Sue Ure Ceramics – The beauty, style and finish of Sue Ure Ceramics is quite unique. It is an entirely hand-thrown range of tableware, vases, and lampshades available to buy from stockists in several countries in Europe as well as further afield. The skills and experience acquired over decades are applied at every stage of the making process: from turning and handling to glazing and firing. Sue has developed her own glazes and slips, and new glazes are always an area of ongoing research to create exciting, unexpected results.
Making ceramics is a way of life as well as a craft. Women Talking were keen to talk to Sue about her journey over the past 40 years.
Have you always been interested in design since childhood?
‘Yes, I remember wanting to be an interior designer – without having at all a clear idea of what that might be!’
What is your inspiration for your new designs?
‘Where inspiration comes from is always a tricky question. My feeling is that it’s a synthesis of all the things you’ve liked, considered and been surrounded by. So, for me, that’s probably a mix of 60s and 70s fashion and design trends and ancient and contemporary ceramics…
My aim is to produce stylish and enduring designs with comfortable functionality. The satisfaction gained from producing a visually pleasing and well-functioning piece is what keeps us making – and continually striving to do it with more finesse or imagination – or both!’
Has your style changed since relocating to Southwest France in the 1990s?
‘I think that whilst what I like has remained pretty constant, living in an environment with a very different quality of light has made a difference to my feelings about colour. Brighter colours are needed here to stand up to the brighter degrees of light and that vibrancy really appeals to me.’
What are your most popular lines?
‘To be honest, the British love a mug and for that I’m very grateful! So mugs are my most popular product.’
When did you decide to expand your brand into Sue Ure Maison? How do you select your companies to work with?
‘As someone who creates by hand – and works alone – one is limited by the amount a single pair of hands can produce. Whilst I love making, I don’t necessarily want to be producing large volumes of mugs all the time. It’s not easy for someone else to replicate wheel-thrown items, it’s years of practice before one becomes an assured potter on the wheel, so scaling up by finding or outsourcing using that same technique is very difficult.
So that led me to look for a larger company that’d be able to produce my work from moulds, taken from my hand-thrown prototypes. I had to go further afield that was my original intention to find a company that was flexible enough to reproduce my work without me having to make major design concessions. So I work with a brilliant small, family-run factory in Sri Lanka.
Our porcelain tableware collection is a slip-cast in Sri Lanka. A family firm founded 50 years ago; Midaya Ceramics now employs more than 300 people. Applying their in-depth knowledge of traditional and modern ceramic techniques, they produce ware of the highest quality and finish.
For our textiles, we work with craftspeople in Senegal and Crete. The Paris label Diama employs skilled Senegalese artisans to hand-weave our guest towels, small throws, and tea towels. This collection is made using organic cotton and linen with certified ecological plant dyes and is all fair trade.
Our Iraklio design tea towels are woven for us in Crete by Yfantourgia Kritis, a family-owned workshop run by Katerina who has succeeded her parents in the business and says she has a love of her textile heritage hard-wired into her!
Lincolnshire in the UK is where Orchard Melamine produces our stylish melamine table mats and coasters. They are specialists in working with independent designers and are committed to delivering products with the highest quality materials and manufacturing processes.’
What has been the highlight of your journey?
‘Having been asked five times over the past dozen years to design and make collections for specific Tate shows has felt like a considerable achievement.’
Sue has created bespoke collections for clients such as Tate Enterprises, The Royal Academy shop and the William Morris Gallery. Bespoke collections for professional and private clients are frequently the impetus inspiring new directions, for example, the William Morris Commission inspired a new sgraffito-decorated range of tableware.