It’s great when people can move away from the island, get inspired and them return home to apply their love and experiences to something creative, taking further inspiration from our unique natural environment.
An artist through and through, Claire Haithwaite studied Art & Design at Kingston and then a BA at Falmouth Art College in Cornwall before moving to London to pursue a career in design, publishing and retail design. After 25 years away from her Jersey roots, she returned to the Island with her family, began studying ceramics and fell in love with pottery.
A stint renovating Dutch canal houses in Amsterdam with her husband gave Claire a love of interior design and an appreciation for design, function and ‘the character of everyday objects’. It developed into a passion that continues today as she seeks to create objects that people can both display and use around the home; ‘Making the everyday beautiful’. We asked her more about it >
Hi Claire, what are you making at the moment?
I’m making a commission; a ceramic panel for a client in Amsterdam. It’s his wife’s Christmas present. She dropped huge hints and, luckily for her, he reacted to them in the right way. I’m also creating some large ceramic sea urchin pieces, they are quite time consuming because each piece is stuck on by hand. Oh, also some Jersey clay salad bowls.
What is the average day like for a ceramic artist?
Every day is different. There are so many stages and processes in pottery. Today, for example, I emptied my kiln, then glazed some bowls, followed by throwing on the wheel – two large urchins. Tonight, after my supper, I’ll go back into my shed and start my new ceramic panel.
You actually dig your clay from our shores, is this something anyone can do?
Yes, I dig my own clay from the beach. I have to have a licence to do so from the Environmental Minister so other people shouldn’t go out and just start digging! Its an awful lot of work processing the clay so that its at a good enough consistency to throw a fine pot with. Most people would give up at the first hurdle. The firing of the clay is also very tricky and the method took a lot of experimentation so its a closely guarded secret!
What do you find most satisfying about ceramics?
Everything … from the tactile feel of the clay to opening the kiln to see all my finished little pots staring back at me, all perfect.
What’s the piece you’ve made you’re most proud of?
My first Jersey clay little bowl, it had no bubbles in and the glaze was just right.
Your career and interests moved through publishing, retail design and interiors, what would you be doing If you hadn’t chosen this path?
I did my work experience at school as a dental nurse, I loved it, making everything neat and tidy and all in order. I also liked the meeting and greeting, getting to interact with loads of different people. I quite liked the outfit too!
Where can people check out your work?
You can see my work in a static display in a window on 14 Gorey Pier, buy my Jersey clay pots at the Seahorse coffee shop at the bottom of Gorey hill or, at the moment, I am doing a pop up shop at Liberty Wharf every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until Christmas. After Christmas if people give me a call, they can come and see my work in my studio near Grouville church.
You offer courses too. What can people expect if they came along?
Its a one on one, two on one or three on one class. I go through the basics of how to throw a pot and work with my clients to achieve a lovely little pot which I will finish off and glaze and fire to a colour of their choice. I normally serve homemade Mary Berry lemon drizzle cake too!
Are you Crafty?
Our crafty islanders are drawn from the ranks of Genuine Jersey, the organisation that supports local producers who create products on the island. Learn more about the organisation and how you could become a members and get featured here in future at www.genuinejersey.com