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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

Daniel Boyle takes us through the processes and techniques he uses to throw, ash glaze and salt fire his vibrantly decorated pots

I was first drawn to working with clay while studying Art and Design at Newbury College at the age of 17. It was a full-time two-year A-level art course that was both experimental and focussed – a complete submersion in art. The college had a large ceramics room with a couple of wheels and kilns that were seldom used. I was drawn to the space by the hypnotic qualities of throwing and clay with idealistic thoughts of becoming a potter and was soon filling the shelves with pots.

I had some direction from the course leader, a former graduate from Central St Martins, who encouraged me to apply for the Studio Pottery HND course at Harrow (now sadly no longer running) – he told me I would learn to throw and make kilns and that it had a very practical curriculum. It was all that it promised – a close-knit group including many mature and international students. We would throw into the evenings while learning all the technical and artistic complexities that challenge a potter. The kiln site was one of my favourite places. The different firings to explore just drew me in deeper, my love of a good bonfire and fascination with fire as a child emerged into a love of kilns and firings of all kinds. It is here that I started to make my first explorations into salt firing inspired by the Harrow tradition.

Daniel Boyle Masterclass, March 2022; photography by Layton Thompson

Daniel Boyle Masterclass, March 2022; photography by Layton Thompson

On completion of the course, I moved my practice to a shared space in Balls Pond Studios in London, before moving out and setting up my own workshop in some old stables on a farm near Kintbury in Berkshire. This was a very developmental time, still learning the ‘art’ of salt glazing, with plenty of accidents and challenges, while also working part time as a technician on the Harrow course.

In 1997, I moved to West Wales where we bought a smallholding with a collection of barns to set up my pottery. John Seymour’s Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency and The Self-Reliant Potter by Andrew Holden have guided me in my improvised approach to using what is available. 

From Wales I have continued to develop my work – mainly wheel-thrown forms – simple and functional, sometimes slab-built or thrown and assembled. I work in stoneware making shapes developed to combine with my glazing surfaces. 

My fascination with experimental and unconventional firing techniques has never gone away and I now salt fire in a combination of purpose-built and recycled kilns. At the moment, I am firing a radically modified 1970s Cromartie electric kiln, now running on gas – pushing the boundaries of traditional salt glaze to enrich my pots. Vibrant slips and ash glazes are applied in multiple layers to encourage the firing process to leave its mark on the ware. 

I travel widely across the UK and Europe and exhibit at many ceramic shows and events where I enjoy being part of an international community of potters and connecting with my customers. I also serve as a director of the International Ceramics Festival held biannually in Aberystwyth. I have recently completed an architectural commission making a salt-glazed fascia for a restaurant in Fulham producing, as with my work, a modern interpretation on traditional salt glaze.

For more details visit danielboyleceramics.com; Ceramic Art London, 8-10 April, Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross, London; ceramicartlondon.com

Daniel Boyle Masterclass, March 2022; photography by Layton Thompson