SITTING DOWN WITH CERAMICIST SAMUEL SPARROW
Posted on December 06 2023
Samuel Sparrow is one of the most exciting and talented ceramicists to emerge in the past five years. Having studied Design at Glasgow School of Art, he went on to work for Habitat and Ikea before turning away from mass production and establishing his own business.
His pottery has a functional, elegant style focussed on restrained shapes and forms. “My work aims to celebrate simplicity and functionality”, he says. “I want to highlight the inherent beauty of objects that are made by hand.”
Samuel spoke to us from his studio, a converted old Post Office in rural Scotland.
Katto: How and why did you first become interested in pottery?
SS: I studied at Glasgow School of Art. However, I threw my first pot in 2018 while attending a weekly course at an open studio in my hometown. The connection was immediate - from the moment I first sat down at the wheel I knew that this was what I wanted to do and I couldn't get enough of it. I’m not sure there’s any other discipline that encompasses so many processes. From the meditative action of centering, the physicality of wedging clay, to the alchemy of firing and glazing. There’s a lifetime of exploration and that’s incredibly motivating to me.
How did you arrive at your style of pottery?
I knew exactly what I wanted to make and I thought I would be a natural. I wasn’t! At the beginning my ability and skill level did not match the ideas I had. It’s taken time and patience for me to build the skills required to make the pots that were in my head. It’s humbling to remember I’m merely a participant in a craft that has existed for thousands of years.
From wheel throwing to hand-building, there are various ceramic techniques. Which one resonates with you the most, and why?
I production throw on a wheel. I will usually sit down and make around 100 pots in a day. There is a rhythm to making pots on the wheel that I find absorbing, everything else fades away. I’m currently making pots for Stuart Ralston’s new restaurant in Edinburgh and Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Miami.
How does your environment influence the forms, colors, and textures in your work?
My studio is an old Post Office, a short walk from home. I hope my studio and work both reflect one another. How my studio is laid out, the way the sun hits the metal shelving in the afternoon, the tools that I have hung on the wall, they all influence my work and how I make it.
How do you approach the balance between functionality and aesthetics in your ceramic pieces?
My forms are simple, functional and usually glazed in a matte white or left unglazed. I like to think they are more about what is not there; the absence of decoration or unnecessary detail. I find interest in clay, the crystals that form in glazes when cooled and the tension of where the base of a bowl meets the foot. There is really nowhere to hide and that excites me.
People often take to ceramics for relaxation. Is that still the case when you’re professional?
I would be lying if I said it was relaxing. It can be incredibly exhausting both mentally and physically, I usually sleep well after a day in the studio