I catch up with Keith Brymer Jones, leading potter and judge from the Great British Pottery Throw Down

With the Great British Pottery Throw Down returning BBC Two in February 2017, I caught up with Keith Brymer Jones, a born and bred Londoner, one of the UK’s leading potters and a judge in this fantastic series. Is he the Paul Hollywood of the pottery world? We think so!

How and when did you get started in pottery? Did you practice any other crafts before this one?

“My first experience of pottery was aged eleven, when I made a pottery owl at school. Since then, I have felt a natural affinity with clay. I suffer from dyslexia and I found that working with shape and form was a natural outlet for me.”

What do you most enjoy about pottery and ceramic design?

“I love the immediacy of working on the wheel and the fact that even after creating something, the clay still has a life of its own through shrinkage when drying and moving within the Kiln chamber. All these attributes have to be mastered, which can take a lifetime. There are so many areas within ceramics that you can go in to; glazes, different building techniques, throwing, coiling, hand building… there are such a variety of techniques.”

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far and why?

“All of the projects I work on have exciting elements to them, whether it be the person behind a particular brand I am collaborating with or the kind of products that I am trying to achieve.”

What has been the most challenging but rewarding project you’ve worked on to date?

“Well it has to be the Keith Brymer Jones Word range. We are now moving in to areas other than ceramics which is challenging as I want to take the same ethos over into glass, fashion accessories etc. The challenge is bridging the gap between a ceramics range and a full lifestyle range.”

How do you go about coming up with ideas for projects? What inspires you?

“Quite simply, everything! I believe if it was any different answer I would have a closed mind to opportunities that maybe present themselves in an unconventional manner.”

You’re known for your homeware Word range with retro lettering — can you talk us where this idea originated and how it has developed?

“It initially developed through the fact that I suffered from dyslexia. I saw words as shapes and thus as more of a design. This has been tremendously beneficial because there is virtually no end to what you can do!”

Do you have any advice for someone new to pottery?

“Follow your heart and have the strength to change your attitude to ways of working.”

If someone wants to get started with pottery, what essentials would you recommend for your kit?

“Clay would be a good start! Then it depends on what discipline you want to make in. For me it would be a wheel and a small kiln… oh and a very strong bench for all sorts of reasons!”

How did you feel appearing on TV for the first time?

“Ok …ish! It was more the effect it might have on me personally that I was apprehensive about. I had been in a band for many years in the 80’s, so the performing element was never a challenge as such. Although I hasten to add that the kind of programme we have made is not really about performance. It is more about achievement!”

Have you got any exciting plans for 2017that you can tell us about?

“I shall be bringing out a glassware collection in the Keith Brymer Jones range, which I am developing at the moment, but really the exciting aspect for me is working more closely with the brands Jane Foster, Becky Baur, Scion Living, Designer’s Guild and Hokolo that I am helping to develop ranges for in my role as Head of Design at Make International.”

To see more of Keith’s amazing work, visit www.keithbrymerjones.com

Images courtesy of Keith Brymer Jones, BBC and Love Productions

About the author

Michael O’Connor is a partner at Grey Sergeant and specialises in marketing communications and PR in the craft and creative industry. Grey Sergeant provides strategic advice and planning and promotes businesses through integrated marketing, media relations, social media, digital marketing and events. For more information please contact michael.oconnor@greysergeant.com