Homegirl London’s Interview: Sue Ure. Having been committed to throwing clay since she was 17, Sue branched out into homewares for her Maison collection back in 2014. She now offers a wonderful selection of ceramic tableware, ceramic vases, melamine table mats and place mats, tea towels, guest towels, table runners and napkins. With function, form and her own colour mixes at the heart of Sue’s designs, you’ll enjoy the sunny yet subtle palette influenced by her rural France location. I caught up with Sue Ure to find out more.
Meet Sue Ure
Sue tells me about her background – “After A levels, which is when I learned to throw (clay that is), I decided I didn’t want to go to art school as I wanted to be a potter. So, I worked for Emmanuel Cooper, who was an important figure in the world of craft ceramics. However, I thought after a year that I would like to go to university, so chose a degree which combined ancient history with ceramics. This sparked my interest in ancient artifacts and design.”
After her degree, Sue spent seven years teaching part time until she finally decided to take the plunge and go professional as a full-time ceramicist. Sue elaborates – “It was a big leap for me plunging into the unknown. I didn’t have the foggiest notion of how to approach shops about stocking my work. Luckily for me, it did fall into place nicely when I succeeded in supplying the first Conran Shop and several other well-known stores with my pieces.”
Sue is originally from London but decided some twenty years ago to relocate to South West France. She reveals – “It was a life choice to live in a rural environment. I wanted to have more space for workshops and a wonderful place for my small son to run around. Being a Londoner, I felt I’d be considered a “foreigner” if I went to Wales or Scotland for example. I thought I may as well go the whole hog and really be a foreigner in France! Being in a remote environment really makes me appreciate colleagues and the input of old friends. Having other people to bounce ideas around with is hugely important for me. I have number of people who I call on to help me and the business on a regular basis.”
Sue has been self-employed for so long that she can’t imagine not being her own boss. She says – “I think there are many benefits but also some pitfalls! I enjoy the variety of activities involved in running a business. However, as a maker, it’s very easy just to concentrate on the making processes rather than the admin! I’m lucky to help from my partner who supports me hugely. From building stands for shows and being there to talk things over, it’s great to have someone in your corner. Another great help is Arlene Morrissey who is responsible for my website, social media and my better photos! Other than that, I do pretty much everything else myself.”
View the Sue Ure Collections
Sue has two sides to her business. Sue Ure Ceramics is a hand thrown range comprising of tableware (bowls, mugs, teapots, milk jugs) and vases. Her ceramics are created using a skilled process which involves throwing, turning, handling, glazing and firing. Sue makes her own glazes and slips in the most amazing colours. She also makes bespoke collections for the William Morris Gallery, The Royal Academy shop and Tate Enterprises.
Sue Ure Maison is the most recent venture, it’s a diffusion range which was launched in 2014. This is a collection of homewares covering ceramic tableware, melamine table mats and place mats. It also includes textiles ranging from tea towels to guest towels, table runners and napkins. For her Maison venture Sue gets to work with other craftspeople who value the same socially and ecological responsible making as she does. The tableware slip-casting is handled by a small family workshop in Poland. She’s teamed up with a company based in Paris called Diama, who deal only in organic, fair-trade textiles. These are hand-woven by artisans in Senegal. The melamine table mats and place mats are made by a Lincolnshire company.
Extending beyond clay is exciting for Sue, she tells me – “I really enjoy the different challenges of working with other materials, although my melamine table mats started off with ceramic prototype. I called my first table mat range ‘Orbit’ because I was playing with the idea of space and movement. This is actually a table centrepiece that interlocks and can be swiveled around to create different layouts.”
Orbit Melamine Table Mats
In terms of her colour palette, Sue is very much influenced by her sunny climate. She tells me – “I really work on having bright, yet subtle colours and a harmony across all the materials I design for. A recent commission for the Morris Museum pushed me into areas of decoration that I’d not used for a long time and this prompted a whole new range ‘Nature’ in my hand-thrown ceramics range. It’s a family of motifs based on leaves, waves and strata and lends itself to infinite variations! I’m always thinking about new lines and directions, at the moment I’m working on a porcelain lighting models that I hope I’ll be able to launch next year …”
Slip Cast Tableware
Silhouettes are key to Sue’s work, she elaborates – “I’m very much the product of my mid-century generation. I grew up with furniture that have become design classics – the Ercol daybed sofa is one of them. I think very much in outlines; clean shapes and profiles really matter. It intrigues me that minute differences in the angle of a curve can so greatly change the dynamic of a bowl shape. I was a hopeless failure at maths in a family who all excelled at it and an appreciation of drawn geometric shapes is perhaps the only bit of the family talent that I managed to absorb!”
Buy Sue Ure Products
To find out more about Sue and to see her work visit the Sue Ure Ceramics Website. The stockists are listed on the website but if you have difficultly locating a piece please contact Sue directly. The stockists include online shops along with physical independent stores. Price points range from £15.00 to £90.00. If you are a professional client looking for a bespoke project, Sue is happy to chat about commissions.
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs and thanks: Sue Ure.