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

Ceramic Review Issue 321

May/June 2023

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Ceramicist Ali Tomlin shares the processes and techniques she uses to throw and decorate one of her functional hand wash basins

I came to ceramics after a rewarding career in design. For 20 years it was a large part of my creative life, so it has definitely been an influence on my style of making. I learned how to throw at Putney School of Art with John Dawson. After a few years, I took part in the masterclasses he held in his garden (it always seemed to be sunny). When I moved out of London, I had a horribly long commute and with a small child to look after, it felt like it was time for a change. I was given an old potter’s wheel and started to make pots in the garage.

Since then, I have mainly been self-taught, along with  occasional workshops with potters such as Carolyn Genders and Gareth Mason and of course, videos on YouTube! I now work from my studio at home in Surrey. I have always drawn and designed and love the energy of random lines or marks, from a sketch, painting, or those found on stones or peeling paint. I constantly explore and am inspired by these elements, with drawing and painting alongside my pottery.

Ali Tomlin; photography Layton Thompson

Ali Tomlin; photography Layton Thompson

My work is a collection of thrown porcelain forms. I am interested in a variety across repetitions of form, although I am not too exacting about sizes; shapes are kept simple with white porcelain as a consistent background to a wide palette of colours and marks. 

I work on the pots when they are dry, using the chalky surface to apply stains, oxides and slips, splashing or sponging away areas and inlaying lines. I predominantly throw on the wheel as I want to capture a feeling of movement and spontaneity. I usually leave work unglazed, resulting in a soft, matte and very tactile surface. 

I encourage people to hold my pieces as I believe there is a connection once things are touched, people engage, they trace the lines around the pots with their fingers. My work is frequently described as calming and the idea of ceramics being mood-altering is an appealing one.

All my work is thrown porcelain – I use Studio porcelain from Clayman in Chichester. I combine reclaimed with fresh clay in approximately half and half proportions and fire in an electric kiln.

This Masterclass feature describes how I make a wash basin. I love knowing that unlike a bowl that can be moved, it will be a permanent fixture in someone’s home, looked at and, importantly, touched several times a day with the water splashing over the unglazed surface changing the appearance.

For more details visit alitomlin.com

Ali Tomlin; photography Layton Thompson