New Homeward Wares: Frances Savage ceramics

A new collection of very special pots by British potter Frances Savage

Homeward is thrilled to stock Frances Savage’s hand-thrown terracotta plant pots, coasters and trivets. All Frances’s work is individually handmade in Manchester.

 

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What I love about Frances Savage’s ceramics

I treated myself to one of Fran’s woodfired pieces which are quite different to what she’s making now.  I was struck then by the lovely loose feel of her making and love the obvious presence of her hands. The deliberate throw lines, expressive lugs and handles are beautifully joined to the side of her pieces with a deft swipe of a thumb pad or squeeze of fingers, making for engaging and interesting pieces that are a pleasure to use.

 

Her decorations and mark making were quite simple back then, with spontaneous dots and dabs of slip but now have developed into gorgeous free and spontaneous trails of slip loops and her trademark arch motif.

I’ve struggled to find nice individual looking plant pots for my house plants and unless you’ve got a constant eye looking out for lovely vintage ones, it’s a tough thing to find. So I approached Fran with this conundrum and asked whether she’d be happy to try out making some plant pots for Homeward. I’m absolutely delighted to reveal the collection as we open up our new shop.



Homeward’s first batch of Frances Savage terracotta pots

 

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In April’s
first batch, we had two sizes of the hand thrown terracotta plant pot available: 12cm x 15cm at £36 and 10cm x10cm at £28 and in two different colourways – a white slip body with layers of honey glaze and black slip trail decorations in her trademark arch motif. The other, a black slip body, white slip trail arch decorations and a honey glaze over the top. We think they look great together too, so you can mix them up in your home. They look lovely!

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June’s second batch of plant pots

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Our pots are evolving! This is a slight tweak to the second batch, which comes with the rather lovely addition of two small lugs either side of the pot. A small detail but one that adds such character and charm to them. 

Handmade ceramic coasters

 

We also have a batch of very lovely ceramic coasters in a nice selection of joyful designs. They’re approx 9cm square and each come with four cork feet to protect your surfaces.

 

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You can browse our collection of Frances Savage ceramics online and in our new shop.



Clay College – where it all started

 

I first met Fran during a stint of evening classes I’d signed myself up for at Clay College at Middleport Pottery in Stoke. It’s a wonderfully unique experience there as the classes take place where current diploma students are studying so you get to see their work up close. Students also act as studio assistants during the evening classes so you get to chat and see their work in progress, which is such a pleasure.. 

I can’t recommend Clay College enough! The atmosphere and surroundings, the facilities, brilliant teaching and numerous demonstrations on technique are pretty special. Turning up for a pottery class on a dark and rainy winter’s eve at Middleport Pottery and settling into 3 hours of concentrated pottery practice is a treat indeed. 

I’m so glad that it has ended up being based in Stoke. It’s the most fitting and obvious place for it to be after all! And it’s a wonderful thing that a course of its type and quality has found its home at Middleport Pottery. It has such a valuable after effect for the area too, as some graduates have stayed on in Stoke to develop their practice, set up studios/workshops and add to the area’s creative community. 

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Nicky put a few questions to Frances Savage

Can you give a bit of background on current materials and processes and how your work has changed and progressed since Clay College?


It’s changed loads from what I can see. I bought one of your woodfired pieces in the final show, which I love, and I wonder if you’d planned or decided then what to try out/work on after graduation? 

Currently I am working with slipware, using terracotta clay from Stoke, decorating using various slips – some from local dug clays and firing to earthenware temperatures. My work took a bit of a change when I left college – whilst studying there I was really enjoying reduction firing using both the gas and salt kilns. I loved the process of reduction firing and the dramatic changes that occurred throughout the firing – but after I left college and began to set up my own workshop I already had access to a few electric kilns at my studio, Manchester Ceramic Collective. In order to keep costs and energy usage down I decided to switch to earthenware. I was always drawn to slip decoration in my salt and gas fired work so this felt like a sort of natural transition – with a lot of trial and error involved at the start. I have always loved the warm rich tones of the earthenware honey glazes that are very hard to achieve at lower temperatures. I love throwing using terracotta clay. It has an amazing texture and it feels really perfect to make friendly pots to be used around the home in a relaxed atmosphere.

What do you think is special or unique about Clay College? What are the most useful or enjoyable things you ve taken away from there? 

What is so unique about Clay College is the very practical approach to teaching that has sadly become so rare in higher creative education in this country. We were lucky enough to have Kevin Millward as our full time tutor – a highly skilled and experienced potter and teacher (from Leek!) who guided us through the full two and a bit years! 

We were able to try out many different techniques of making pottery, ranging from terracotta slipware, to porcelain, to high-fired salt and soda firings. We learnt how to build a little experimental gas kiln that we were allowed to tinker around with and fire in any way we liked. One of the best things about Clay College was the range of visiting potters who came to teach masterclasses for us. It was such a privilege to be able to watch some extremely skillful and inspiring potters do demonstrations and answer any and all questions that we fired at them. 

By making these connections I was fortunate enough to spend three months in Tuscany assisting slipware potter Richard Phethean on a three-month pottery course at La Meridiana – International School of Ceramics, which was a fantastic experience! 

You’ve been so busy this last year, it looks like you’re in the swing of things. Have you had time to think about what you’d like to try out next in your work? Do you have any highlights from this year of being a full-time working potter? 

I am very fortunate to be working with Micki Schloessingk in Gower, Wales for various little visits throughout this year. Micki is a wood-salt-fired potter and I am hugely inspired by her work! Myself and a friend Ellie Thomason (Clay College alumni) have been learning from Micki and have been making a series of pots to fire in her wood-salt kiln in August, which is really exciting! This is an amazing opportunity as we – young budding potters who don’t have access to our own salt kiln – we can learn from a really experienced and knowledgeable potter who can give us lots of advice.

I am also hoping to delve a little further into some bakeware. Terracotta pots work so beautifully in the kitchen setting I would like to develop a larger range of kitchen pots.

Discovering a bit more about Frances Savage

Frances loves to make pots that are joyful to use as part of everyday rituals to encourage a sense of comfort and warmth. Moving into a newer body of work, Frances is exploring the possibilities of low-fired terracotta slipware, drawing decorative inspiration from the traditions of British slipware and folklore, to create contemporary tableware. She is a great admirer of Mediaeval pottery and hopes to create friendly forms in an expressive manner with generous curves, slipped surfaces and playful handles. She is fascinated with people’s relationships to material objects and loves to leave traces of the maker on her pieces to encourage a dialogue with the user. She is currently based in Manchester, has a studio space at the Manchester Ceramics Collective and teaches throwing at Sunken Studio in Leeds. Frances will be exhibiting her work at Wardlow Mires Pots and Food Festival in September 2023.”

 

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Shop Homeward’s collection of Frances Savage ceramics on our website and in-store at our new shop in Leek.

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