Art, Ceramics & Contemporary Art

Shirley Vauvelle

Shirley has always made things since childhood, sewing dolls clothes or making things from found natural forms such as sea shells. She has been a designer, educator, craft maker, gallery owner and for almost fifteen years maker/artist showing work in galleries around the UK. She feels painting and ceramics overlap in the way she treats the surfaces, with a search for depth and a sense of herself. Her practise has tended to produce playful component pieces combined with found materials, assemblages inspired by creatures, birds and plants. It is now developing into larger scale semi abstract hand built sculptural ceramic forms and paintings.

Shirley’s art education background and initial design career was in textile/surface decoration, studying at Chester college for a foundation course and Leicester Polytechnic for a BA Hon’s, graduating in 1987. Self taught in ceramics, she works from a light filled studio in her home, which has been featured in publications including the The Observer Magazine and is situated near the east coast english seaside town of Filey. She also has a separate smaller painting studio which does not stop her producing larger scale works. An important part of her surroundings is the coast and her garden which is continuously being developed and evolving, full of many interesting plants selected for form, texture rather than prettiness, many of which are used within her work.

The work has evolved over a long period of time, in the background of her more commercial work. After the experience of lockdown, with more time to experiment and freedom to think about ideas, this has led to hand built sculptures and assemblages in stoneware and porcelain clay, with found materials. With the luxury of more time to appreciate peace and nature, allowing thinking space to the stages of development, it is very much reflected in how the pieces have evolved.

The work is now moving forward with more personal expression, still taking inspiration from her surroundings focusing on balance of shapes, pushing materials further and her own emotion reactions to them. Exploring  surfaces, playing with found materials, different clays and paint all with the emphasis on looking at the different relationships of form, texture and colour. Also thinking about the wider context of nature on our planet, the strength and fragility of nature.

Shirley Vauvelle Artist Portrait


Selborne Pottery

Selborne Pottery is run by well known ceramicist and maker Robert Goldsmith who set up his business over 35 years ago. The pottery takes it’s name from the picturesque village of Selborne in Hampshire, where Robert gains much of his inspiration for the designs and rich hues of colour seen throughout his work.

Watermark Gallery is pleased to stock a comprehensive range of tableware all of which is hand-thrown and individually decorated in Robert’s distinctive style. From small espresso mugs and jugs to olive bowls, serving dishes and platters, Selborne Pottery is both stylish as well as immensely practical. Take the the thumb-hold on the larger mugs (and jugs) – a simple design which makes holding a hot mug of tea just a whole lot easier!

Please do ask us if you are looking for an item in a particular colour or design. If we don’t have it in stock here, we may have it in our Harrogate gallery or we can order direct from Robert himself. This range of ceramics does make the perfect wedding gift set and we can certainly help make up a selection.

Robert Goldsmith from Selborne Pottery


Illyria Pottery

Katie Coston opened the first form of Illyria Pottery in Greenville, South Carolina in 2008. Between 2009 and 2010 Katie was the artist-in-residence at The Gallery Upstairs and Torquil in Henley-in-Arden, UK.

In 2012 Katie and her husband moved to Oxford. There she opened her own ceramics gallery in Jericho, Oxford. After seven years Illyria Pottery has now moved online and in galleries across the country.

Katie Coston (Illyria Pottery) now works from her studio in her home near Oxford.

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Illyria Pottery Artist Image


Joanna Oliver

Joanna Oliver:

‘I started my life as a potter at Standpoint Studios in Hoxton under the guidance of Nicola Tassie, later setting up my own studio in South Oxfordshire.

My workday starts with blowing the inevitable layer of dust off the ipod, putting on overalls and wedging the clay. It never ceases to amaze me the magic of being able to create something beautiful (hopefully) from a ball of mud. Perhaps this is only beaten by the moment you open the kiln after a glaze firing to see all the glistening hot bowls inside. Just like opening a treasure chest.

