cheese dish by herefordshire potter sarah monk

cheese dish by herefordshire potter sarah monk

Sarah’s new designs are on display at Contemporary Ceramics Centre, the only retail Gallery in London specialising exclusively in British Studio Ceramics.

She has two new collections on show until the end of December 2020:

Breakfast Ware consisting of querky espresso cups, wobbly looking egg cups and an interesting collection of cereal bowls. The image above is a slipware cheesedish most definitely the biggest pinch pot item she’s made!!

Bathroom Ware consisting of hand built ceramic soap dishes of varying shapes and sizes, including her popular soap pillows and a selection of hand thrown toothbrush mugs.

hand made bathroom ceramics by herefordshire potter sarah monkcraft potters association logohand made egg cups and espresso mugs by eastnor potter sarah monk

The Gallery is run by the Craft Potters Association, of which Sarah has been a selected professional member for over 25 years. They set it up as a ‘benchmark for current practice in studio ceramics and with regularly changing display’  It’s always possible to purchase  a wide range of work from functional tableware to individual collectors pieces.

Sarah’s new work can be purchased from their own online shop here!

Sarah was also invited by Contemporary Ceramics Centre to write about her design process on their blogspot which can be viewed here!! It’s titled ‘In Conversation with Sarah Monk’.

Sarah also has a SHOP on her website and she will be stocking shelves very soon!

 

introduction to the potter's wheel participants at eastnor pottery

As we prepare to close our doors for the 2nd National Lockdown, we’d like to share this article commissioned by our valued partners Virgin Experience Days and penned by Kam Scott at The PHA Group

It succinctly records our experience of emerging from the 1st National Lockdown in July.

Jon Williams, 50, from Ledbury, Herefordshire set up Eastnor Pottery with his wife Sarah Monk, also 50, 26 years ago. Since then, they’ve been teaching the British public how to get to grips with a potter’s wheel and coach them through the process of clay throwing.

“It’s our baby”, Jon says, “What started out as a studio where Sarah and I made pots to be sold all over the world became our everything – a place where we could do what we loved and work with other people. We never factored in the possibility of our business being affected by a global pandemic – who does?!”

Like many other small businesses, COVID-19 threw the future of Eastnor Pottery into complete chaos. In total, Eastnor Pottery was closed for just over 15 weeks, from 17th March until 4th July. At one point, Jon was forced to start thinking about other work: “It was really concerning. I just couldn’t see how we could sustain what we do here. I seriously dabbled with the idea of becoming a postman to keep us afloat.”

pottery class participants socially distanced at eastnor pottery in herefordshire

Before COVID-19, Eastnor Pottery employed a core team of four people, increasing to seven in the summer months during Peak season. When lockdown hit, Jon and Sarah had to shrink the team right back to just the two of them: “The uncertainty of the situation was very unsettling. As a business owner you are responsible for the wellbeing of your staff. Having to shut up shop for three months meant there was no work for our employees. Luckily, we were able to access the furlough scheme and the government’s small business grant.”

Working with Virgin Experience Days meant that the team had a huge number of classes to put on hold. This really shone a light on some of the admin processes that needed revamping and in a bittersweet turn of events, lockdown allowed Jon and Sarah the time to address these issues: “I’m historically one of those people who will write myself a note and then find it two weeks later, Jon laughs, “Our admin system really needed updating and lockdown gave us the chance to regroup. We’re savvier and much more efficient now – we’ve set up an online system which has hugely streamlined our booking process.”

When the government announced easing of restrictions in England on 4th July, Jon and Sarah had to completely overhaul the way they ran their workshops. Due to social distancing guidelines, customers are no longer able to paint their pots – historically, a key element of Eastnor Pottery’s offering. Jon and Sarah were initially worried, but customer feedback has exceeded all expectations: “We’ve got people telling us that they love getting to spend so much time on the wheel. Before lockdown we hadn’t considered this as an offering, but once again, the circumstances have forced us to reflect and have ultimately allowed us to reshape our business for the better.”

Jon and Sarah have done everything to ensure any customers visiting feel as safe and comfortable as possible. Anyone attending a class must wear a mask and wash their hands as soon as they arrive. Jon and Sarah wear Perspex visors and strictly follow the two metre social distancing guidelines.

They’ve also had to cut down on the frequency of classes and currently there is limited capacity for the classes they do run. A typical Saturday pre-COVID-19 would have seen up to 40 people walking through Eastnor’s doors, but now Jon and Sarah welcome a maximum of 12. This allows for a deep clean to be done in between sessions.

However, Jon and Sarah try and look for the positives: “We just want everyone to be as safe as possible. We love meeting new people. Of course, limited capacity means we’re not making as much money, but look at it this way: our customers get an amazing one to one experience and we really get to know them. Our classes were brilliant before, but due to COVID-19, the quality has really shot up. Now they’re extra special.”

It also means Eastnor Pottery has been awarded the Visit England seal, so customers can rest in the knowledge that their safety is being taken seriously.

