Meet the maker: Stanhoe Pottery

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Meet the maker: Stanhoe Pottery

Potter Geraldine Clark, the lady behind our unique and wonderful coffee and tea pots, cups and plates at The Chequers Inn, has been working as a studio potter since the age of 20. She moved to Norfolk 17 years ago and set up her latest studio in Stanhoe village, just a few miles away from us here at The Chequers Inn. Geraldine’s love for functional ware shines through her array of household pottery, Geraldine says “I love to see my creations being used, I don’t make them to be sat on shelves”. She creates all her pots by hand and her husband, Michael, helps to prepare the clay and fire the kilns.
We visited Geraldine’s workshop to discover more about her pottery, her passion and her techniques.

The mugs and teapots at The Chequers Inn, Thornham
All our teapots and mugs at The Chequers Inn were handmade by Geraldine

Tell us a bit more about yourself and what you do?
I have been potting full-time since I went to art school at the age of 20. Before that I attended evening pottery classes in London where I was working as a secretary for a living. At the weekends I taught myself how to throw pots down in my father's ancient air-raid shelter. Ever since then I have been working with clay and teaching pottery in various ways. In 1986 I bought the Old School in Aldwincle in Northamptonshire where I set up The Old School Pottery, supplying and selling pots and teaching pottery in my studio to keen hobby potters which I still do today. Now I work in a studio in my garden here in Stanhoe in Norfolk and I like to sell from my little showroom as I enjoy meeting potential customers. I also get many interesting commissions, which often take a lot of planning, especially from chefs! I also have people who collect my pots – my two sons and their families use plenty of my creations!

Geraldine's showroom
Some of Geraldine’s work displayed in her showroom

Where has your creative journey started?
I’ve always been creative – I love doing things with my hands. When I was at kindergarten, at the age of 4, I won a prize for the best plasticine animal in class, I’ve always known I wanted to do something creative. I was keen on all art subjects at school and got an A-level in Art. As a young teenager, I attended Changi Grammar School in Singapore and the Art Master encouraged me to pursue a career in art, although at that time I have had no experience of doing pottery. The pottery evening classes I took kicked off my passion for wanting to make all things in clay.

How do you start a piece? Do you use sketch books?
I design pots in my head all the time, I sketch rough ideas of my thoughts but the pots evolve completely when I sit at my potter’s wheel. On the wheel, I try to design pots that can be used comfortably by people to eat and drink out of. Well-made domestic studio pottery needs to be a pleasure to see, hold and to use, so this is my aim.

Geraldine on her potter’s wheel
Geraldine on her potter’s wheel

What was the first thing you created?
If I remember correctly, it was a coil pot. My mother kept the first pot I made, she always thought anything I made was great!

How long do your pieces take to make and what’s the process?
Some take minutes to throw on a wheel, some may take a day or two to coil. Finishing them, glazing and finally firing them needs at least two weeks or more. I enjoy all the stages of making though, I do particularly love to coil and sculpt in clay. First, I start with a lump of clay, I then make the pot by throwing on the wheel or coiling. Then I wrap them all in plastic as they need to dry slowly for a day or so. Once the pot is leather hard I add the details and embellishments such as the handles. The pot then needs to be completely dried out and then it is time for the first firing at 'bisque' (1000-1080°C).  The pot can then be glazed and fired to a higher stoneware temperature.  Glaze, after reaching this temperature, produces a hard-glossy surface on the clay which increases the aesthetic properties.

Are there any new projects you are working on?
I have recently been making lamp bases. I love making these, they’re something a little different.

Stunning lamp base made by Geraldine
Stunning lamp base made by Geraldine

Can you describe your workspace? Where is it and what’s in it?
My studio is in my garden, I also teach here. I have 3 wheels and all my brushes, glazes, well just everything a potter needs! The walls are covered in images to give my students inspiration when they are learning, it’s also nice to have something to look at as I spend most of my time in there.

Geraldine’s workshop
Geraldine’s workshop

Can our guest visit your showroom and make orders from you?
Yes, most certainly! Anyone is welcome to visit our showroom, or visit our website to see some of the pottery I have created. Whether your guests are looking for functional ware, a sculpture or a special pot, myself and my husband Michael, are always happy to help.