British pottery manufacturer Cornishware has been handcrafting timeless striped kitchen and tableware since 1923.
Today, we’re chatting with ceramic graduate trainee Katie Hudson to find out how the iconic Cornishware items are made…
Katie, what are you responsible for in your job?
My tasks include glazing mugs, egg cups and bowls, to name a few, as well as packing the kiln ready for a ring and, in the months to come, running our new slip casting unit. This is where we will pour the liquid clay, called slip, into a mould and cast pieces such as teapots and jars.
How did you get your job?
I found the job after graduating from Falmouth University where I studied Contemporary Crafts. It’s great to be using all the ceramic knowledge I learnt in my degree.
How are the Cornishware ceramics made?
What is the manufacturing process like?
It begins with making the slip and casting the ware. It is then fettled, which involves tidying the clay by removing any seams and sponging it before it is red for the first time. Then, the pieces are decorated either by waxing and dipping to create the classic stripes, or by painting them on using a potter’s wheel.
The ceramic is red again and then glazed by hand and foot-wiped. It goes in the kiln once again to be sealed and to make it shiny. There can be a fourth ring, if the item needs to be personalised, and all pieces go through quality control before being dispatched. Each Cornishware item passes through at least 20 pairs of hands.
Do you face any challenges?
Last year we had to produce nearly 2000 Christmas baubles. As the Cornishware bauble shape is round, it cannot stand on its own – which was a challenge as we didn’t want them to move around in the kiln. After some problem solving and creative thinking, we came up with a solution to stack them using a special rack.
Is there a particular skill you’re glad you possess and why?
Part of being a ceramic graduate trainee is to learn the ropes in the ceramics world. As part of this, Cornishware offered me the chance to work at Emma Bridgewater in Stoke-on-Trent for a few weeks to gain skills more specific to slip casting.
What surprises or impresses people the most when you tell them what you do?
It often surprises people when you say that every item at Cornishware is handmade. It’s so fulfilling to work in a pottery where we still use ceramic techniques from the 1920s and everything is done by hand.