Name: Dor & Tan
Town: St. Ives, Cornwall
Founders: Sharron and Peter
Dor & Tan's hand crafted ceramic cups have become a firm favourite at Origin, helping to create a unique and tactile, coffee drinking experience. Each cup is designed and produced by Sharron Stocks, and supported by her husband Peter, son Matt, and close family friend Viola who each operate different aspects of the business. We caught up with the team (naturally) over coffee at their contemporary seaside studio, in the idyllic town of St. Ives.
Can you describe Dor & Tan to someone who may not be familiar with you?
We are a family run, ceramic design studio based in St. Ives. We aim to create ceramics with purpose, for people to use everyday in their homes, crafted sustainably with a small carbon footprint. It’s essential to us to craft ceramics that can age with grace. We strive to create not only objects using quality materials and techniques, but also with longevity in aesthetics.
What are you in the process of making at the moment?
We are currently developing a haul of new glazes that we hope to be releasing later this year. Including our gorse yellow cups which will be released this month. Also we’re coming up with completely new object ideas based on helping us and others to be more sustainable in their homes. This is planned to be displayed at the Craft Pavilion in London this year in September. Also we created an incense holder not too long ago and everyone seems to love them! So we’ve been developing new clays and glazes for these which will be coming very soon too.
Where do you seek your design inspiration from?
Our inspiration is anything and everything that is meaningful to all of us at the studio. Minimal architecture, landscapes, wild plants, Japanese and Korean pottery, modern and classic design. We of course take a lot of our influence from the environment as it effects the way we think and live. The list goes on and on, infinitely grasping at anything that excites us, pulling it in to pick apart.
What’s your favourite piece of work you’ve produced?
We all have differing opinions on this one! We all pitch in ideas for what we all wish to have and what objects we personally use the most each day. That’s how we ended up with the selection of ceramics we have available today.
Sharron’s favourite would be the first bowl we created, it’s simple but has so many uses. It’s also her favourite thing to make so that always helps. Peter has his daily coffee in our tumblers every morning, we think it’s his fuel to wedge all the clay.
Matt’s favourite design is the incense holders we newly released, Sharron gave him one for Christmas last year and that’s how it became an object we make today. Viola is a big fan of plants and our office is slowly filling up with a “growing” collection, so her’s would certainly be planters.
Describe your typical work day.
We have quite a changing work day depending on where we are in our making cycle. Pottery is a slow process and is really dictated by the clay. Every piece we make has several processes involved with only a relatively small time window in which to do it before the clay becomes too dry. From a ball of wet clay to glazed vessel takes roughly 10 days, in which time we alternate between: clay prep, throwing, turning, firing, and glazing.
So it could be a very early start at 6am to turn on a kiln so it will be cooling by the end of the day. Or it could be a slightly later start, coffee in hand, heading into the studio to start on a fresh batch of throwing. I think you can tell which days we prefer!
How has living in Cornwall influenced the work you produce?
All of us are avid nature explorers. Cornwall has a way of drawing the wanderer out in everyone, you can't help but be sucked into its rugged beauty. We have a special soft spot for the coastline around St. Ives and St. Agnes. Both are full of wildlife, lichens and rock forms. These natural elements give us an absolute knickerbocker glory of stimulating textures, colours and forms to draw inspiration from. Immersing ourselves in these wild landscapes pushes us towards minimal designs. We’ve learnt to absorb the information of our surroundings and condense it down to its purest form.
Being located in St. Ives has also put us on the front lines of what plastics and waste are doing to the environment. It’s hard to stay quiet and not express your ambition to change this when you can see it happening all around you. Our studio has helped with beach cleans in the past (and will do so in the future). To get to the root of the problem though we need to look at how we create and consume as a society. This is where a significant amount of our sustainable ethos comes from.
How did your collaboration with Origin begin?
We did a photoshoot a couple years back at the Harbour Head coffee shop in Porthleven when we had just created our first line of cups. As none of us were able to make beautiful latte art we thought this would be a lovely chance to see our cups at their finest. Tom (Origin’s founder) saw the photos that came out and later got hold of us. Since then you’ve been keeping us pretty busy (it’s been great!) and together we’ve designed glazes, tableware for your new Penryn store, coffee brewing sets and more!
What was your thinking behind the original cup?
Matt’s really into his pour-over coffee. To him it’s a pretty special and relaxing ritual. Spending 5-10 minutes boiling the water, grinding the beans just right, then getting the pouring technique perfect. It’s a very particular thing and really he wanted some cups to match.
He endlessly bothered Sharron to design and make him some until she gave in. She looked at the curvature of boat hulls and we ended up with a form that is perfect for cupping in your hand.
How have these designs evolved?
Coffee art wasn’t something we gave a huge amount of thought to as pour over was our first obsession. The original cups were taller and curved in quite a bit more at the top, which made it a little challenging. We ended up working with the Origin test kitchen to refine the design so that it was better for latte art and also dispelled heat quickly.
Originally, we only did everything in our white glaze with one clay type. Since then we’ve been developing our own clays and glazes and slowly increasing the number of finishes we have. At the moment we have 6 that we make all the time, but we have have a whole library of tests we’d love to release. We might have to have ranges of seasonal colours sooner rather than later!
What’s next for Dor & Tan?
Coming up this year we will be doing open studio days for the St. Ives September Festival, which is a first for us as we’ve not had set days we’re open to the public before. But also we will be at the British Craft Pavilion later this year in September! So if you’re in London come take a peek at our display! We will be developing new glazes, forms and clays for Christmas. We also have a few collaborations we’re working on which we can’t talk about yet, but we’re pretty excited to tell you all about them!