Aesthetics and craftsmanship run deep here. We relish working with creative talent and collaborate closely with illustrators, carpenters and potters. Here, in the first of our Creators Series, we chat to Dor & Tan, local St Ives potters and our go-to for beautiful ceramics.
We’ve been working closely with Dor & Tan for over a year now and never cease to be amazed by their creative drive, experimental approach and collaborative nature. They source locally, run the business as a family and draw on the beautiful St Ives surroundings in their art. A storyteller's dream. Here we chat with creator, Sharron Stocks.
Firstly, before we start, ceramicist or potter?
That’s a difficult question, and strangely enough, I think I'm both. To me being a potter stands for traditional skills, heritage, and rustic aesthetics, while the ceramicist part of me is about design, research, and functionality.
Dor and Tan feels like the perfect balance between these two contrasting elements. The idea is to create a studio which balances both contemporary design and traditional making techniques.
The title ceramicist caused me some problems in the past. When I left college and applied for a job as a ceramicist only to find myself talking to a dentist who wanted to put me to work making false teeth.
How did you get into pottery?
To be honest, it was an act of rebellion. As an only child, my Mother had an expectation that I should be smart, clean, and proper. For some reason, this made the act of squishing mud very appealing to my younger self. Though in many ways, I’m thankful for her pushing and supporting me in this direction, even if unintentionally. Years later I still enjoy getting up in the morning for a long day of ‘mud squishing’.
How would you describe your style?
It's a sort of refined rustic minimalism. I like simple shapes and innocent lines uncluttered with decoration. My ceramic influences include early Korean pottery, Lucie Rie, Bernard Leach, and Shoji Hamada. Design influences include Bruno Munari, Dieter Rams, and Jonathan Ive.
As a designer and a maker, I want to reconnect art to everyday day life by creating objects which are beautiful to look at and practical to use. I do not subscribe to the idea that fine art and craft are fundamentally different.
You’re tireless in your experimentations and new developments. What drives you?
A sense of fun and curiosity. When I start to design a new object, I love to experiment with shape, texture, and colour to find the best balance. Ceramics has so many variables it's like exploring a series of pandora's boxes (without all the world’s evil, just the occasional accident or ugly pot).
Custom coloured cups created for Origin for Manchcester Coffee Festival to test how colour influences flavour perception.
How does living in St. Ives influence your work? How do you balance this with wider trends in ceramics?
St. Ives influences me in many ways. It has a remarkable ceramics heritage inspired by Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach, and the fantastic light in the Bay has drawn artists to the town for over a century. The broader area of Penwith has a solitude and calmness which creates a Zen-like environment in which to work.
We have tried to capture the essence of this in the design of the studio and garden. The studio is nestled in the heart of St. Ives but retains a calmness and tranquillity, which provides us with a retreat in which to create
At Art College in Loughborough, I was tutored in ceramics by Arthur Griffiths and David Leach, who would always talk about 'when I was in St Ives', so it was only natural that I would come to experience it for myself.
I'm very excited about the revival in handmade ceramics to create objects to be used every day. It is great to see young potters pushing the boundaries between art, design, and craft.
Tell us about your process?
My design process is experimental and iterative. When I have an idea for a new piece, I make a range of prototypes using different clays and glazes, analyse the results and then repeat the process again and again.
When I am satisfied with the aesthetics of the design, the studio then tests the functionality of the object; is it the right shape to fit in hand? Does it get too hot? Does the glaze stain in use? is it dishwasher proof? We then send all our glazes to a public analyst to test that they are safe to use with food.
Finally, we bring a sample of new objects into our home and trial them. We put them on our shelves and use them in our daily rituals. We wear them in, and see how tactile and functional they are. To see which colours, forms, and textures we subconsciously migrate to time and time again.
Your clay is sourced locally. Tell us a bit about it and why it’s important to you to source locally?
It is a great privilege to be able to pick up our clay from a small Cornish clay pit at St Agnes. It gives our work a local provenance and minimises our impact on the environment from transportation and packaging.
We like to support local businesses whenever we can and to have a one to one relationship with the owners.
Tell us a bit about your incredibly creative family. Who does what and why is it important to you to keep things in the family?
As a family business, we have a set skills which are very complimentary. My primary skills are in design and making, Peter in finance and business, Matt in technology, and Viola in styling and design. Although we each have our areas of expertise, we work together to help create new objects and develop each other skills.
Finally and most importantly we have a shared vision of what we want to achieve with the studio and have a lot of fun along the way. We are lucky that we all get along so well and enjoy working together.
What’s next for Dor & Tan? Any new pieces in the pipeline?
As always there are a lot of new ideas bubbling through at the studio, so much so that we have an ever-growing list on the backburner.
This summer we are releasing our “Sea of Greens” collection inspired by the coastal walk from Gwithian to St. Agnes, and a new Coffee Dripper and Pourer. We have also had requests for stackable plates and platters, and are in the final stages of designing a new range for the autumn.
We're delighted to be launching Dor & Tan's new coffee dripper and pourer this week, available at http://bit.ly/CeramicDripper