'Once up to speed, it is possible to produce around 200 tiles a day using this method.' In this masterclass, potter and Froyle Tiles' owner Rich Miller discusses making hand-carved and pressed tiles with relief designs. Find the full step-by-step masterclass inside Ceramic Review issue 296 (March/April 2019).
‘Making things was a passion from a young age, but it was during my time at college, and thanks to a particularly good teacher, that this enthusiasm was directed towards clay. I remember vividly the mesmeric quality of the clay on the wheel head as it seemed to become almost liquid in Martin Snelling’s hands when he first demonstrated throwing. All of my work and experimentation immediately started to centre around ceramics. Casting, throwing, constructing: the endless possibilities excited me.
I continued my ceramics education on the BA course at Farnham, under the tutelage of Magdalene Odundo, Gareth Mason, Clare Twomey and two wonderful technicians, Myra McDonnell, formerly of Aldermaston Pottery and Andy Matthews, an enthusiastic kiln builder and engineer.
My ceramics education was dominated by a fascination with process, and though my ideas lacked maturity, I was in love with the material and the firing process. Upon leaving Farnham, like many graduate makers, I bounced between a number of jobs to keep my head above water. Teaching evening classes, taking on residencies and selling my own work where possible.
Casting, throwing, constructing: the endless possibilities excited me
In December 2006 a friend informed me that Froyle Tiles (formerly part of Rupert Spira’s Froyle Pottery) was closing, and that there might be some equipment available. I went to have a look and met Keith Bramley who had been running the tile works for the past ten years or so. Keith was a humble, warm, encouraging man who demonstrated a confident application of skill with an innate understanding of the material.
I was seduced by the products, the glazes and the fascinating, varied commissions that Froyle had undertaken and I decided to take on the business. Keith nursed me through the process of tile-making during my first year in a way that immediately set me at ease – no matter how big the disaster! He sparked an enthusiasm for tile production that continues to sustain my passion today.
Over the 13 years I’ve owned Froyle Tiles, alongside the standard handmade stoneware tiles we’ve produced for domestic spaces, I’ve also had the pleasure of being part of some wonderful projects, collaborating with interior designers, architects and other makers. Projects of note include 24 Savile Row, a collaboration with Kate Malone and EPR Architects, glazing over 10,000 crystalline glazed tiles for the building’s façade; glazing tiles for the new pavilion at Tate St Ives for Jamie Fobert Architects; and the production of floor tiles for the V&A with Grymsdyke Farm, an experimental materials and process lab for architects.
The histories and narratives bound into many of the tiles that surround us in public and domestic spaces have formed the basis of my practice
The tile company has also had a profound influence on my own work, which I have continued to produce while running Froyle. The histories and narratives bound into many of the tiles that surround us in public and domestic spaces have formed the basis of my current practice. My work draws on themes of British colonialism, which I explore through my one-off mugs, jugs and lidded jars.
In my masterclass I demonstrate the process we use to create small runs of hand-pressed relief tiles. Once up to speed, it is possible to produce around 200 tiles a day using this method.’
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