Meet the maker – Glorious mud ceramics
Glorious mud ceramics are a quirky UK brand, making unusual things out of clay. Everything is designed by hand in the UK. From their bestselling jigsaw shaped coasters and mugs with a map of your area on, to fine bone china baubles, ceramic cards, bowls, plates and cushions featuring their designs.
How did it all start?
I have wanted to be able to throw pots on a wheel since I saw someone doing it on Blue Peter aged about 8. Even before I got the chance to join a pottery evening class while I was at university, I was always drawing and making things. After a completely different career, much better paid but a lot less fun, (corporate marketing) I am finally getting to do what I love all day everyday. I consider myself very lucky.
For the first few years I threw pots, decorated and glazed them and sold them at craft fairs and through galleries. However, my business background meant that I soon figured out that there aren’t enough hours in the year to make a living at it, so plan B was hatched with a friend. We decided that I needed to do something different, that would stand out from all the people selling mugs, jugs and bowls. It also needed to be something I could get help with, and I am now working with a team of makers, so we can expand the business and supply small shops as well as our retail customers. I also feel very strongly about keeping our craft skills alive in this country, so am doing what I can to put jobs back into the ceramic industry.
The story behind the name…
“mud, mud glorious mud, nothing quite like it…” from the Flanders and Swann song. And as anyone hooked on making pots will tell you, it really is glorious. The only problem is that I find myself explaining, as most people under the age of 40 have never heard the song!
What inspires you?
The common theme running through my hand thrown work, and the glorious mud ranges is the use of obsolete objects, and things nobody wants anymore. From old maps, vintage typewriter letters, old items of clothing scanned into Photoshop for the decorations, and lace used to imprint the clay. We also now have new “reclaimed” items (old kiln props) which we are saving from the skip and decorating to make into bowls and beakers.
What is your creation process?
The initial idea usually hangs around in my brain for a while, and then gets the ” funny look test” from my team. (If they smile at me politely with a funny expression, I know it’s a bad idea) If it’s a new shape then I make several prototypes on the potters wheel. Once I am happy with one, it is fired and made into a plaster mould that can then be used for casting by the team in Stoke. After many adjustments, the item can be made, dried and fired twice.
If it is a new design to go on an existing mug, coaster, decoration, or whatever, I sit down and do a lot of line drawings, before playing around with them in Photoshop, and adding colours. These are usually taken from scanning old items of clothing, as I think it makes them more interesting. The design once ready is printed on to ceramic decal paper, and applied to the glazed item. It will then get a third firing up to 830 degrees C. Baubles and anything with gilding on will get a fourth firing. For the map items I have a large collection of vintage OS maps, so can scan any location and make a bespoke product for the customer, again making a ceramic decal.
What makes you, your brand or products unique?
We hand make unique, quirky and original products that make people smile
What is your next project?
I am using this quiet lock down time to work on new shapes and designs, and revamp the website which is much overdue.
What is your biggest achievement?
Starting this business from scratch, from my kitchen table, without investing any money other than for the basic equipment and first lot of clay. The profits have been reinvested each year, and I am very proud that I am now able to make a living and employ people. It is hard work, but well worth it.
What is your best-selling product/line?
The map coasters make great presents, and can be bespoke to the recipient’s address, so they sell really well, as do the letter coasters and mugs.
What do you love about Country Living Fairs?
I love the Christmasy atmosphere at the London fair, seeing the other exhibitors each year, and meeting all my lovely customers time after time. The good thing about selling map products is that it makes for some great conversations.
Your three top tips for crafters and makers…
- Make things people want – otherwise your spare room will get really full!
- Work out what you need to charge to make at least minimum wage. If you can’t sell it for that then maybe don’t make it…
- Enjoy what you do, and when it gets tough, remind yourself how lucky you are.
Any advice for fledgling businesses…
Do your research. Just because you love what you make, others might not. That’s fine for a hobby, but not a business.
Read more about Glorious mud ceramics and shop their products at: http://www.gloriousmudceramics.co.uk