• Phoebe Smith - Ceramicist

    Phoebe Smith is a ceramic artist living and working in Bristol from her home studio where she runs her own practice alongside teaching. Her journey through craft began whilst studying a degree in Embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University where she graduated in 2010. It was here that a love of process and traditional handcrafts were developed and nurtured. A fascination in the process of turning raw materials into new objects of function and beauty is of huge importance in the creation of all her work; It is imperative that a true understanding of the boundaries in which the craft and process exists is maintained at all times. Phoebe's work is inspired by memories of land, sea and sky. Her connection to the natural environment is visceral, has a sensory impact and is an integral part of her artistic expression.

  • Phoebe is less motivated by a desire to express a literal representation of her experience, but rather a sense of the feelings and moods imparted on her by her journeys through English countryside. Her current body of work draws specifically on memories of summers from her childhood home of North Norfolk, of dusty sunsets, rolling fields and big horizons. It is her hope to that the ethereal quality of mark making and chosen tones with the fluid forms she creates make for more than just a visual experience but take on a much more physical presence. It was during her initial studies that a fascination in the process of turning raw materials into new objects of function and beauty is of huge importance in the creation of all her work; It is imperative that a true understanding of the boundaries in which the craft and process exists is maintained at all times. The way in which the creative process meets the utilitarian in functional ceramics drives her work, blurring the boundaries of the precious with the everyday object. Creating elegant forms that are perfect for their intended use in the home. Post university Phoebe found an increasing interest in more three-dimensional forms drew her to explore ceramics, where in pottery classes she felt a instant affiliation with both material and process. Despite working in a very different medium with completely different processes from that of her early studies, Phoebe still draws on the lessons in creative practice and exploration of ideas learnt in during her degree.

  • Her move to Bristol came due to a very conscious decision to move forward with her creative career, to really focus on learning and understanding the details of her chosen craft, ceramics. Upon moving to Bristol Phoebe rented a space at Maze Studios where she dedicated her time in learning firstly how to throw and then on building her knowledge of ceramic practice. It has been imperative to Phoebe that she builds a detailed knowledge of her craft, from the preparation of clay, production of work, development of glazes right through to the firing process. With Bristol being fairly small its very easy to walk about and explore, environment always influences her creative practice, often making mental notes of colours and textures to bring into her work.  Bristol is a wonderfully creative city which is a great push as a maker but also means there is a huge support network of people making similar journeys. Phoebe is now fortunate to have a studio at the end of her garden which she converted a in 2017. Prior to this she was working full time whilst trying to set up a business - not the easiest thing to do! Luckily a few things fell into place enabling her to build a studio, quit her job and begin teaching; creating a structure that enabled her to make proper space for her own practice. Phoebe is currently trying to draw together all that she has learnt over the past 10 years to create a product range that she feels best reflects her love of ceramics; pulling together all the ideas, inspiration and explorations into work that succinctly expresses who she is as a maker.

  • Liz Vidal - Ceramicist

    Liz Vidal creates functional ceramics and unique one-off pieces using stoneware or porcelain. She is inspired by the idea that her pots become a part of someone’s daily ritual, whether that be as their favourite bowl for breakfast or first choice of mug for their morning coffee. The sense that their owners build relationships with these objects, which in time hold memories and emotions for them, fascinates Liz. Having grown up in Kent, Liz moved to Manchester for university. Studying Three Dimensional Design at Manchester School of Art was the beginning of her journey into functional ceramics and led to an apprenticeship at North Street Potters in London. Here Liz learnt the ins and outs of running a successful studio and taught herself to throw. She sees this time as the most significant in her career and soon began to make ranges of tableware for restaurants, including Coya in Mayfair, and Fera at Claridges. Throwing 100s and 100s of small ceviche bowls was great practice and the sales of these pots was the perfect way to save for an adventure overseas.

  • An urge to experience new cultures and their relationship with ceramics inspired Liz to look for opportunities outside of the UK to develop her skills and immerse herself in a new world of pottery. This urge took Liz to the Gaya Ceramic Art Centre in Ubud, Bali, where she spent 6 months interning. She taught pottery classes to expats, learnt how to wood fire, helped run the studio and became skilled in sgraffito, sometimes spending days perfecting the decoration on one plate. After her internship Liz travelled for another 12 months during which time she undertook a residency with Renton Bishopric, a potter on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Renton’s studio is an old horse stable with no proper doors, a resident 7ft python in the rafters and no running water - a stark contrast to the workspaces she was used to. When returning to the UK, London felt too hectic to return to and the creative buzz of Bristol was a massive draw. It seemed the perfect location to grow a small business within a supportive artistic community. Liz lives in the city but works at Hillside Studios, which are located in the countryside on the outskirts of Bristol, with a view out towards the Severn Bridge and Wales. Originally a pigsty, it seemed as good a place as any to create a mess! She was looking for a space that would allow her to make as well as teach. Set in a meadow with several other studios housing artists, with her doors open to the wild flowers, trees and a freshwater dipping pool, Liz has certainly found the idyllic creative space. Whilst working in Australia, where Renton’s workshop overlooked Mount Coolum, Liz realised how much having a view can influence your productivity and mood. Being close to nature is important to her, and her work, and driving out to the studio in the calming countryside always eases her into the day ahead.

  • Liz also draws inspiration from visiting the green spaces in the city, including the downs or the beautiful meadows of South Purdown. She loves that in Bristol you are never too far away from a spectacular view.

    Liz is currently producing work for a variety of local restaurants and shops including Pocos Tapas in Stokes Croft, and Two Belly on Whiteladies Road. With a style that has been described as rustic and fresh, she plans to continue creating handmade wares for local homes and businesses. As with all crafts, there is such a rich history in ceramics and many avenues to explore, whether it be a different firing technique or new form to throw, Liz hopes to never stop learning.

    Sitting at her pottery wheel, in her studio just north of Bristol, Liz describes the mindful process of making her pots. Each piece starts as a lump of clay which is wedged, weighed and divided into balls for throwing. After a piece is thrown on the wheel it's left to dry for a day or two until it's 'leather hard', but still soft enough to trim the bottom or attach a handle. The pots are then left to completely dry out before firing to 1000 degrees in her electric kiln. Once fired, they are unloaded and glazed in Liz’s unique colour combinations before being re-fired. Two days later the kiln is opened to reveal a treasure trove full of beautiful pots, from matt speckled plates to glossy turquoise mugs, it’s a delight for the senses!