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Time to Take Up Pottery?

by Sumaya Steele

We interviewed Azem William from Turning Earth, a pottery studio in east London where we shot our Spring campaign. Turning Earth provides open-access ceramics facilities in London, and has an original studio in Hoxton and a new centre for ceramics in Argall Avenue E10. Their shop, Living Earth in Vinegar Yard, London Bridge features work from some of their most experienced makers.

What does Turning Earth do? Who is it for?

Turning Earth provides open-access ceramics facilities in London. We run our original studio in Hoxton and a second centre for ceramics in Leyton E10. Our studios offer a large open-plan membership scheme where part-time professional makers, serious hobbyists and beginners work together in a community environment, with the benefit of shared facilities. The spaces also include a classroom for ceramics courses, where over 20 courses a week are taught by professional artists.

Can you give a brief rundown of what the classes involve? 

We welcome everyone at Turning Earth, whether they are complete beginners or have a little more experience. Full courses are normally 8 or 12 weeks long. We sometimes also offer shorter taster sessions in both throwing and hand-building techniques. Students who come to a Turning Earth will be walked through each stage of the process of making their first pieces. Class participants spend some of the time learning hand-building techniques, and some of the time learning to use the wheel. Students will learn about preparing clay and techniques you can use to make forms, from pinching to coiling and building with slabs. They will also learn about the wheel, including how to centre their work, and how to begin to form the various shapes that are possible using this technique.

Any top tips for taking up pottery?

Really just have fun with it and don't be too nervous to experiment. A course is a great way to learn the basic skills and come out with something exciting you made at the end of it, but to really get the most out of this craft and out of yourself, practice and experimenting is essential. Joining an open access studio like Turning Earth is a great way to continue your development at your own pace.

What is the inspiration for your own pots?

Inspiration comes from everywhere, every day. It is a fluid thing and I think it all contributes to the ideas I have. I enjoy looking at classical art and I think that probably finds its way into the aesthetic expression of my work. I enjoy drawing and painting portraits of people and I often bring that into my ceramic work. Most recently I am enjoying looking at people smoking cigarettes and painting them on large pots.