Small batch ceramics handmade in London.
I came across Michelle’s work on Instagram, I’m not sure how but her work popped up on my feed and I followed immediately. I was excited to see a young black woman making ceramics in London. She’s quite a rarity in the ceramics world and her work is gorgeous. Each piece is considered and she makes small batches of pieces from her shared studio in Lambeth, a collective called Mudgang.
Her work has a delicate texture, something that drove me to look at stocking her pieces for my shop. She always tests her pieces at home to see how they feel and work in reality. Each piece is glazed by hand with glazes constantly being tested and developed. The same with shapes, she is always creating new shapes that feel beautiful to touch and hold, something that comes from using pieces on a daily basis.
Michelle started her ceramics journey at Central st Martins where she studied Ceramics Design. University of the Arts London (UAL) is ranked 2nd in the world for Art and Design according to the 2021 QS World University Rankings. It’s an intense place to study. Since graduating Michelle has permanently cemented her place in the world of ceramics and also works as a studio assistant with Jess Joss in Jess’s Hackey Farm studio. Along with her own work and working with Jess, she also teaches budding ceramicists at Mudgang, the shared studio she belongs to.
Mudgang is based in Lambeth amongst a collective of creative studios. Not only is it somewhere ceramicists can join a group of young creatives working to make beautiful and fun pieces they teach evening classes and wheel throwing workshops.
From a damp piece of clay to a fully formed bowl.
I went down to Lambeth to meet Michelle to talk about our collaboration and to see where and how she worked. It was a fascinating morning. I watched Michelle begin with a lump of clay and turn into a smooth delicious pasta bowl. Working with her preferred clay, she begins by weighing up and cutting lumps of clay. Each piece will be turned into a ceramics piece, she knows exactly how much is needed for each piece she makes.
The lump is then worked to remove air holes and to soften up the clay ready for the fun bit, the wheel. Wheel throwing has always amazed me. I tried it once and the clay kind of spun into a strange folded shape, I was trying to make a bowl. Michelle started with ensuring that each piece is kept moist and is a constant work in progress with rulers and edging tools used to create the indents and overall shape. Watching Michelle it was evident to me that intuition is a big part of making ceramics, the confidence to know when to stop and when to carry on with a piece. It’s the feel of the piece which lets makers know when it is ready to dry and fire.
This is what makes ceramics such a beautiful craft, it’s all in the feel, the soul of the maker and the conversation that they invite. Ceramic tableware is designed to be held and loved, it’s what elevates small-batch work over mass-produced pieces.