My maternal Grandparents lived in the village of Barlaston... near Stoke-on-Trent in England.
This part of the Midlands is known as” the Potteries”… the home and heart of the British ceramics industry for hundreds of years.
As a boy I’d tour the Wedgwood factory with my grandmother, Nana, already keen to observe the making of things… my favorite room the ladies applying small white figures to cups and pots and jugs… i remember being given a faulty piece of jasper ware — an instant new treasure.
In Nana’s house there was a huge cabinet full of china - tea and coffee and dinners sets… different for all occasions. I used to take them all out onto the floor and mix up all the patterns… making new combinations… and then put them all back again…
Shortly after the Milan furniture fair last year I was contacted by Emily Johnson of 1882 Limited ceramics…
”Would I like to design something?”…”Oh yes” i said… A little research revealed that 1882 was her contemporary take on the family business…formerly Johnson Brothers pottery…
from Barlaston, near Stoke-on-Trent in England. Worlds collide.
I told my mum who said she’d gone to girl guides at the Johnson’s house when she was a child.
Emily came to meet me and I served tea, as I typically do — my tray a mix of pattern and shapes, not unlike what was on my grandmothers floor. As we started chatting about what i might do, my head a jumble of ideas,
she pointed at the tea tray and said “ why don't you start there?”
Already I loved this woman!… I shared my secret that our families herald from the same place… and what’s more, that my great aunt was Susie Cooper… quite her own legend in the ceramic world…
In my family everyone has some “ Aunty Susie””… she was the person I had my first “art” conversation with — where I felt that I was talking to someone who understood what I was talking about…
I listened closely — she talked of hard work… of things leading in directions you might not expect and of the need to always experiment… making was in her soul.
The day Emily visited I was usinga Susie Cooper coffee pot as my tea pot… and now, due to the
very generous enthusiasm of my cousin, it’s part of this first collection.
In December I went to Stoke to look at the sampling… Next week the tea set launches at Maison Objet in Paris… it’s my first real design commission… and I’m again amazed at what can happen if you set your mind to it.
Your intention. I think of the Capricorn goat making his way up the Mountain — he gets there in the end… and that’s how this feels — I put an idea out into the world and worked really hard and it is all starting to happen.
2016 was a pretty tough year for everyone I know — there is so much going on in the world that I don’t understand… that’s not in my way of thinking — but I hope we can set our powerful intentions on the positive — for love and tolerance in the coming year.
VISIT EMILY AND SEE THE COLLECTION AT MAISON & OBJET: HALL 7 C92