The pair are ecstatic to be fully booked for the next few months but are ever-conscious of the changing guidelines and potential future lockdowns: “To be honest, we weren’t sure how it would go. When we first reopened, we didn’t know if anyone would have the confidence to come. However, we’re experiencing a huge spike in popularity – it seems people are desperate to get out and do something exciting and creative. We’re not taking it for granted though, who knows what will happen in autumn and winter.”

The pandemic was unexpected, but the positive consequences for Jon and Sarah’s business as a result are even more so: “We feel quite buoyed up. The pandemic is a massive national tragedy, but lockdown has been positive for us. It’s given us a chance to reflect on the business and come back more streamlined than ever.”

participants at pottery course at eastnor potteryintroduction to the potter's wheel participants at eastnor potterypotter's wheel demonstration at eastnor pottery

three wheel thrown pots stuck together to make a daffodil vase

eastnor potters jon williams and sarah monk appear in i newspaper article

Delighted to be mentioned in the i Newspaper today.

The article appears in the Money section of the paper offering guidance on how to financially ride out the Pandemic. Our story since Lock down makes for an interesting case study.

eastnor potters jon williams and sarah monk  appear in i newspaper article

Thank you Elizabeth, Virgin Experience Days & The PHA group!

herefordshire potter sarah monk hanging her ceramic bug houses at hellens garden festival

Hellens Garden Festival Sculpture Trail – Much Marcle Herefordshire

Eastnor Pottery founders Sarah Monk and Jon Williams currently have some of their own work on show at Hellens Garden Festival Sculpture Trail in Herefordshire.

herefordshire potter sarah monk hanging her ceramic bug houses at hellens garden festival

Sarah is exhibiting a terrace of ‘Bug Houses’ hanging from a particularly striking beech tree in the enchanted wooded gardens. In a career spanning 30 years, this is the first time Sarah has exhibited her work outside in the natural environment. Most of her output is intended to be enjoyed in the home but judging by the positive response to her critter homes, she’ll be making more ceramics designed for the garden. For more details of Sarah’s work please check out her website: www.sarahmonkceramics.co.uk

herefordshire ceramic artist jon williams hanging his percusive ceramic disks at hellens garden festival in herefordshire

Jon has a collection of interactive ‘Ceramic Cymbals’ hanging in the undergrowth. Visitors are invited to scour the woodland for a suitable stick (no branches or hefty timber!) and then ‘gently’ tap out a rhythm on the suspended art works. Jon’s work is designed to be enjoyed using all the senses and he is no stranger to exhibiting his multi-sensory wares at sculpture shows and in exterior settings. Please take a look at www.jonwilliamspottery.co.uk for more details of his work.

The exhibition is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays 10am – 6pm and runs until the end of September 2020. Entrance is FREE with donations going to St Michaels Hospice and Back To The Wild CIC.

bug houses by herefordshire slipware potter sarah monk at hellens garden festival 2020

musical pottery by herefordshire maker jon williams at hellens sculpture trail 2020

slipware pottery rabbit made by sarah monk from eastnor pottery herefordshire for easter bunny trail at puzzlewood

terracotta bunny rabbitt made by ceramic artist jon williams from eastnor potteryslipware pottery rabbit made by sarah monk from eastnor pottery herefordshire for easter bunny trail at puzzlewoodMaking ceramic bunnies is not Sarah and Jon’s usual bag, but when, Puzzle Wood asked Eastnor Pottery’s co-directors to take part in a Great Pottery Rabbit trail, they couldn’t resist the challenge!

Puzzle Wood is a magical ancient woodland in the Forest of Dean. It’s a great place to explore with the kids, as Sarah and Jon have done many times with their own children. It’s also a popular and famous TV and film location – Star Wars and Doctor Who to name but two!

All the local Potteries and Makers in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley were invited to make a ceramic rabbit to be hidden in Puzzlewood over the usually busy Easter weekend.

The Eastnor Potters started making their contributions back in February. Sarah decided to hand coil hers – a technique she hadn’t used for over 20 years, as she thought it would be fun to do something different. She used terracotta clay because of its deep, earthy colour fitting for a rich, earthy forest environment. Once built, she covered the whole rabbit in white slip and scratched simplified flowers into the surface. She then added splats of cobalt blue achieving a classic blue & white ceramic effect.

Jon chose to assemble his bunny from eight separate throw sections made on the potter’s wheel. He too used terracotta clay but didn’t add colour or glaze, opting instead for the natural colour of the fired terracotta.

Unfortunately because of COVID-19, Puzzle Wood remained closed to the public over Easter. Undeterred, they published The Great Puzzlewood Pottery Easter Trail online as a colouring competition instead. Participants could download line drawings of each bunny (different one each day) colour them in and submit them for judging. Some of the marvelous entries can be seen on Puzzlewood’s social media. Check out their TwitterFacebook and Instagram feeds.

Ceramic easter bunny colouring competition by puzzlewood gloucestershire