I have recently delivered my first bespoke pottery commision to Aston Springs Farm in Sheffield where I work as a Chef for my day job.
Having worked as a chef for a number of years I’m all too familiar with the frustrations of breakages of tableware. Often dishes need to be presented in a certain way, and if you don’t have enough pots it slows you down. This is just one of the reasons why chefs are always so angry…
During my pottery making I often make little pots to try out new glazes – they represent how a glaze will look a lot better than a flat tile usually. Whilst making these pots I realised that perhaps they would be useful at work, and lucky for me my bosses agreed. I produced twelve small dip pots for sauces and coleslaw that are finished in a clear glaze that shows the speckled stoneware clay I’m using currently. I was able to provide these at around the same price as commercially made pottery.
All the places I’ve worked at have bought commercially made cast porcelite pots – usually plain white. I suppose because of the manufacturing process the rims have a tendency to chip very easily. In restaurant kitchens they do get handled quite roughly, and are often dropped by staff.
When I make my pottery on the wheel the clay particles are aligning themselves as they rotate, and I finished the rims with a light touch of a leather cloth which strengthens them. I believe this is the reason why none of my pots I use at home have ever chipped.
So my bespoke pottery has been in used at the restaurant for a few months now and so far there has been no damage to the pots even though they have been out to customers, and back through the kitchen dishwasher multiple times everyday, and also had a few drops on the floor.
I’m quite excited about the potential of other work in this area. I think that my experience as a chef would really help me produce tableware for restaurants that works for chefs and is really durable. My latest firings have been to a higher temperature which has given the finished pots water absorption of around 1%, meaning they are microwave and dishwasher safe.
If you are a restaurant owner and are interested in having some bespoke handmade pottery to enhance your food presentation, get in touch!
Meet the Potter – Tom Humphries, Sheffield Potter
My name is Tom Humphries, I make handmade stoneware pottery in my small home studio in Woodseats,Sheffield.
Pottery is currently a hobby and second income, I work full time as a chef and have a wife, a little girl, and great family which are a big part of my life.
My Introduction to Pottery
My wife was taking pottery evening classes, and I bought her a wheel for her birthday. After having a few goes myself I became hooked on clay. I was terrible to begin with but persisted and taught myself, mainly from reading books and watching YouTube videos of other potters.
I bought a kiln off Ebay and began learning about glaze chemistry and firing techniques. When I’m not making pottery I’m usually reading about new techniques or how to get the best out of my clay. I love trying out new forms and developing glazes which are as durable and safe as commercial pots.
I’m currently most interested in making mugs, bowls and other tableware. My work as a chef has influenced how I design my pottery. It must be practical, ergonomic and have more interest than mass produced tableware. I aim to create stoneware which is affordable, and has a tactile quality which people will love to use in their daily lives.
My Pottery Ambitions
I hope to share some knowledge here and hopefully get people involved in what has become a large part of my life. There is so much to learn, but I am excited about the future. So far I have had some great feedback from the customers on my Etsy shop. I just want to keep learning, get better and maybe one day I might be able to be a full time potter!