From wood to willow, leather to ceramics, our new Meet the Maker series shines a spotlight on the wealth of talented craftspeople working in Britain today. This week it’s the turn of maker Emma Lacey, whose simple hand-thrown tableware combines day-to-day functionality with exquisite design – and elevates teatime to a whole new level
Where did you train and did you always have an interest in ceramics?
I have always, for as long as I can remember, been making things. It was a luxury to be able to take this passion all the way through my education and forge a career in making.
My first degree was in 3D Crafts at the University of Brighton. I specialised in Ceramics and Metalwork. I completed my Masters in Design: Ceramics at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and it was here that I was able to investigate and develop my design-led ranges of ceramic tableware.
What inspires your collections?
I like regularity and clean lines and am interested in how slight disturbances in these can highlight the materiality of the object and its production methods.
I always had a passion for life drawing and love sensuous bodily forms and the way light and shadow can intersect and draw over surfaces. Clay, making processes and their possibilities inspire the development of new ranges, as well as a consideration of how the object will be felt and used. Sometimes my clients inspire a new range.
How would you describe your pieces?
Tactile, ergonomic, practical, quiet.
We love your colours. How do you go about choosing the exact shades?
I always start with the form. It is often a client that will ask for a particular colour. Once I begin testing colours there is always a consideration of how each tone fits within a set or collection. If there is something I particularly like I might develop a new range specifically in this colour palette. My current favourite colour combinations are the shades of grey and the pink, white and slate.
Tea lovers collect my ceramics – they like the generous proportions of the Everyday mugs
Can you talk us through the design and making process?
Sometimes I will start with a pen and paper but more often I will start at the wheel. The studio is my sketchbook and the beauty of clay, or plaster, is that you can work it quite quickly to be able to understand how your ideas work in three dimensions. When developing new work I have an intuitive sense of the types of form and proportion that are acceptable to me and which fit with the aesthetic of ‘Emma Lacey’s’ ceramics.
The work does evolve over time – this is the nature of the handmade and humanness of the objects. Most work is currently hand-thrown, though I do use plaster models and moulds sometimes. I use stoneware clays or porcelain and fire to high temperatures, partly for durability and partly because I love the stone like qualities achieved at these temperatures.
What kind of person collects your ceramics?
Tea lovers, for sure – they like the generous proportions of the Everyday mugs. I think my work is quite accessible and have customers of all ages and walks of life. I think lots of them are design-conscious and appreciate well-designed and made objects.
Do you have a favourite piece?
I like using the Rainbow mugs at home. I have one which I have not launched yet… it looks like a midnight landscape, sexy!
Describe the space in which you work. How important is your working environment and do you prefer music or silence?
Last year I moved the studio home. I am a bit of a control freak and am pretty organised in the studio. Everything has its place. I produce quite high volumes of work so am actually set up like a mini factory. As the space is small I have quite fast cycles of making, glazing, packing and sending work out.
I like listening to the radio when working on repetitive task, sometimes music, sometimes a bit of Woman’s Hour! I do like silence when writing or designing, though. Focus is really important to me.
Proudest achievement so far?
Ooh, tricky question… I’ll go for getting a Distinction at Central Saint Martins for the MA. I was convinced I had taken a risk too far with my work and was preparing myself for catastrophic results. My MA dissertation was also published in the international Journal of Design, which was important to me as my goals for the MA were to take my craft skills and be able to exploit these in a design context.
Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
The business is always evolving and I am excited about this (keep an eye on my newsletters for updates). I have been teaching BA Ceramic Design students at Central Saint Martins this year, and am excited to see their degree show in a couple of weeks’ time. They have been working really hard, so it’s going to be a great show.
And finally, what is your everyday luxury?
Small things. I set myself targets during the day, such as a cup of tea once I have finished putting 50 handles on cups. Or a sleepy cuddle from my children in the morning (if they get up on the right side of bed!).
Emma Lacey is stocked in The Conran Shop