Inside-out guest blog - grounding in clay, with Catherine of Hiro Ceramics

Meeting a fellow maker

I met Catherine Wynne-Powell on a neighbouring stall when we both took part in Barkway Market in May 2024.

We bonded over the challenges of balancing lovingly handmade pieces on a board over pews in a church (never a dull moment!) and I had the privlege of meeting her lovely husband and daughters too. The two girls are looking into the possibilities of living on a houseboat, so may even visit our boat island in due course, to find out more. One of her girls treated herself to a broken glass copper rings too, which I hope she is enjoying wearing! 

As we got chatting, Catherine and I compared notes and shared our learnings, which are more similar than you might think when she works in crafting beautiful solid clay objects and I in specialise in delicate handmade silver and gold jewellery. 

I invited her to share a bit of her journey into her craft with us, and I'm thrilled she accepted the invite. What an amazing story it is, taking in the beach, Japan and her studio now based in Sawston.

Over to her, to fill you in: 

Catherine

How it all began

Burying bottles with messages in the sand is probably the antithesis of how that’s meant to play out, but during a challenging chapter, that’s exactly what I did; my cry for help. As I pebbled  a hole as deep as I could on my favourite British beach (again, why would you do that if you needed it to be found?) I hit clay. I remember it resonating and sparking joy. I still have the lump I took, fully intending to make something for my Aunty who had to hear my woes! 

So why joy? Like a visionary flame, clay straight from the ground invokes vibes of what has been, that ever moving ground below our feet. I’m fascinated by that whole energy and an idea that by holding one of my pieces of fired earth, you might feel grounded, you might feel latent energy. That’s where I am now… 

A ball of clay between Catherine's hands, with a 'life-line' running from top to bottom, summery garden behind

Her background

Back then I’d enjoyed a degree in craft, majoring in ceramics and metal, been taught to throw by an incredibly inspiring potter, Steve Harrison, but lacking self-confidence, worked solely in a gallery selling the work of others.That was twenty nine years ago. 

Ever the creative, I went into teaching young minds and for eight years revelled in my department of Create, Design & Engineer for an independent school. I gradually amplified clay projects and my passion for the material began building again. The work produced by my pupils was so exciting and inclusive! Gradually, as autonomy was withdrawn, I needed some space and time to do my own thing and this resulted in my taking a sabbatical. 

Then to Japan

Both my daughters had enjoyed travelling and through their adventures, I knew I’d enjoy my own gap year in reverse! The country that led me to drop the teaching and combine my other passions was Japan. 

I guess I need a lot of grounding - I’m the one who starts something enthusiastically and just as it’s getting interesting, another shiny distracts me and I’m off! It’s the accumulation of metaphysical tools, practical skills and niche knowledge that captivates me. I absolutely know I need to anchor my ideas before they flourish and clay seems to be my intuitive conduit. 

Japan gave me the contemplation I hankered after; we spent a few weeks working the land Masanobu Fukuoka style, and whilst labouring in a remote valley, listening to frogs and birds, I realised these moments needed to feature in my everyday life. I was used to building in a bit of yoga, meditation and breathwork but without the routine of work, it had slipped. With an immersion into a ritualistic culture, I began to notice how when I thrived in life, I had been supported by my own rituals; those moments of being drawn into the here and now. 

Catherine and a little frog (real, not clay) in a grounding moment

A beginning

Once back from travelling, as we waited for my tenants to move on, we signed up for house-sitting. I bought some clay and in between pet duties, I handbuilt small, mindfully made mosspots. They were reminiscent of the Japanese contemplative gardens, with zen-like lines and luscious moss. At exhibition, people wanted to hold them and, with both hands wrapped around, they felt like a little prayer! 

Hiro Ceramics' moss pots with ridged surfaces, stuffed with tufts of moss

Now 

Back at the wheel, I’ve thrown in my ruminations as I form and shape the vessels, imbuing them with the joy and positivity that went into their making. Of course, it’s down to the kiln Gods as to whether those messages come through! I’ve got that nailed - friends from a recent Mastered business bootcamp created a set of them for me, and they will occupy a place on instagram as they sentinel the vast heat through the firing. The current range includes items that one might use in a ritualistic way, with friends; as part of meal preparation or even solo ceremonies: levitating cups, lemon squeezers, olive pip plates and candlevases. 

Four handmade clay cups with concave bottoms, so they look as if they are levitating, in green, gray and white

Exploring ritual through writing and inviting my audience to interact is my journey. The resulting commentary will weave its way into my designs, providing a range of work that will offer people a reminder to recalibrate in the throes of their day. 

Catherine's Bio

Catherine currently lives and works from Sawston, Cambridgeshire with her partner Oscar. She is inspired by the energy and ethical vigour of her twenty something twin daughters and is grateful to have the opportunity to make a business around her values of joy, abundance and curiosity. Become part of her making journey by chatting and interacting with her on Instagram and Medium or catch her at market

hiroceramics.co.uk is currently under construction but will be welcoming online sales shortly! 

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