We use cookies to ensure you have the best experience on our website.

6 - 30 June 2024: Minnow by Charlotte McLeash

6 - 30 June 2024: Minnow by Charlotte McLeash

klei's June exhibition, Minnow, by Charlotte McLeash will feature handbuilt and thrown ceramics inspired by childhood memories and growing up surrounded by ancient woodland.

Private view Wednesday 5th June 6-8pm

You studied ceramics at Central St Martins, what did your studies focus on and how have you translated that into your work today?

I was trying to focus on exploring lots of different techniques, I was keen to get an understanding (all be it a very small one) of all processes that were available to us. I really enjoy making, jumping around from one process to another. I feel my skills as a maker benefit from using clay in different ways to see how it performs when thrown, pinched or coiled. I think at the heart of it is my love of learning and St Martins made exploring clay not only exciting but also how I can make it work for me.

What drew you to ceramics?

Right from when I was quite young I knew all I wanted to do was make all day. I found the academic side of school really difficult and the only subject I actually enjoyed was art. Close to my schools was a little ceramic gallery with a pottery workshop in the back. We would often go in there after school and it was my parents go to shop for any birthday or Christmas gifts. The owners were so giving with their time and knowledge, their enthusiasm was really infectious. The potter was only too keen to take you to the workshops to show you what they were currently working on. It was a wonderful place and i’m not sure I would have found ceramics if it wasn’t for them.

Who is a maker whose work you love and admire that we should know about but might not?

I am mildly obsessed with Ian Godfrey’s ceramics. I feel like I have always seen his work in books and in galleries/museums but I never really looked at it until about ten years ago. I went down a bit of a rabbit hole of his work and life during lockdown and was lucky enough to buy a couple of his smaller and earlier works from one of his old friends. I'm really drawn to these magical, playful little worlds he creates. I dream of owning one of his more intricate pieces.

What is your favourite part of your process? And how do you find the combination of throwing and handbuilding?

I'm not sure I have a favourite process. I think some days I’ll find throwing really boring and then I’ll sit down and get completely lost in painting and other days all I will want to do is throw all day. I think having the option to hop around the different processes really beneficial to my practice. I know it’s my job and its work but for me the key is for it not to feel like its work. A little while ago I was making a large order that was just throwing and I found it so hard to get motivated. I absolutely hated it and found it a bit mind numbing. Now that I’ve had a little break from throwing and been painting and hand building I’m itching to get back at the wheel.

Have you always been into illustrating your pieces; or how did it start?

Illustration is a relatively new thing for me. I only came to it about 4/5 years ago and by complete accident, but am very pleased I did. I feel like I’m still finding my feet and my style. I’m still working on how I can marry up my illustrated work with my other collection and make it more of a cohesive body of work. Im really enjoying where it is taking me though and very much see it as an ongoing project that will change and grow over time.

What do you hope people experience or feel when they see, touch and use your work?

I hope people find it quite fun and playful. Some pieces are more serious than others but I like people to smile when they see them. I enjoy their handmade slightly wonky qualities and I hope they do too.

What sights affect and influence you on a regular basis?

I take inspiration from a real range of places. Memories and story telling plays a big part of what I make and illustrated. I grew up in Warwickshire surrounded by woodland rich in wildlife which makes its way into my work more and more these days.


One of my big passions is antique jewellery. I sometimes go into the city just to browse the shop windows of antique jewellery shops and museums. Small symbols from my favourite pieces of jewellery often find themselves into my work. I'm also really drawn to antique kitchen ware, particularly jelly moulds and
butter patters. The images that were used are so fun and playful it feels some of that joy in the simple everyday objects has been lost.


Equally I find walking found London really energising. That’s probably not how a lot of people feel about a big city. Its such an old city rich in culture and stories that I get completely lost physically and mentally ( I have the worst sense of direction) in the architecture and the people who used to live there.

How do you find being a maker in a city like London? It feels the community has grown a lot in recent times, what are your thoughts on that? How do you feel things have changed or grown since you left university?

I feel very lucky to work from home and have a studio to myself. Saying that, working on your own all the time can be quite isolating. London has a huge pottery community which is growing all the time. By and large it is a friendly bunch of people who are only too happy, share their knowledge and experience. I know if i’m ever having trouble with a glaze or my kiln or even just advise about a customer I have a whole community of people I can ask for advice. I think that’s invaluable actually. Its so exciting to see people change and grow their own practices and seeing the different businesses that have sprung up within our community.

Since leaving uni I have worked as a technician and teacher in a couple of studios which really taught me a lot about being a maker. Far more than I learnt at university actually. When I left uni most of my friends moved out of London and I would be lying if I said the idea of being here without many friends didn’t terrify me. Fortunately a few months later Turning Earth opened and I ended up working there for a couple of years before moving to another studio.


Many of the people I met there are still my good friends today. I think community studios are excellent in the early years of being a maker. You meet so many people from so many backgrounds its amazing how much you learn. We are so lucky in London to have a number of excellent studios to choose from and I
really urge people who are just starting out to join one. Even if its for a
little while as you find your feet as a maker. Setting up a pottery studio takes a
huge about of money and a fair amount of knowledge which can be really intimidating.

What is your favourite and least favourite thing about living and working in London?

Living and working in London has its pros and cons. It’s so expensive to live and work here especially if you’re a self employed maker. It can be
really tough.


I do sometimes toy with the idea of moving out and having a larger studio but I know in my heart of hearts, I can’t leave London. I love it here and I find it an incredibly inspiring place to be. When I go back to my parents house where I grew up I can relax and I'm always excited by being in the countryside but I never feel very motivated to work.


Although I enjoy the quiet life I think, for me personally, I need easy access to those things that motivate me and to give me inspiration on those days when I don’t feel like working.


These is something about hearing and seeing people being busy around me that motivates me. I am lucky enough to have a pretty tiny studio in my garden which I built during lockdown. I feel incredibly fortunate to have that little space to myself. It's a very calm and lovely place to be and it has a huge impact on how I feel about going to the studio.

What is the most recent ceramic vessel or piece of pottery you bought

for yourself, from where and by whom?

I'm not to sure, I am a constant pottery buyer so its hard to remember which was my last actual piece. I had a little flurry of buying ceramics in March; so it would have been either a little vase from Jode Pankhurst. It is pretty adorable and sits on my shelf next to the most beautiful little owl by Caro Gates. Or a couple of cups from Tim Lake to replace one of his I got many years ago which broke. I used it ever day but it slipped from my hands while I was washing up and was pretty devastated about. The replacements are just a lovely though.

Back to blog