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There’s real alchemy involved with glazing, the unfired glaze bearing no comparison to the fired one. Glaze recipes are generously shared between potters – many that I use are oriental and have been used for hundreds of years. I particularly like ash glazes and that involved gathering certain wood types from the countryside around us and then reducing them to ash in our stove. Washed and sieved they become an all important ingredient.

I work in various stonewares and porcelain and the results, I hope, are practical, lovely to use and pleasing to look at. My stoneware is fired to1250 degrees making it safe to use in a domestic oven or microwave. It’s fine in the dishwasher too.’

Read more about Joanna Oliver here

Joanna Oliver


Penny Withers

Penny Withers is a Sheffield based ceramic artist with a studio at Yorkshire Artspace. She has a degree in Fine Art from West Surrey College of Art and a post-graduate certificate in education. She curated the Sheffield Ceramics exhibition ‘Shaping the Earth’ at the Millennium Galleries and has been instrumental in setting up the no smoke, community wood kiln at Manor Lodge. She is also a mentor and technical advisor on the YA Graduate Start-Up scheme.

To find out more, Click here to read an interview with Penny Withers.

“When one has put in the time to study and practice with a material; pushed it to its limits and been pushed back by it; the interaction is equal, intention becomes intuition. There is no need to use verbal interpretation. The pot is how it is, refreshingly simple.”

Penny Withers

Art, Ceramics & Contemporary Art

Louise McNiff

Louise McNiff is inspired by vast open moorland and the steep rocky edges that look down onto deep sweeping valleys. Dark patches of tree belt, stone walls and hedges fragment the land. The landscape of The Peak District, is the place that inspires Louise’s work.

Louise McNiff creates prints and produces hand-built ceramics in her studio, situated on the edge of the Derbyshire Peak District. Using techniques which draw on her background as a Printmaker, Louise ‘etches’ sgraffito lines into the leather hard clay with handmade tools. Coloured slips are monoprinted, painted and stencilled to build layers of drawing, mark making and colour. She works intuitively, until Louise feels that she has reached a balance of colour, shape, line and the experience of the landscape has been conveyed. The vessels are then taken to stoneware temperature in an electric kiln.

See more of Louise McNiff’s work here.

Louise McNiff in her Ceramics Studio


Michele Bianco

Michele Bianco originally trained in Architecture, but soon discovered that she was more interested in a hands-on approach, leading her to study Fine Art at Leeds College of Art and the University of Northumbria. Moving on to study Glass and Ceramics at the National Glass Centre. Michele Bianco currently works from her studios in both North Yorkshire and the North West Highlands, where she has built her own home and studio.

The starting point for my work is always walking and sketching. I’m inspired by the forms, patterns and textures in the world around me – the mesh of branches on wintry trees, the geometric patterns in eroded rock faces or the intricate structures of pods, leaves and petals. In the studio I work with a range of stoneware clays and enjoy the way the forms I build are affected by the differences in structure of these clays. All my pieces are hand built using a range of techniques; pinching, coiling and slab building. Once the initial form is created, it goes through a series of manipulations – smoothing, paddling, refining – until I’m happy with the shape. The piece is then allowed to dry slowly and during this phase the surface is altered by hand carving into the clay. The form the carving takes is determined by the shape of the vessel.

As the piece gradually dries it can be refined by degrees. Once complete the form is allowed to fully dry over a period of several days. Sometimes oxides are brushed on before biscuit firing to 900C. After the initial firing, I then move on to glazing the work. The glazes I use are all made up by me from dry ingredients which allows me to make subtle alterations to the opacity or gloss of the final glaze.The pieces are fired to around 1200C. The glazes are chosen for their texture and visual interaction with the clay and are mainly decorative in nature. For me, the process of making is an absorbing and intuitive one. I hope that the finished pieces also become objects of contemplation and enjoyment for others.

Michele Bianco working in her studio

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