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

Ceramic Review Issue 328

July/August 2024

Hannah McAndrew

A love of historic Staffordshire slipware pottery inspired Hannah McAndrew to make pots of her own using similar techniques and materials. Here she explains where the influence originated from and how it has impacted on her making

Charger by Thomas Toft, c.1660–1670, slipware, © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

There is something very alluring about the humble palette the historic potters of Staffordshire used and it is the understated beauty and simplicity of their pots that appeals to me. The colours were created by readily available raw minerals and clays from the maker’s immediate location. The tones although contrasting, complement each other – it is as though they naturally belong together. They are enhanced and enriched by a coat of treacly lead glaze.

In the late 1990s, I was an undergraduate of 3D Design at Manchester Metropolitan University, where I was primarily working with metal as I had an interest in making jewellery. However, the noise and lights of the metal workshop caused migraine attacks and I sought solace in the peaceful surroundings of the ceramic studios, without any expectations. I never imagined that clay would be so completely seductive and that it would determine the direction of my life henceforth.

My new-found interest was encouraged and nurtured by Alex McErlain, a hugely influential tutor who to this day is one of my dearest friends. Alex is still contributing to my career as an informal knowledgeable advisor and a key member of the firing crew of my wood kiln. He is a fine potter who introduced me to historical British pots and aspects of traditional studio pottery with an emphasis on functionality. He taught me how to throw and with determination I was able to produce my first pots. I recall the satisfaction and thrill of being able to use these early pieces in my day-to-day life. I was addicted.

After graduating and with the desire to become a potter still in my heart, I wrote to over 90 potters asking if they might take me on as an apprentice, all to no avail. Then I had a chance meeting with Jason Shackleton, a potter in Dumfriesshire, South West Scotland, who offered to give me a try – with apples and his home-baked bread in payment. I grabbed the opportunity and relocated to beautiful Galloway, the place that remains my home to this day.

Jason is a slipware maker, who had apprenticed with Mary Wondrausch. He had also worked with Alan Caiger-Smith, so unsurprisingly his work had a very strong emphasis on decoration. This was applied to robust traditional forms that drew influence from English country pottery, pots such as large bread crocks, jugs and dishes. The experience was extraordinary. I had never felt confident when drawing with a pencil on paper, but the fluidity of the glistening slip inexplicably released me from my inhibitions and I was able to draw freely on the surface of the pots with slip trailers that were constructed from bicycle inner tubes…

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

For more details visit hannahmcandrew.co.uk


Raven and Stars Charger, 2019 by Hannah McAndrew; Photo by Shannon Tofts