around the table with colourful salads, flat platters for goats cheese and walnut bread, and deep plates holding vibrantly coloured risotto. I wanted individual decoration so that each piece would become part of the dinner table conversation.
Moving out of Bristol and setting up a new home and studios in The Forest Of Dean, enabled me to expand the range and quantity of work I was making. In 1995, I was contacted by Habitat UK, to produce a range of pots for the kitchenware department. I jumped at the chance, excited by the challenge. It came as a shock when the team at Habitat talked quantities, thousands, needed to stock their UK and European stores. In my naive enthusiasm I agreed. Although working alone to fulfil the order was a huge challenge, this was exactly how I imagined life as a potter would be; making pots in large numbers for use in peoples daily lives.
Over the yearshotels and restaurants have contacted me wanting pots to serve their food in, I enjoyed making these large orders, seeing this as an opportunity to bring domestic studio pots to a wider audience.
As I get ready to pack and fire my big woodkiln, I look at the raw pots waiting to be transformed and think about all the uses they will be put to. The love of making pots, for me is only half of their story, each pot, not complete until arranged on a table set with food. I prefer not to have a dishwasher, but to feel the pots in my hands every day, cherishing them through the simple act of swishing around hot soapy water. Taking that time to think about the maker, to feel the small indentation where fingers pressed into the soft clay, or wiped away a fluid glaze, is a daily contact with pots that would be lost if they were slotted into a metal box.
The chef, Nigel Slater echoes the feelings I have about pottery and food and their ability to bring people together, giving pleasure and becoming part of the dinner table conversation.
"There is something quietly civilizing about sharing a meal with other people. The simple act of making someone something to eat, even a bowl of soup or a loaf of bread, has a many-layered meaning. It suggests an act of protection and caring, of generosity and intimacy. It is in itself a sign of respect." Nigel Slater
Now I have more interaction with my customers when they send me photographs of their favorite Nigel Lambert pots in daily use, to upload to my website; relating the pleasure of drinking coffee from a cherished mug, eating cake from a plate, serving food in a much loved dish, or the daily use of a cereal bowl.