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Ceramic Review is the magazine for contemporary and historical ceramics, ceramic art and pottery.


Ceramic Review Issue 302

March/April 2020

Work by Sue Pryke; photo courtesy of the artist

Sue Pryke has unearthed a childhood treasure. It’s a white melamine plate, with a chip to one edge. Ordinary? Possibly. But there’s something about it. It’s crisp in design and not round, but square. A survivor from our aviation history, when 20th-century names like Robin and Lucienne Day styled interiors for BOAC Super VC10’s, this piece would have featured in an on-flight dining service. Its ergonomic shape ensured comfort of use, efficiency and style. Pryke is fascinated by it. As a child, this is what she chose to play with, eschewing the round, red tea set on offer.

It is tempting to take this plate as the genesis of Pryke’s work today. She calls herself a shape designer. To most she is a designer maker, known for her sophisticated, utilitarian pieces that have a particular quality of stillness to them. Her passion is tableware. Her tactile tea bowls and teapots, plates and pourers sing out as beautiful stand-alone pieces. Together they turn a laden table into a scape that is both soothing and highly individual.

Pryke’s style has led to her consulting, collaborating and designing for names such as IKEA, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis. Her ideals chime with those of figures like William Morris, in that she can’t see why good design and fine pieces should not be accessible and affordable for everyone.

This is something she has been working on since her student dissertation, when she focused on the accessibility of design on the high street. Among her heroes are names such as David Mellor, Robert Welch and Sir Kenneth Grange, creator of the Kenwood Mixer and 2011 InterCity train – people whose stand-out design reaches millions through manufacture.

 

Based in her workshop in a former textile factory outside Leicester, Pryke shares a particular groundedness with such figures. She is a mindful maker, but with a rigorous practicality to her approach. A delve into her background reveals why. She comes from a farming family who worked the land in Lincolnshire, surrounded by soil and soaring skies. ‘My father was a top grower who grew

salad crops for the big supermarkets,’ she says. ‘Each lettuce had to be flawless and the key to success was that every one had to be identical. It was all in the detail. He used the word “continuity”, referring to good time and motion – and efficiency.’ As a reluctant teenager working the fields after school and during the holidays, Pryke couldn’t have known that she was laying foundations for a later love for production pottery, with its rhythm, process and need for a perfect ‘sameness’…

Subscribe to continue reading this article in issue Ceramic Review Issue 302 (March/April 2020)

For more details visit suepryke.com

Work by Sue Pryke; photo courtesy of the artist