For hand-crafted tableware and unique gifts, look no further than the inspiring ceramicists around the British Coast. Words: Alex Reece

The Leach Pottery, St Ives, Cornwall

Founded in 1920 by ceramicists Bernard Leach and Hamada Shoji, The Leach Pottery is one of the most influential of its kind. Featuring the first ever ‘climbing kiln’ built in the Western world, and Leach’s old workshop, it re-opened to the public as a museum and working pottery studio in 2008. This winter, admire the work of Douglas Fitch and Hannah McAndrew, and learn more about Leach’s life in the permanent exhibition. See also the newly restored fireplace in the former studio. Seven potters work here year-round producing Leach Standard Ware – a soda-fired range of tableware based on designs from the mid-20th century – available both in the shop and online.
Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; adults £4.50, concessions £4, under-18s free (01736 799703, 

Tantallon Studios, North Berwick, East Lothian

‘I can see the sea from my studio – including the Bass Rock, the Firth of Forth and Tantallon Castle,’ says Esther Cohen, one of the resident artists at Tantallon Studios, established in the 1970s by Esther’s parents. Her father, David Cohen, a former head of ceramics at Glasgow School of Art, specialises in Raku, making large-scale sculptural items in fiery reds, golds and ashen browns. Potter Ronnie Fulton, also based here, is influenced by the sea – boats, seabirds and pieces of driftwood are regular features of his work. Along with a shop, selling Esther’s decorated tiles and her sister Kirstie’s landscape prints, the artists run courses in ceramics, drawing and painting. Self-catering accommodation is available on site.
Open daily, 10am-4pm; call ahead in winter (07746 227410, 

Made in Cley, Cley next the Sea, Norfolk

Stationed within sight of the North Norfolk coast, Made in Cley is a studio/gallery run by a partnership of eight potters and one jeweller, and celebrated its 31st anniversary this year. The craftspeople here specialise in wheel-thrown stoneware, available in 12 different glazes, typically in the muted, natural hues of green, brown and blue. ‘People say they look like the pebbles on the beach,’ says Cley potter Barbara Widdup. Also for sale in the studio/gallery – a converted village store from the Regency period – are jewellery, photographs and prints of the local area, all by the member-makers, whose studio is visible through a picture window.
Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, 11am-4pm (01263 740134, 

Chessell Pottery Barns, Chessell, Isle of Wight

Around 15,000 pieces of slip-cast earthenware are fired at the Isle of Wight’s Chessell Pottery, near Compton Bay, every year. Here, you can see how Chessellware is made, or shop for their signature sponge-decorated strawberry range. Owners Aiden and Louise Collins added the Pottery Café 11 years ago, where you can have a go at decorating blank pieces of Chessellware with hand-cut sponges, or paint freehand to create your own personalised gifts and ceramic decorations for Christmas.
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9.30am-5.30pm from 21 March (01983 531248,

Poole Quay Pottery Studio, Poole, Dorset

Die-hard fans of 20th-century design are likely to own a classic piece of Poole – whether it’s a Twintone tea set or a floral-pattern vase by Truda Carter. The company, first started by Jesse Carter in 1873, has enjoyed varying fortunes in recent years and is now owned by Denby Pottery. While the bulk of production takes place in Stoke-on-Trent, the Pottery Studio is still open on The Quay in Poole, where visitors can watch the master potter throwing clay and artists decorating items by hand. The current Tallulah and Beach Hut ranges of decorative ware are directly influenced by the Dorset coastline. Visit the shop and café, or have a whirl at painting a pot yourself.
Open Monday-Saturday, 9am-5.30pm; Sunday, 10.30am-4.30pm (01202 668681,

Rye Pottery, Rye, East Sussex

Brother and sister team Josh and Tabby Cole are the third generation in their family to take the helm at Rye Pottery, a 200-year-old enterprise, still producing ceramics by hand. Visit their premises and you can see the paintresses at work, using a 17th-century decorating technique known as Delft, Faience or Majolica. Rye Pottery rose to prominence during the mid-century period (exhibiting at the Festival of Britain), and their 1950s ‘Cottage Stripes’ tableware is still going strong today – with a new range of colours available this autumn.
Open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm; Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday, 11am-4pm (01797 223038, 

Belleek Pottery, Belleek, Co Fermanagh

On a tour of the world-famous Belleek Pottery, you get the chance not only to meet the resident craftspeople but also to glaze a piece yourself. You can absorb the brand’s long history, too: established in the same premises in 1857, just four miles from Ulster’s west coast, Belleek is famous for its slip-cast, translucent Parian china, and from the outset was favoured by the British nobility, including Queen Victoria. See some early pieces on display in the museum, buy ceramics from the shop or tuck in to hearty fare in the restaurant.
Open October-December, weekdays, 9am-5.30pm; Saturday, 10am-5.30pm; Sunday, 2pm-5pm. Adults £4; seniors £2; under-12s free (028 6865 8501,

Bridge Pottery Gallery, Cheriton, North Gower, West Glamorgan

Micki Schloessingk makes her wood-fired, salt-glazed pots in a larch-built, eco-friendly building just inland from the saltmarshes of the North Gower coast. Micki, a lifelong ceramicist, has exhibited in Europe, the US and Australia, and her pieces also feature in the V&A’s collection. Micki’s speciality is high-fired stoneware designed for everyday use, in browns, oranges, greens and sea blues. One of her most coveted pieces is a faceted tea bowl, or unomi, which she makes on her kick-wheel.
Open Tuesday-
Saturday, 10am-12.30pm and 2.30-5pm (01792 386499, 

Wold Pottery, Loftus, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year is Wold Pottery, first set up by the late Aiden Dixon, near Beverley, in the 1950s. His one-time apprentice, Jill Christie, continues to develop the studio’s tradition of hand-thrown, slip-decorated, domestic earthenware in signature designs, such as the striped Routh range, which references the local landscape in its coastal and moorland colourways. Having moved the pottery to the market town of Loftus – a mile from the sea – in 2004, Jill introduced a Seaside range of tableware, with a gull motif. The 19th-century former butcher’s shop, where she also lives and works, sells complementary pieces by local artists and makers.
Open Wednesday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, 10am-2pm. December: Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm (01287 640100,

Tom Butcher Ceramics, ArrocharArgyll & Bute

‘The rusticity of the pots is inspired by the environment we’re in,’ says Fiona Butcher, wife and business partner of potter Tom. The family live on the scenic shores of Loch Long. Another influence on their designs is children’s book illustrations (think Mr Men and Quentin Blake). The result is a simple, elegant collection of ceramics, which can be seen in top London restaurants such as Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s. Shop for the dinner service at the gallery and online.
Monday-Saturday, 10.30am-5.30pm (01301 702956,

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For more arts and crafts stories, click here. Or keep up to date with creative features in the magazine.