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An interview with Sue Pryke

Ceramicist Sue Pryke has been a Design-Nation member since 2011. Her background is firmly rooted in the crafts, having started her journey into ceramics at a small pottery in Lincolnshire. She is now an established multi-award-winning designer-maker who has designed for leading high street brands and continued to make her own work. We caught up with her as she prepared for The Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey, Devon this weekend. Sue Pryke will be on stand A51.

Design-Nation: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

Sue Pryke: I’ve been lucky to work with several inspiring ceramicists and designers over the years.  My first job after graduation was at Wedgwood as a young junior designer, so much history and expertise to inspire and learn from. Early on I worked with Queensberry Hunt; David Queensberry was my mentor whilst I was at the RCA and I used to work from their studios on project work whilst studying.  They set up their world renowned tableware design practise the year I was born, such a breadth of experience and pool of knowledge!

DN: If you weren’t a ceramicist what would you be?

SP: Probably a florist. My parents were growers in the east of England and the idea of having a florist’s business with my mum was mooted as I was leaving school.

DN: What inspires you?

SP: Everything! In the past I would have drawn from the tableware industry’s heritage, especially whilst working at Wedgwood, decorative and functional detailing, which has been banked as a visual vocabulary. That’s still there, just not at the fore any longer in my work, as I now feel more inspired by landscapes and other cultures.

DN: You’ve been known in the past for designing product for mass manufacture, for high street brands like IKEA and Next. How does it feel to be back in your own studio, focused on small collections?

SP: It’s great to be in control of a collection from start to finish, working for IKEA and other brands you’re only a cog in the wheel. Even if you’re responsibilities are to oversee a collection from start to finish, it’s not 100% of the process. It’s quite refreshing to work on a small scale too, as IKEA is enormous. Some of my tableware pieces are produced in the world’s largest volumes. Focusing on small collections of craft pieces again is like coming home; I’ve gone back to doing what I set out to do when I graduated from the RCA in 1994, when I had a studio in Clerkenwell and was slip-casting work for bespoke collections, independent stores and the high end craft market.

DN: What are the main challenges with production?

SP: Not being able to make work fast enough!

DN: Do you work hard on your PR or do you have someone doing that for you?

SP: I do all PR. I have help with office work and production, but I enjoy working with the press and social networking communities.

DN: Where would you like your practice to be in 10 years?  

SP: It is early days and I’m still working on my strategy and vision!

Interview by Laura Jacometti.

Images courtesy Sue Pryke. For more information about her work, please follow these weblinks:

Sue’s Design-Nation listing
 and Sue’s own website

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Laura Jacometti


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