I first met Fleen back in 2015 at the Wardlow Mires Pottery and Food Festival. I was drawn to her beautiful pottery and her very unique aesthetic. Some of you may already know this, but she totally inspired the Aston Apron and even fed into the design process, helping me to understand what features were required for someone constantly getting messy in front of the wheel. Fleen and I have kept in touch since and so I'm thrilled she's the first maker in our Meet the Maker series.
Please tell us about your work
I am a potter making two ranges of work: wood-fired salt glaze pottery and hand-thrown porcelain tableware. These two ranges are quite different but both are intended for everyday use in the kitchen and home.
My wood-fired pots are thrown on the wheel or constructed from folded slabs of clay with stamp decoration. The joy and nature of wood-firing is that each firing is quite different, making the surface of each pot unique. For instance a pot’s position in the kiln determines the level of exposure to wood ash/salt that forms the glaze. The wood is slightly different with each firing and even the weather can influence the outcome. I love the earthy warmth of the colours which emerge from this kiln.
The porcelain is all hand-thrown on the wheel and the glaze colours (in contrast to my wood-fired range) are very reliable. Porcelain is a beautiful clay; soft white in colour, it gives the glaze a pure fresh look. These timeless elegant pots look great in either a modern or traditional kitchen.
What is your background?
I graduated with a First-Class Honours Degree in Ceramics from University of Wales Institute, Cardiff before completing a pottery apprenticeship with accomplished master potter Micki Schloessingk.
I set up my business in 2011 making wood-fired saltglaze tableware, which I continue to produce and sell alongside my new porcelain range.
You’ve just built a studio at the end of your garden. Tell us about it!
It’s my dream come true!
I am now all settled into my Forest of Dean workshop and loving potting there! It was a fun project with much help from my partner Sean. We made use of many reclaimed materials and the exterior is clad in local Douglas Fir, complete with a permaculture sedum roof.
I save a lot of time on travelling, can be far more efficient and flexible with my work, and can squeeze lots more into my days. As well as plenty of potting and corresponding with customers/buyers and keeping my online shop up to date, I do now manage to find some time for the other things I enjoy ... a bit of gardening (I grow a lot of my own food), walking in the Forest with my dog Ralphy, cooking and developing new vegetarian/vegan recipes and so on.
You’re the owner of one of our aprons. Has wearing it changed the way you work at all?
Yes, I love my apron! I’ve had lots of lovely comments about it. It’s so nice to have a garment which is both practical and stylish. It looks great with anything and I can wear it in the workshop whilst potting or at a show to look smart and professional. Line Cut Supply is an inspiring brand, making really practical workwear for women, by women. It’s a perfect fit and I particularly love the cross strapping which goes across my back and stops the apron slipping about. It’s brilliant to be able to focus on my work, moving freely all the while knowing the apron is going to stay in the correct position regardless of if I’m throwing on the wheel or wedging clay. Furthermore, I like the elegant pleat down the front which allows the fabric to protect my legs when I’m at the wheel. I have had it for over a year now and it is really durable and washes well. Thanks Aimee!
What advice would you give to aspiring ceramicists?
Clay is a wonderful material with so many possibilities, find what you love about it and enjoy making! Potters are a lovely bunch so don’t be afraid to seek the advice of others, I have had plenty of support along the way.
Where do you hope to take your work in the coming years?
I am looking forward to exhibiting at various shows across the country this year. However I’m particularly excited about exhibiting my new porcelain range at the British Craft Trade Fair and hopefully linking up with new shops and galleries! I’m very proud of my new website and online shop that I recently built and will continue to keep it stocked up with all my latest pots. Please feel free to visit at: www.fleendoran.com
As for future ambitions, I would love to link up with a food producer, or cook, or food writer. I really enjoy making pots inspired by a particular meal/food or even for a particular place.
Thank you so much to Fleen for taking the time to answer our questions. You can follow Fleen on Instagram @fleendoran.