We had the chance to interview ceramicist Linda Bloomfield and to ask her about her background, inspirations, and making processes. This is the second part of the interview, in which we look into her different collaborations and her future projects. (Read the first part here.)
You designed and made tableware for Liberty. Can you expand on that?
Liberty was my first project. In 2007, they saw my tableware at the Geffrye Museum, during a fair called ‘Ceramics in the City’. They ordered the whole tableware range, which was pink, green and turquoise, but I did change the colours depending on the season. A knitwear designer, Ruth Cross, made mug cosies and tea cosies for that range.
Did they commission the range, or did they see your work and wanted the same thing?
Liberty chose the colours; they wanted the same thing. People usually choose products from my range and then specify the colours. For David Mellor, they wanted a certain colour range, and I made a particular shape for them.
Are these ranges handmade?
Yes, handmade and thrown on the wheel. Liberty, Harrods and
David Mellor wanted the handmade range. It’s more unique.
Are there any challenges with working on these collaborations?
Time. I was given three weeks to make the whole range for Harrods, which is 300 pieces! But I had to make half in three weeks, and then the next half three weeks later. For other projects I’ve worked on, the shape was technically difficult. I made a Japanese style teapot for a tea company. I designed it and we kept checking to see if it poured. I had to test different prototypes to get the right design, and it has taken a few months.
Did you have more time for this project?
When it’s a new shape, yes. They understand that it takes time to develop.
What about your project for the Royal Albert Hall?
I had to make all the tableware for their café. I made a first batch. And they wanted me to make moulds, so I could have a factory make the next batch. A pottery from Surrey, that makes these kinds of things for restaurants, is making them. They have moulds taken from my original; they can pour the liquid clay slip straight into the mould and make high volumes more quickly.
If you could place your work anywhere, where would that be?
I’d love to be in more everyday stores like John Lewis, but that would have to be manufactured. I’d love to design the shape and have [the tableware] made in a mould. You can also take a mould from a handmade piece using plaster, to make it look a little bit more handmade. You can still tell that it’s not the real thing, but at least more people would be able to afford it.
With all these projects going on, do you have enough time to work on new designs?
It is difficult, but in winter, after Christmas, I usually have some time. I’d like to do more on the design side and have somebody else make it. At the moment, I make full time, and I can’t make any more than that. Every year I throw one tonne of clay into pots! I do all the making myself. Sometimes someone helps me in the studio with things like glazing, but the throwing is quite technical. You’d have to practice every day for about seven years, so it’s not easy to find people who can throw that well.
How do you see your work evolving in the future? Do you want to expand to other products? For instance you made lampshades in one of your windows.
I didn’t set out to do it, but a customer wanted lampshades so I made one on the wheel, and I made a mould. When throwing on the wheel, they are quite heavy, so if you make it in a mould you can get it much thinner. I might try to do some more lighting, and then maybe take it to a trade fair.
Slipcast lampshade for Snowdrop light designed by Jonathan Tibbs for Benchmark furniture, photo by Paul Raeside
Discover Linda’s work and story in thewindow.com/lindabloomfield.