Concrete is back. Invented in the nineteenth century, it reached new design heights in the 60s. High polished concrete was used as flooring, buildings were built with concrete used not only as a useful material, but also a design …. I have to be honest, I have never been a fan of this trend. I have alway preferred brick or stone covered houses, and wood flooring. I grew up disliking these towering concrete blocks. But concrete is once again becoming synonymous with contemporary design, architecture and interiors, and this time I like a lot of what I see.

Part of the desirability of concrete is the colour (something people in the 60s didn’t realise, as many people dyed it). There can be wonderful variation in colour, but the neutral grey tones go with most environments. Then there is the texture, unlike a lot of manmade substances, concrete can feel breathable, not in all circumstances, but used in the right way.

Concrete clock made in Derbyshire.

As well as flooring and big pieces of design, artists and makers and designers are using it is finishing touches and homeware. Some examples that we sell include the clocks by Wild and Wood. Available in two shades, these are elegant, handmade pieces that fit beautifully in both modern houses and traditional cottage environments (I know because I have seen them in both. It is the simplicity of colour and design that allows this. Simplicity that is caused, in part, by the material used.

Interview with Eme and Grey-

Our new producer, Laura, is the founder of Eme and Grey. She uses concrete in her work. Eme and Grey is a wonderful company based on contemporary design. Geometric and concrete being two of the main design components of its owner, Laura. Made by hand, the tea lights and coasters that Laura creates are all stunning. We decided to learn a little more about her and her wonderful company:

Can you tell us how you started getting interested in making ceramics?
When my youngest daughter was 3 years old I decided to do a creative course at the local college one evening a week. I had enjoyed short course making ceramics a few years earlier and wanted to try making smoke fired coil pots.  After a year of evening cases learning basic techniques my teacher suggested I join the A level class, this was followed by City and Guilds courses and setting up my studio at home.

What is your design process? Do you draw out designs, or start making and see what forms naturally?
I sketch shapes for pots and ideas for potential decoration based on things I see and developments of pots I have made, and design ideas. Working in 3D and with glazes is very different to sketching, however, so experimenting with making different shapes, new glazes and decoration are an essential part of the design process.

You say a lot of your work is influenced nature, is this something that is important to you? 
I find I am repeatedly drawn back to expressing the abstract colours patterns and textures of the natural world. I find them timeless, calming and inspiring.

Is there anything else that influences you while you design and make a product?
I think a lot about what the product will be used for. Often a design will be prompted by a need, such as needing a deep ovenproof pie dish with a rim for the pastry, a pierced dish for air to circulate round fruit, and a frost proof birdbath deep enough for blackbirds to bathe.

How long does each piece take to make? 
There are many stages to each piece involving a variety of techniques.  Also a lot of time also needs to be spent on jobs like preparing clay and glazes and cleaning, stacking the kiln. Even the simplest pieces are likely to involve half an hour’s making time and complex ones many hours.

Do you have a favourite piece? To make, and to use. 
I love making and using large dishes. From a making point of view they offer a good sized ‘canvas’ and frame to decorate, and from a use point of view they are very versatile,  good for cooking, serving, storing and displaying.

Laura’s coasters and tea light holders are available from Home of Juniper in four different colours. These wonderful items are great in modern houses or more traditional homes. They also make great gifts for men or women.


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