The Black Potters Giving New Life to British Ceramics

A growing community of makers are creating work that reflects their identities and challenges the history of their art form in the U.K.

By Noor Brara, For The New York Times

In recent years, a new generation of Black British potters — the majority of them women — have begun to breathe new life into ceramics. While their grandparents, many of whom immigrated to England in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s from the Caribbean, West and Central Africa and elsewhere in Europe, might have considered the arts too exclusionary or risky to pursue as a career, these younger makers are now redefining the medium through work that reckons with their own identities and, often, Britain’s.

IF THIS EMERGING community has a center, it is the artist Freya Bramble-Carter, 29, and her ceramist father, Chris Bramble, 63, who teach classes at their studio in London’s West Hampstead neighborhood, a lively space in a former Victorian factory. From the late ’80s until the early aughts, Bramble — who makes wheel-thrown porcelain pots in earth-tone glazes and hand-sculpted stoneware vases with delicately featured faces inspired by traditional Zimbabwean busts — recalls being one of only a handful of Black ceramic artists on the U.K. scene. But he says that’s changing now, as part of a wider generational shift. Among the talents he’s nurtured is Ronaldo Wiltshire, 32, who recently competed in the British television series “The Great Pottery Throw Down,” and whose pieces include matte black vases finished with swipes of blue and green that recall the shorelines of his native Barbados. “I didn’t know of any other Black ceramists in London until I met Chris,” says Wiltshire. “Now I’m pleased to see more practicing every year. I tell them that ceramics can be very healing.”

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