I suppose it’s difficult for the average consumer to have a terribly specific opinion of a pottery brand if it just happens to be something you see on the high street from time to time.
But saying that, after a recent trip to the Denby Pottery Village in Derbyshire, my views have changed.
Let’s put it this way, if I ever break another mug (because I’m clumsy and because toddlers happen) then I’ll never take for granted what it took to make it.
The Denby Pottery Village is little place in the Derbyshire countryside made up like a small town dedicated to the brand. Made up of with numerous buildings to house the different parts of Denby as a business – from their offices, to the factory itself, to the craft rooms, to the outlet store to the restaurant café.
So what did I get up to?
We started with a factory tour where we learned all about how the clay is shaped and the science behind a glaze. Don’t feel daft if you’ve only ever thought of glazes in regards to donuts before. I was the same. Ha!
In this context however, a glaze is essentially the recipe for how that piece of pottery will look. It’s the specific instructions which make up its colour, finish and pattern.
How gorgeous are those pinks? Sadly, that’s not the finished colour, as glazes change colour and finish under the heat of the kiln. But still – BEAUT.
What amazed me about the whole process was the insane level of precision needed to do the job. It’s easy to assume that because there is such a vast volume of pottery created that it would all be machine-made. Well, some of this is the case, but mostly cup handles are added by hand, and plates are painted by a single person. Teapots are dipped in glazes – by hand.
You can see that very process above where plates are spinning and paint delicately added to the edges to form a circular colour to the outer lip.
It takes an incredible eye for detail and when I look at rows and rows of the clay pieces, I can’t quite fathom that they weren’t done in a uniform machine.
My mum has a Denby set. It’s deep blue in colour and is noticeably identifiable as Denby. Her and my step-dad bought it not long after they started living together, probably around 15 years ago now, and they still use it to this day. A testament, not only to their ability not to smash plates, but to the quality. After learning that they were probably made by hand, I’m SO glad I never dropped one over the years!
Next, we were given a sneak preview of the newest ranges soon to be launched by Denby and learn more about the history of the company.
The design room was a colour lovers haven. These tiny ceramic pots were all experiments just waiting to be chosen. It’s the room where the puppeteers get to design the colours and shades, match them against the curves of the clay, figure out how this matches upcoming trends, and then turn it into a sellable product. It was a small, but really inspiring room, and seeing some of the Denby collections on full display afterwards made me appreciate so much more how much thought had gone into the tiniest of details.
Before we left, we headed to the craft room!
I’ve never seen someone “throw a pot” before, as it’s correctly called. I just imagined the scene from Ghost, but a little more professional, foolishly. What an amazing thing to watch.
I didn’t dare give it a go myself, but I did make some ceramic tiles! Rolling out the clay and creating a design. I decided to make one for Luna using stamps to press in the letters of her name. I can’t wait to receive it and see how it looks! (I’ll post it on Instagram when it arrives so go and follow me if you want to see!)
I had such a lovely day, and the best news is, you can go and take the tour yourself and take part in the crafts workshop. I believe they do children’s classes so it’s definitely something I’ll look to do in a few years with Luna. so check out the website and do let me know if you visit!
Sadly I couldn’t photograph the brand new ranges just yet as it was super top secret but I’m excited to share it when the time comes. What’s your favourite Denby piece? Have you ever thrown a pot before?