Next in our #TenWithTom series, we spoke to Denby Pottery’s very talented Design Manager, Nicola Wilson.
Championing mindful living through versatile design, Denby Pottery craft a beautiful range of homeware and accessories that promise to last. We spoke to Denby’s Design Manager, Nicola Wilson, to find out more about this sustainable company, as well as collecting some summer styling inspiration…
TR: Tell us a bit about Denby Pottery...
NW:“Established in 1809, we’ve been making pottery in the heart of the English countryside for over 200 years. Using locally sourced clay, our stoneware is super durable, and every piece is made to last. Our craft begins by carefully observing real lives and designing products for the way we live. And this care continues through the design process, the magic of the glaze reactions, the unique iron-rich Derbyshire clay used, the scores of intriguingly-named pottery techniques we use (items can be fettled, jolleyed, sponged, turned, and dipped!), the journey into the high temperature kilns and through to the thorough final inspection which happens to every piece before it gets the Denby backstamp of approval.”
TR: How has your job role evolved through your time at Denby Pottery?
NW: “It’s hard to believe that I first started as a Junior Designer at Denby Pottery over 20 years ago! At that time, Denby launched around 2 collections a year worldwide. As my role developed from Designer to Senior Designer and then onto Design Manager, so did Denby’s portfolio and we introduced complementary glass and accessories, and I have been lucky enough to work on designing products for all these areas.
Alongside this, the lifestyles and eating habits of our customers was changing. Deeper interest in home décor, a casualisation of dining and a growing interest in more international cuisines has changed and increased our product offering.”
TR: Can you walk us through a typical day in your role?
NW: “That’s a hard one, as one of the reasons why I love my job is that each day can be different. If I’m at the start of a project, I will spend time researching – this can take the form of visiting stores and exhibitions, through to magazines and trend forecasting websites. I will catch up with our talented technical team to discuss the direction I wish to take projects and I’ll produce mood boards to capture the colours, textures and style of the glazes and patterns I’m after, and we will talk through them. Then it can be everything from assessing my glaze or pattern development trials, supporting other members of the Design team with their projects, working on CAD pattern designs, to meeting with members of the wider Denby team to discuss the status of current projects that are due to be launched.”
TR: What are the highs and lows when working with clay/pottery?
NW: “I love the fact that you never know exactly what will come off the kiln during the trialling process. Sometimes when new ideas don’t turn out as expected, you can get some of the best results, that takes you in a new direction. Obviously other times, it’s straight in the scrap tub to be recycled.
Working in a studio within the factory is one of the joys of my job. It allows me to explore techniques directly with our skilled craftspeople, many who have a wealth of knowledge about archive Denby products and manufacturing techniques.”
TR: Why is sustainability important to you?
NW: “It’s very important to us to care for the environment and to always be making positive conscious choices to help our planet long-term. We are proudly the first UK tableware manufacturer to be able to claim ‘zero to landfill’ for all our process waste and we also employ an Environmental Officer to ensure that Denby is constantly looking at ways to improve our sustainable approach. We are always evolving in this area and want to continue to do better.
As our stoneware is super-strong, you’re able to use it for occasions when you might otherwise use a disposable plate or cup, and being very versatile, it’s equally at home for the kids fishfingers as a dinner party with friends. We’re also a big fan of using ceramics all around the home, for instance using a beautiful large bowl as a storage piece for keys and wallets but also using it to present your favourite dessert in – one piece of Denby has many uses. “
TR: What has been your proudest design moment?
NW: “It has to be the first time I saw a collection that I had worked on in the shops and to hear customer reactions to it. Knowing that someone has made a choice to spend their hard-earned money on something that you have be involved in creating is the best feeling.”
TR: Where do you find creative inspiration?
NW: “Absolutely everywhere! Most designers are avid collections of ‘stuff’ and I’m no exception – I always carry a spare bag to collect all sorts of random bits and pieces I see that have a colour or texture that I like. The beauty of phones is that I always have a way of quickly capturing something that piques my interest whilst out and about.
With the main materials we use at Denby, particularly the clay, coming from the earth, I wanted my next collection to celebrate the natural beauty of the material. I worked with the team to create a warm, textured glaze and experimented with overspray techniques to add tactility. The outcome was Kiln, our latest stoneware collection."
TR: What do you think is the most important space in a home?
NW: “I use the spaces in my home differently at different times of day and I think homes need a good mix of spaces to function well. A hub to catch up with family and friends – mine is an open kitchen – is important, but we also need sanctuaries such as a chair in a cosy corner - mine is filled with books and plants – to escape from everything and unwind.”
TR: What is your favourite Tom Raffield design?
NW: “As a lover of houseplants, I am a big fan of the Green Range of steam bent wood planters. I also love the Verso asymmetrical pendant lights. The silhouettes created by the curves of such natural shapes are beautiful.”
TR: What are your tips for a Spring/Summer interior refresh?
NW: “Spring is a time to renew and refresh, so I know I will be having a sort through my possessions and re-appraising and re-arranging them. Not a minimalist, I like to be surrounded by my things rather than having everything put away in cupboards, but I like to change them around to showcase different pieces or colour stories.
Why not put together small, curated displays of your favourite possessions on shelves, mixing materials such as pottery, wood, and glass together: the neutral hues of our new Kiln collection complement other natural materials. I use both the organic shapes and the mugs as plant pots (currently growing tomato plants in mine!) as well as in the kitchen.
As summer approaches, bring the outside in too. Use fragrant herbs such a lavender, rosemary, and mint alongside house plants to add scent to your space. There is no such thing as too many plants in my book!”