Helen Evans: the Future of UK Ceramics

The traditional ceramics studio has seen some fundamental innovations in the past five years. Globalisation and the influence of social media, together with a new interest in ceramics, have broken down the barriers of where a studio can be established. But all this comes with a background of high prices for property in the UK and the closure of many traditional centres for making ceramics.

As technology expands the world’s ability to communicate, what happens to hand-crafted items, such as ceramics, that used to be sold at galleries and fairs?
Helen Evans is one person who has bucked the trend. Trained in the UK at Bath and then Central Saint Martins Colleges, while still running a studio in Tobago, it begs the question: how did she do it?
Describing her working life she commented, “It was difficult. I basically didn’t have any holidays for about six to seven years, although one can argue that my working trips to Tobago where I had to produce enough stock in 4–6 weeks to restock the shop for the next six months, was the best holiday of all. Mostly, it was difficult keeping up with the orders in London, as well as working part-time for Kate Malone in her studio as a project manager.”

One of the things Evans learnt while working around other artists during her time in London was the level of dedication and focus needed to be successful in ceramics in London. Being surrounded by similarly motivated people also helped. Going to a studio was sociable and it was inspiring seeing how different artists work and what projects they are involved in. Evans found it hard work and tiring but being in that environment was so inspiring. Since returning to Tobago full time, where she has a gallery/shop as well as a studio, she is developing new work and glaze testing, which is an important part of her business.

The United Kingdom’s Craft Council’s most recent findings in their Studying Craft 16 report shows that higher education ceramics student numbers have declined by 75% between 2007/2008 and 2014/2015 ...