Homegirl London pays homage to Keith Brymer Jones. He’s a British ceramic designer who has been in the business for 20 years. His trademark style is the creation of modern pieces – cups, mugs, teapots and sugar bowls with simple ‘words’ or ‘slogans’ in an old typeset style. His ‘Word’ collection features obvious terms to suit the function of each piece, for example, the Cappuccino bucket mug simply states ‘Cappuccino.’ I love his Punk range which includes safety pins through the ceramics and well-loved lyrics with a twist – ‘Pret tea v’acant, ‘God save the tea,’ ‘Sex, mugs and rock ‘n roll.’ He’s also created the Welsh range which celebrates the resurgence of the language and a baby set. As a sideline to the ceramics he also has a selection of tins and fabrics – aprons, oven gloves and mitts, tea towels and teapot cosies. I caught up with Keith to ask him a few questions …
Q: What’s your background, did you train in ceramics?
A: I did start my career as a clay boy at Harefield Pottery in the mid-’80s. This was pottery where everything was hand thrown and we made our own clay. It was a perfect place to learn all the aspects of the ceramic process. The best way to describe it is; like working on an artistic building site where I learnt how to use traditional hard-graft to make beautiful but usable, practical objects. Around 1990 I started to design and my own pottery, entirely hand-making unique domestic pieces in earthenware and porcelain. These were quickly picked up by major high street stores – Habitat, Laura Ashley and also Barneys New York – this was the beginning of the Keith Brymer Jones (KBJ) brand.
Q: How did you come up with the concept of using words on your pieces?
A: Well, to be quite frank it was my wife really who suggested it. So I played around with the idea and found an old typesetting company based in the heart of London. They still used zinc and magnesium plates for the printing industry. I had some made up in old typewriter text as I thought this was the most aesthetically pleasing. There was also a good contrast to the clean and contemporary lines and shapes of the range I was designing. When I took the first few samples out of the kiln I knew I had something special and that had far-reaching implications in terms of options for the then early conceived design. The fact that at an early age I was quite dyslexic meant I viewed the words as a design rather than just text. I love the shape of some words.
Q: I love your punk range. Were you ever a punk?
A: Not really a punk as such as a little before my time by a few years, but I was in a post-punk band. We had a bit of success Radio 1 Sessions and a few records. I liked and am still into bands such as Joy Division, the Sex Pistols, PiL and the Buzzcocks. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a diehard punk and my musical tastes are quite eclectic.
‘God save the tea’ bucket mug £14
Q: Tell me more about your Welsh range?
A: Well yes! I have a Welsh background. A company called Bodlon, headed up by Nia Evans approached me when I was still making the range by hand. So I developed the Welsh range and when it then went into mass production we just carried on making it due to the success and the resurgence in the Welsh language. “Cymru am byth!”
‘Cariad’ bucket mug, set of 2 for £20
Q: What are your most popular pieces?
A: The Love Bucket Mugs and the What Came First Eggcups
‘Love’ bucket mug, set of 2 for £20
‘What came first? The chicken or the egg?’ set of 4 for £15
Q: Tell me more about your role at Make International.
A: I am ‘Head of Design’ for Make and a fellow director with Dominic, my business partner. I met Dom in 2007 after just working on the KBJ brand alone. Dom had, for a time, been running a production and sourcing company based out of Hong Kong / China. He explained to me that he wanted to focus on mainly one area – ceramics and could see the potential in the ‘word’ range that I had designed and was still hand-making. The first initial factory samples were so good that we teamed up. Make International had been created by this time, but as Dom explained to me “you do the pots and I’ll do the pennies.” And we went from there! I work to develop new ranges with other designers and clients we bring on board to the Make portfolio. Basically anything you look at within Make is down to me – catalogues, the ranges and the look of our trade stands. I do the pots, Dom does the pennies! It’s a good partnership.
Q: What’s coming up for the remainder of 2012?
A: There’s a home fragrance range on the way soon that we are really excited about. Plus we are having lots of fun at the moment putting together our first promotional films, take a look at the website to see ‘Keith Encounter,’ our take of the classic film Brief Encounter … Our spoof film includes a whole batch of new mugs (some a little cheekier than others) that we will be launching this year.
See below for a selection of ceramics from Keith’s ‘Word’ range. To purchase go to Kieth Brymer Jones. Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of KBJ, special thanks to Keith Brymer Jones and Sophie Stevens.
‘Tea’ cup and saucer set of 2 £25, ‘Milk’ jug £10-£15, ‘Tea’ pot £25-50, ‘Sweet’ sugar bowl £8.50
‘Crush’ mortar and pestle £30
‘Custard’ extra-large jug £25