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Ceramics are back in fashion

Pottery in the foreground
Pottery shop
Craftsman making pottery

©VisitBritain/ Joanna Henderson ©VisitBritain/ Joanna Henderson

London remains at the forefront of all the latest trends. And the hottest material right now is ceramics, with potters the most sought-after designers in the city.
Remembrance Day, also called Poppy Day because the British wear red poppies on their lapels, commemorates the end of the First World War. For Remembrance Day 2014, the moat of the Tower of London was filled with 888,246 poppies. But all of them were ceramic. The idea was the brainchild of the artist Paul Cummins, and his particular homage to the fallen of the Great War war consolidated a trend that seems to be here to stay: ceramics as an artistic expression.

England has always enjoyed a thriving pottery tradition. Consequently, both the Museum of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum house collections that are the pride of their curators. But this age-old discipline based on clay figures and objects is very much back in fashion, something that's all too evident as you explore the capital. The places where you can paint them or directly design them have multiplied. Take Wonderland Ceramics (237 Victoria Park Road), for example, where the theme is based on Alice in Wonderland. Other cafés dedicated exclusively to this art form and its newest expression are Punk Me Up Ceramics Café (34 East Dulwich Road) and Biscuits Ceramics Café (3–4 Nelson Road in Greenwich). You can also find artisanal studios that only produce ceramic items, and academic initiatives to return the discipline to the splendour it once enjoyed and which now seems to be making a comeback.

This is partly due to post-recession sensitivity that values the craft, fragility and quality that characterise well-crafted pieces of pottery. In fact, one of the pottery schools most in vogue talks about their studio as being an attempt to “make the world a better place”. As a result of these neo-potters that have opted for an art whose origins lie in the Neolithic period, it is gradually becoming more commonplace to find the work of young, ground-breaking artists in any London street market. You won’t have to look hard for contemporary ceramics on the stalls in Covent Garden, Portobello and Spitalfields because they’re everywhere.

The new, innovative uses English potters give their works are many; absolutely anything can be replicated in ceramics. But rather than the objects’ functionality, what’s important is their artistic and cultural meaning: reviving an ancient trade in one of the most modern cities in the world and appreciating simplicity again. Recently, It’s Nice That, one of the most influential cutting-edge publications on art issues and creativity, spoke about pottery not only as the discipline of the moment, but as the art that we will all soon want to display again in our homes and which, fortunately, is still not prohibitively expensive to acquire if we seek out the work of emerging artists that are changing ceramic finishes and processes, and also synergies.

Contemporary ceramic fairs, for example Ceramic Art London, held in the capital every year, are promoting this new wave of appreciation for this artistic expression, of which we have found traces from before history existed. The next time you’re strolling through London and come across a small stall displaying sculptures, cups, lamps, vases or tiny boxes, spend a few minutes looking at them and trying to find the reason why everything points towards this art still being current for many more years to come.

Classic ceramics

The UK has always been a hub of ceramic production. Pieces from Stoke-on-Trent, an area where there has traditionally been a high concentration of English porcelain makers, have become classic items. It’s not difficult to plan a trip there and as soon as you arrive you’ll see emblematic factories such as Wedgwood, Spode and Royal Doulton, among many others.

The new names in ceramics

Experts say you should hurry to get a piece by Angel Oloshove before word gets around that she is a genius whose personal use of colour makes her really stand out. Saskia Pomeroy is known in the art world for being involved in graphic design and textile printing, but the ceramics trend has also hit her studio and her cheerful and somewhat naive objects are becoming more and more sought after. So are Sean Roy Parker’s. This London artist has turned his flowerpots into objects many people want to own.