1 March 2021
Throughout March we are sharing a series of posts in which we meet some of the makers that you can find in the Kettle’s Yard Shop. This week we spoke to local Cambridge potter David Stonehouse. You can shop his range in the shop here.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a Cambridge-based artist and designer-maker, working to combine contemporary design with artisanal craftsmanship. I currently split my time between making ceramics and jewellery, and am particularly interested in how these two crafts can inform each other and be brought together.
After my degree in Silversmithing & Jewellery, I worked as an assistant to David Watkins, RCA Professor of Metalwork & Jewellery, making experimental jewellery and sculptures for international exhibitions. I then went on to do an MA in Product Design at Central St Martins, and spent 25+ years in international design and innovation consultancy before returning to my craft roots three years ago. My interest in pottery was first sparked a decade ago, when I started doing evening classes with David Ashpole at Chesterton Community College. Before long I was taking two classes a week just to get more time on the potter’s wheel.
Tell us more about your ways of working
I’m inspired by a sense of place, and the inherent beauty of materials and geometry. My practice is informed by innovative art and design, both contemporary and historical, and is grounded in a craft tradition. My way of working is to scale back, look to do more with less, and let each element and material speak – I’m always striving to balance simplicity, refinement and meaning in each piece.
There are two strands to my ceramics – pushing the possibilities of functional ware for daily use, and one-off sculptural vessels, which I use as conceptual vehicles for exploring ideas.
Through my hand-thrown domestic ware I’m looking to create objects that draw the user in to savour the moment while performing daily rituals. The pieces are the product of an ongoing refinement of form, function and detailing. I tend to use a restricted palette of materials, which allows them to be at the forefront of each piece, often celebrating the tactile contrast between raw and glazed clay. While striving for consistency, I value the variation that hand-crafting produces, which I see as helping to connect the user with the maker.
I make my ceramics from Kiln Cambridge, an open-access pottery studio founded by Bilgin Soylu in 2018. It now occupies a stunning new space just off Newmarket Road, and is one of the best equipped studios in the country. This has not only given me access to a range of kilns and resources that I couldn’t fund myself, but also (and just as importantly) to the friendship and support of a flourishing community of fellow potters – as such, it’s a good counterbalance to the more solitary concentration needed at my jeweller’s bench.
What inspired your Kettle’s Yard range?
My collection of stoneware is inspired by my frequent visits to Jim Ede’s beautiful home, and references some of its familiar objects and hidden treasures. Some pieces are one-offs, while others are repeated with subtle variations. My hope is that as well as being a joy to use, they will hold memories of where and when they were bought. I count it a real privilege to have my work in people’s homes.
There are currently five motifs from the Kettle’s Yard House seen in the collection across a range of pieces, some of which are available online:
- ‘Lemon’ references the lemon on the pewter platter in the dining room, which itself echoes the yellow dot in Joan Miró’s Tic Tic painting nearby.
- ‘Vein’ was inspired by some of the pebbles which Jim so carefully selected and arranged.
- ‘Collage’ utilises a torn paper technique employed by a number of artists on display.
- ‘Black’ draws on Gaudier-Brzeska’s dog and other bronzes in the House
- ‘Yellow’ takes its cues from the fresh lemon and the daffodils of Christopher Wood’s Flowers in the sitting room.
Do you have a favourite item from the Kettle’s Yard Shop or House?
If I were allowed only one item from the Kettle’s Yard Shop, it would be a Kettle’s Yard pencil. I love the simplicity of the natural wood and single coloured print – plus the fact that pencils are the only item you can take into the house to draw with.
Regarding the House, it’s hard to pick one favourite item as the magic comes from the way the objects are curated to complement and contrast with each other, so I’d have to pick the side chapel-like space in the downstairs extension. It’s one of my favourite areas, with its powerful Valenti collage tryptic above the slate altar-like table. I particularly enjoyed seeing Jennifer Lee’s pot added to the table during her 2019 show – it looked so in keeping with the other objects, as if Jim himself had put it there to be in dialogue with Lucie Rie’s marvellous white bowl, ‘The Wave’.