Freya Bramble-Carter is a ceramics artist who creates tableware as well as larger sculptural vessels. Freya’s work changes frequently, the product of her curiosity and desire to keep learning and experimenting. Based in London, Freya also teaches ceramics classes from her workshop. Freya talked to MIRROR WATER about her approach to clay, and how insights about ceramics often apply to everyday life, too. 


MIRROR WATER: Can you describe your studio?


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: My studio goes from shockingly, horrendously, embarrassingly messy (more like a storage cupboard of pots and equipment turned upside down!) to then looking like a super neat showroom with an exuberance of shiny glazed work on show, often laid out on linens and wooden plinths. If I could hire somebody to look after my studio and keep it organised without breaking work, I would. (Anyone out there?!) It usually takes people a while to learn how to be around delicate stuff. I think even being careful takes practise. Last night my apprentice broke a couple of huge pieces with just one step, so I also have to constantly let go otherwise I’d be in tears most of the time with all the heartache pottery gives you—things just simply go wrong!


MW: Do you keep any of your own pieces? 


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: Some works I’d love to keep if I had a museum. But I also feel there is no point me clinging onto my pieces. Those times I have kept work that I thought was my best and that I was mesmerised by quickly became not as good as the next one. Also there have been pots that I was really precious about and often I or someone else breaks them  anyway (a message to me to keep it moving). Plus I want others to have what I have, I want to share more as I already have loads for myself and an abundance of clay! I’m definitely a sharer with almost everything. Growing up as a twin, if we did not share the new toy it would just go straight in the bin. 

MW: Did having a family background in ceramics make it easier or harder to forge your own style of pottery? How did you develop your pottery style? 


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: I think having my father as my role model working with this material meant I was heavily flavoured by his style, but that’s only because I really, really like it! Other ceramics never initiated me in the same way. There is a depth of something magical within the essence of my father’s sculptures that I saw in my living spaces growing up—it drew me in. He gave me a strong skills backing so that I can make what I want. 

Now I go with my own flow and develop my style very organically. Sometimes I’m inspired by things that I’ve seen, other times I’m stretching myself, pouring my inside out. It’s interesting to see what I can pull out of me. Overall I am not attached to a limited style; I’d rather free fall for now. I say ‘limited’ just because I don’t like feeling restricted and I think I would be bored if I narrowed my style. Also, mirroring this ever-changing world, it’s exciting to ride these waves of change, stay open and fluid in my self and work. I say all this but from the outside many people would say I already have a strong style. 


MW: Do you have a vision for a vessel that you then try to recreate, or do you start throwing and see where it takes you? 


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: Sometimes when I’m creating I have a vision or a feeling and I might capture the essence of it with a simple line drawing. If I’m still excited about it and it doesn’t leave my mind, I make it. Other times it’s very nice to feel free. I tell myself: These are my hands and the only force upon them is something in me. It’s so amazing how we turn a lump of mud into something totally different. I’m constantly reminding myself of this. Earth is so forgiving, it’s a blessing to work with it!

MW: Do you have a favourite tool?


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: My favourite tool is the metal kidney. It is quite sharp, very easy to cut yourself with, and I use this to refine my shapes when I’m throwing on the wheel. It compresses the clay, helping to strengthen and straighten a clay wall. I must say the ultimate best tools are definitely these wiggly fingers I was born with. My hands have changed, though. They have developed muscle and are a lot chunkier than my twin sister’s. Our hands used to be identical, now mine are like Olympic-ly strong, weathered pointers with no nails!



MW: It seems as though pottery has its own language, words like sgraffito, chattering, crazing etc. Do you have a favourite pottery-related word or concept?


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: Yes, pottery does have its own language. Too much lingo is not necessary, the vocabulary is only good as a shortcut to a description. Some words are quite satisfying, like ‘fettle’, which means cleaning up edges from a moulded piece. I remember this one well because I was corrected on it by a mature potter.

"Keeping positive goes a long way, and realising every micro-movement counts here, as is parallel to the rest of one’s life. "

MW: What do you like about teaching pottery? How do you approach teaching? 


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: I like meeting new people because I like learning about myself too, and it’s an exchange of some kind. It’s a think less, feel more situation. I tell students: Your hands are now your eyes! I do think it’s important to give very direct, detailed instruction as that is what they are paying me for. But that’s always in tandem with stepping back to give breathing space so that the student can find their own connection with the material through play and messing up! Students develop independence quite quickly if you allow them. I encourage this, otherwise they can be clingy which is fine but is more disservice to them. Keeping positive goes a long way, and realising every micro-movement counts here, as is parallel to the rest of one’s life. 



MW: What do you think about while you are throwing on the wheel? 


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: While throwing I switch usually between silence, music, or something on Gaia or Abraham-Hicks, something I want to learn about! It’s totally hypnotising. Deep focus. To be relaxed and feeling good is what I need. The more patient I am, the more detailed I can be with my hands; this attitude shows up in the end result. It’s like putting nourishment, nutrients, love into your cooking. If I’m making with a specific aim in mind, I’ve usually locked the image in my imagination.

"Humans are growing and always expanding and our skillset gets broader and broader. "

MW: US Vogue called pottery classes ‘the new yoga’. What do you think working with clay can do for people? 


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: Working with clay stretches different parts of your brain in the same way a smartphone would if you hadn’t touched one before. It’s a healthy stretch. Humans are growing and always expanding and our skillset gets broader and broader. It has also kept me physically very strong and fit. I really do not need to go to the gym but perhaps need more rest as everything in my studio is so heavy, my body often feels overused. It’s also easy for me to take on too much work because I love it so much!



MW: What is your preferred way to rest and recuperate? 


FREYA BRAMBLE-CARTER: At the moment there’s no separation between work and spare time outside of work. I go home and lie on my back and melt into myself. Meditate. Make vegetable-food. If it’s the perfect time for it or I feel a blockage that I’m struggling with, I’ll get my diary out, have myself my own therapy session. Reaching for better, loving thoughts is always helpful.