Buyers at High Street stores constantly have their antennae out to suss out what it is that everyone wants in their lives, what styles are emerging and is the current zeitgeist. An interiors collection just launched for Spring 2016 by House of Fraser which caught my eye is called ‘Gray and Willow’. It taps into a rich vein of interiors which is inspired by traditional making methods using natural materials such as clay, wood and glass.
The thing about pottery, and ceramics in particular, is that it can take years of devotion to get right, but becomes the most enjoyable and all-consuming mission. Think of the passion of Edmund de Waal (ceramicist and author) who started making pots as a boy and continues to this day to create exquisite ceramics which are now feted as high art all around the world.
In the 60s and 70s ceramics such as earthenware were really popular and many artists and potters moved to parts of the country such as Pembrokeshire in Wales to set up a small studio in an old farm cottage. Incredible as this might seem to students leaving art college today, this just about sustained family life and there was property to buy or rent (be it miles down a long unmade track) that was cheap enough and would have space for a kiln and studio.
This was all part of ‘The Good Life’, not the one from the 70s sitcom which was set in Surbiton but one which really was about getting away from it all to the country, giving children room to roam free and living a life where there were no compromises – such as having to commute to a city job you didn’t believe in. You could make your living from your art. As children, and even now, if I am on holiday and I see a hand-painted sign that says ‘Pottery’ a detour ensues and a few pots are bought. I can’t resist.
Making things with your hands makes people happy and this realisation has lead to incredibly successful TV programmes such as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and now BBC2’s ‘The Great British Pottery Throw Down’.
Even if this way of life isn’t as possible for as many today, there are ways of creating the vibe in your home, be it buying a piece of pottery from the high street or taking up a class and creating it yourself. You might choose to decorate a room with off white paints for your walls, simple Tongue and Groove panelling and for dining choose some simple wooden benches – like the sort to have come out of a school gymnasium or church and a wooden dining table found on EBay.
You might even add in a vintage Ercol chair or two. A fabulous array of different sized chopping boards in wonderful shapes (check out Gray and Willow at House of Fraser £45 or Sainsburys from £12) which are for display purposes as much as for practicality. You might also choose a healthy selection of Gray and Willow’s cream and grey vases £32/16 and mix these up with some vintage jelly moulds and ceramic marmalade jars.
Finally, two Instagrammers who stand out for me are @Jono Smart who is producing some really beautiful pottery in finishes and forms that would fit sweetly in to any interior from a super smart ‘dark painted interior’ to a more organic ‘Artisan style’ cottage.
The other Instagram feed is @HarryandFrank who live in Derbyshire. Their photos are a delightful reflection of their way of life and love for simple decoration using nature and vintage props.