Photography | Jo Bridges
Lucy Rutter is a ceramicist based in Kent. She studied English before working in adult education for over 20 years. At the age of 43, she took a sabbatical to write a book of poetry. Instead, she started to receive orders for her collection of tableware. Soon, what was a long-established hobby became her second career. Her simple, textured ceramics – which are stocked in the Turner Contemporary, Hauser & Wirth and The Yorkshire Sculpture Park – are informed by her surroundings and her study of literature. She lives with her partner, Guy, in Faversham.
From left to right
Handled clay wires
I have a very small collection of tools because I like to use my hands as much as possible. The more tools you use, the more mechanical the process becomes. I make the handled clay wires myself. I buy the twisted wire, so when it cuts through the clay on the base of a vessel, it leaves a shell-like pattern. No one else has a tool that’s exactly the same.
Large Leach jug
Guy and I have quite an extensive collection of Leach Standard Ware that we’ve picked up over the years from charity shops and eBay. We’ve never spent much on anything, and most things are chipped or broken. This was one of our first pieces and the handle has been glued back on. It is unglazed clay that has been wood-fired and it is beautiful to hold and to pour. For me, it’s an example of a perfectly simple, beautiful, functional jug.
Green Japanese tea bowl
This is one of four Japanese tea bowls I made on a course at the Leach pottery a few years ago. I wasn’t very good; I remember having a lot to learn but it all seemed to come together by going there. I glazed it myself at home. Glaze testing is the most exciting thing. When you open the kiln it is the most magical feeling: they are like little babies being born.
In 2015, I went on a week-long course at the Leach pottery where I learnt how to make mugs and pull handles. I used what I learnt there to come up with the shape for my jug, which I’m really proud of. It’s elongated with a smaller handle and it sells really well, especially in this yellow. I often go to the sixth floor of the Victoria and Albert museum where there are walls and walls of ceramics grouped by colour. Normally, I like very muted colours – whites, greys, blacks – but after a while, you do want a pop of colour.
I always try to use recycled packaging and I once had a whole box of used packaging given to me by the potter Paul Roche. In amongst the packaging were these small kiln gods. At the time my kiln was playing up, and these seemed to have the effect of fixing them, so I’m afraid he can’t have them back. They’re mine now.
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska sculpture
This is a small replica of a bronze sculpture called Torpedo Fish by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Guy and I have always loved finding and seeing new things, particularly art galleries, where I think we found this. Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge is a special place for us because we went there very early on in our relationship. I think we both love that idea of taking a white room and filling it with the things you need, and the things you consider beautiful and nothing else.
My studio is a very inward space and the views are quite limited, so I have to get out and walk on the marshes everyday. It’s wonderful to be outside in all weathers and if you walk, you can think things through. The colours are so beautiful. I love that flat, minimal landscape. Somehow, it comes back with me into the studio and into the work.
I studied English Literature at university and later, I studied for a Masters in creative writing at Oxford University. I’ve always loved Imagism, particularly the poet William Carlos Williams. I feel incredibly lucky to have that background, which might appear unrelated to pottery, but actually it’s not – it’s all the same. The white space around a poem can be compared to a pot on a shelf. The importance of the minimal form: that’s what I like. No fancy stuff.
I’ve collected pottery books for a very long time. I used to keep them in my shed at the bottom of the garden and read them avidly whenever I could. That’s also where I kept my first kiln, which I bought from an old school in Essex. I was taught how to use it by a kiln engineer called Dave Yarrow. He taught me the firing programmes and, because I learnt how to use a kiln manually, I’ve learnt so much about the glazing and firing process.
These notebooks are like recipe books. They contain all the information I need for firing, glazing, measurements and weights. I have a sketchbook I use as well to record shapes. They are a brilliant resource.
These were my fathers and they must be about 50 or 60 years old. They are so fragile, I don’t wear them anymore but I keep them here in the studio. He was an apprentice at Austin Rover in Solihull and these were the original pair of overalls he would have been given. My father is an engineer and inventor. By comparison, my mother loves the arts. She would take me to see Shakespeare, and there were a lot of Virago feminist texts in the house growing up. So there are these two sides to my upbringing and personality.