Homegirl London’s Interview: Sue Pryke. Sue is a highly regarded and respected ceramicist making stunning slipcase tableware collections. Her work is effortlessly pared back, minimal and contemporary. The Studio Collection is made in a series of graduating tones of natural stone, gorgeous greys and beautiful blues which is interrupted with a pop of pink. You’ll just love her work which features ceramic tableware (plates and bowls), ceramic tea sets (teapots, mugs, jugs) along with carafes, tapas bowls, tea spoons and vases. I caught up with Sue Pryke to find out more.
Mr & Mrs Milk Pourers
Meet Sue Pryke
Sue tells me about her background – “I first worked with clay at A Level. I hadn’t particularly wanted to do ceramics, it was a spur of the moment decision to take the art and design pathway. I was good at drawing and had taken art A level with design – clay was the design route! Luckily for me, I had an inspiring tutor who used to do his yoga exercises on the clay tables in the middle of the studio, quite a character who made the course inspiring and memorable!”
Sue With Products
After A levels Sue went to work for a local potter in the Lincolnshire Wolds a couple of days a week. She tells me – “This is where I got ‘hooked’ on ceramics. I applied to do a Ceramics degree the following year. After graduation (1990) I went straight on to work at Wedgwood as a junior designer, it was fabulous. I was there just before computers were brought in so everything was hand drawn. You would design the shape and then go and make it with guidance from the model making team. I learnt so much about design and development during my time there.”
Mr & Mrs Mug
Sue’s postgraduate study was at the Royal College of Art. She reveals – “The design manager at Wedgwood was also the Head of the MA Ceramic programme and he encouraged me to apply. On graduating in 1994, I started working for IKEA as one of their designers. Some of the first pieces I designed are still in production over 20 years later. I’ve designed everything for them from plastic kitchen utensils, cookware, tableware, glassware to decorative vases and candle holders. They are a brilliant company to work for. My latest designs are a range of glass vases called Berakna, which were launched in store in February.
Mr & Mrs Carafes
After graduating Sue was awarded a Business Trust Loan from the Princes Trust and a Maintenance Grant which helped launch her business in 1994. She also benefited from the mentoring programme with business advice which was useful. Sue moved from London when she was offered a teaching role at De Montfort (Leicester) to head up the Ceramics course. She tells me – “This job coincided with expecting my first child, so seemed like a good time to move.”
Mr & Mrs Spoons
Sue’s workforce usually consists of three to four people plus interns which is useful. Being her own boss is natural, she reveals – “My family were all self-employed in farming and horticulture sectors. I’ve grown up with the self-employed ethos and of being an industry of one, task focused and driven to make a go of it. I enjoy being in control of my own product development, led by intuition and drawing on the experience gained from working in industry for several years as a designer.”
View the Sue Pryke Collection
Sue makes a range of slipcast tableware pieces which are pared back, minimal and contemporary. She explains the slipcast method – “I add colour to the clay rather than adding a glaze on top of the work after it is made, so the colour runs through the work, like Wedgwood’s Jasperware. I like the connections between craft and industry, I have always worked in both areas, so each informs the other. My studio collection is a nod to the industrial method of volume production, but applied to a craft setting, making a pared back collection that industry would find difficult to achieve.
Mr & Mrs Coffee Cup
The studio collection is made in a series of graduating tones, greys and blues mainly with a few pops of pink or bright colours added seasonally to mugs, vases bowls and teapot. Mr & Mrs is a collaboration with John at Wild + Wood (Sue’s husband). The products balance the naturals of wood with ceramic for a pared back and very simple aesthetic. The products include a teapot, tea strainer, tea bowl, tea cup, mug, little cup, teaspoon, tapas bowl, pinch pots, milk pourer and carafe.
Mr & Mrs Teaset
The Terracotta range features a white glaze over red clay which is very striking. You can mix and match from a teapot, small lidded jar, cereal bowl, dessert bowl, tapas bowl, tumbler plus small and large jugs. For a simpler dinnerware collection try the New Bone China items include a dinner plate, side plate, cereal bowl and a lidded jar. The Eadie, Betty and Vera vases are beautiful. These are made from vitrified earthenware and polished for a smooth pebbly finish available in natural white stone, light grey, dark grey and indigo colours.
Emma Bridgewater is an inspiration for Sue, she says – “Emma started her business when all others were closing down. She had the tenacity and foresight to spot a gap in the market and kept going against the odds. I’m also inspired by traditional Wedgwood Jasperware from my time as a designer at Wedgwood.”
Buy Sue Pryke Products
Visit the Sue Pryke Website to buy the products which can be shipped overseas. Her products are also available at retailers such as Amara. To give you an idea of price points, they start at £15 and go up to £140. You can see Sue’s work at a showcase called Marks & Tools which will be at the Oxo Tower Gallery during London Craft Week from 4th to 7th May 2017. The theme is about the ‘Marks’ and ‘Tools’ of the maker and how these translate into different disciplines. The showcase is by Design Nation which is a membership organisation promoting UK designer-makers.
Author: Homegirl London. Thanks and Photographs: Sue Pryke.