CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Turning "lumps of mud" into creative pottery with Milford’s Claire Waterhouse

PUBLISHED: 18:22 10 June 2016 | UPDATED: 18:41 10 June 2016




Instilling magic in ‘lumps of mud’ has been thrilling Claire Waterhouse for 30 years. Janet Donin meets this creative potter at her Milford studio to discover more about her work – which can even be spotted at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, if you look hard enough...


Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2016


Tell us a bit about yourself…

I am a bespoke potter with a degree in ceramics and I specialise in throwing on the potter’s wheel. Whilst I relish the time that I spend in my studio developing my own style, I equally enjoy sharing my skills with others. More recently, I have expanded my business and offer one-to-one tuition in my garden studio.

How did your interest in the potter’s wheel first begin?

At art college, I noticed a potter’s wheel in the corner of a studio, but when I asked my tutor if I could have a go he responded: “You’ll never be any good at that!” With the gauntlet thrown down, I set my goal to prove him wrong and, 30 years down the line, the magic I am able to instil in a lump of mud continues to thrill and excite me.

How would you describe your style to us today?

My style is precise, defined and intricate. When I make batches of pots, I weigh out my clay, down to the gram, and stretch it out as thinly and finely as I can. This helps when creating ranges of stock, in the interest of uniformity.

Where do you find the inspiration for your work?

It’s all around me. I can be browsing the web when an idea pops into my head, or I’ll be inspired viewing other ceramicists’ work in galleries. Sometimes, clients inspire me with new ideas and I will strive to create their exact plan.

Describe the creative process…

My true love will always be the potter’s wheel, but I explore a wide variety of techniques and styles. I like to experiment with processes such as slip trailing, pit firing, faceting and wax-resist techniques.

What’s the most important part of throwing a pot?

Undoubtedly, it’s the preparation of the clay prior to any actual throwing. It’s important to wedge the clay, in the same way you’d knead bread. This eliminates air from the clay ensuring that it doesn’t crack or split in the firing process.

Which is the most unusual thing you have made?

By far the least run-of-the-mill project was the bespoke chimney cowls commissioned by Watts Gallery for Limnerslease house – the home of GF and Mary Watts in Compton. I found these incredibly challenging, as it was critical for the measurements to be exact. I was very excited to undertake the challenge, though, and feel proud that my skills have been put to such prestigious use.

So when did you start your Portable Pottery Company?

Initially, I sold my work at craft fairs and took my wheel with me in order to teach people who fancied a go, there and then. I soon realised just how many were enthralled by pottery. Since the recent BBC programme, The Great Pottery Throw Down, everybody wants to have a go at throwing on the wheel and my business has expanded greatly. I also take my wheel to private parties and team-building exercises for businesses.

Describe your studio for us…

Essentially, it’s divided into three sections: a lounge area, where I keep a coffee machine, stereo and, most importantly, cake; the middle, where my two Shimpo Whisper potter’s wheels are found and the magic happens; and, on the right, my kilns, tools and clay etc. The garden surrounding my workshop is a pretty courtyard.

What is the best thing about your job?

I love sharing my passion with people, and seeing their faces light up as they transform the piece of clay between their hands into an individual piece of work.

Finally, what do you like most about living in Surrey?

My favourite thing about the county is the landscape with the hills and valleys, meandering paths, trees and ancient forests, all of which I find awe-inspiring, and prove beautiful for walking my little Staffordshire bull terrier, who is my potter’s mate!

• For more on Claire Waterhouse, visit her website at See her work during the Surrey Artists Open Studios event from Saturday June 4 to Sunday June 19 or visit by appointment. An introductory two-hour pottery lesson for two people sharing costs £50

More from Surrey Life

Yesterday, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019.

Read more
Yesterday, 12:59

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Yesterday, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Yesterday, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, November 9, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Year 5 pupils at Reigate St Mary’s School (RSM) who designed and carried out a community project as part of a UK wide Make a Difference Challenge, have won the London area competition for their stunning scrapbook record of their project

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Surrey this month

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search