Sunday, 17 October 2010

finding a factory

so I've got the design concepts well underway and now all I've got to do is find a factory that can make it.Simple !!!

I'm not sure if any of you have been to stoke-on-trent but it's a bitter sweet place, the demise of the pottery industry has really taken it's toll, there are some amazing industrial buildings that are now shells of their former selves. The amazing thing is if you start to walk around the back streets you will find tiny potteries ( and some big ones too ) that are still managing to make beautiful products, the skill of some of the craftspeople employed in these places is quite breath taking. Anyway this is what I did I walked around the back streets of stoke and wandered into any small pottery I could find, most of them were very supportive and to be honest if you are willing to talk pots to anyone in stoke you can have many interesting conversations and pointers of where to go next.
the old Shelley factory

My main issue was the breadth of making skill I required , some factories could only make mugs and some could only slip cast items and the real deal breaker was the fact that I needed plates and bowls.
typical potbank

With this in mind I decided to be brave and contact one of the larger potteries. With a couple of phone calls we agreed to meet, I was quite concerned that they'd not take me serious so I took one of my Dragons with me for back up. This was the turning point, they liked the concept and agreed to help me out.....things just got serious. Realising how much it was going to cost just to get proto types I decided to sell my car ( and it was a very nice car ) , borrow some funds ( thanks mum ! ) and turn this idea into reality.

I think I mentioned Hayley earlier on, well Hayley is the most upbeat, positive, enthusiastic and go getter person I know. I once flew to New York with Hayley, we started talking when we sat in our seats for take off and we didn't stop till we landed. Hayley was at the time ( and still is ) up to her eye balls in restuarant stuff...her and her brother own 3....but she always found time for an afterwork meeting, usually on a friday when we were both ready for the weekend. She focused me, made me do lots of branding stuff; who was my customer, what did the end user look like, what were their hobbies, likes , dislikes etc etc. I think we covered every possible scenario !  With her help Little Walton Bank started to get a personality.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

the design issue.....

It's very strange, in fact I think it's a pride thing, once you've shared your dreams with a few people and people you respect at that, you feel like you 've got to go and actually do something to prove you're not just all talk. So having shared the dream with my dragons the next thing to do was to put my money where my mouth was and give us something real to talk about. One of my special dragons kept telling me to remember that the design was the easy bit for me, with that ringing in my ears I felt an enormous amount of pressure to come up with something brilliant.....this resulted in a few sleepless nights and times of blind panic and lots of ideas that ended up in the's that pride thing again. Once I'd calmed down I started to tackle it as a design project.

Now if there are any fellow pot geeks out there you'll probably be as in awe of Midwinter, Hornsea and TG Green as I am. Midwinter looks as good today as I'm sure it did in it's heyday, there is something amazingly refreshing about the product, the shapes and patterns just do it for me ! I decided to be heavily influence by the shapes of midwinter. The plates are made in the same way and dare I say some of the craftsmen at the factory ( more of later ) originally worked at Midwinter.

   my little sketchbook of mugs

So the plates and bowls came together pretty quickly, the mug was
a different challenge. Our home needs from drinking vessels has changed quite a lot from the 50's, so the challenge was to create something distinctive and practical, now I'm not that bad at mugs so I came up with the little walton bank mug relatively quickly. I knew it had to function brilliantly, the handle had to be comfy for a wide variety of users from delicate hands to the big butch ones - the mug is quite a personal piece of pottery - we all have our favourites and we all have ones we hate using , lets be honest it's something we actually put our lips to , it's a very intimate piece of equipment. My solution is quite simple - to take the shape of the plate ( a soft square ) and combine it with a round, lets face it circles are a big part of our lives, echo this on the handle and we've got a practical yet beautiful' been designed to be used, generous capacity and yes it keeps your drink warm for longer, most people want to hug it.

With the shape sorted the pattern side of things started to take shape. I decided to stick with the things I love, colour, texture, words and a little bit of retro....
moodboard for 'birdware'
With the pattern gaining momentum I decided it was time to be brave and show my dragons how the design was progressing. So over a glass of wine I started to share the concepts....they liked the design/ style direction and felt I had enough information to find a factory who would be willing to make it.

At this point my studio space at Little Walton Bank was my second home, I'd come home from work sort the children out and when they were tucked up in bed hot foot it to my desk to get things going.
my studio