Ceramicist Joseph Hartley is gaining a national reputation for the quality of his work.


A young designer from Lancashire is gaining a national reputation for the quality of his work.

Joseph Hartley is a man who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty - which is just as well as he makes his living from turning lumps of clay into objects of great beauty.

But Joseph’s hard work hasn’t just been confined to slaving over a potter’s wheel. During his early years he tried his hand at cockle-picking in Morecambe Bay, working as a butcher’s assistant in Bare and producing bread in a bakery in Chorlton, where he now has his studio.

All that hard work has, he believes, influenced his work and helped to turn him into one of the UK’s most highly-regarded and exciting young designers.

Joseph was born in Lancaster and grew up in the north Lancashire coastal communities of Silverdale and Warton. ‘I’ve always been a maker,’ he says. ‘I started having lessons from a potter in Beetham called Mike Eden when I was just seven or eight.’ By happy coincidence, the two were reunited when Joseph went to Manchester Metropolitan University to study 3D design and discovered Mike was one of the lecturers.

Since gaining his degree, his reputation has grown and last year he was named BDC New Designer of the Year and he has embarked on his first solo exhibition which is on at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

Function and form combine in perfect harmony in the work of this young designer, whose interest in traditional baking ingredients makes for simple, effective and beautiful pieces.

Most Read

Joseph admits that if he hadn’t become an artist he would probably have been a baker and he still bakes all his own bread, with a particularly passion for sour dough loaves.

‘My work isn’t just pottery,’ he says. ‘It involves wood, clay and cloth and it’s not unlike bread-making which is just flour, water and salt. The two things have a lot in common.’

The work he produces is beautiful but the pieces are not just for admiring – they all have a purpose.

An innovative apron turns into a bread sack and the lid of a conical flask from a series of baking accessories called The Makery doubles up as a beaker.

His take on a clothes peg forms the seal for a container. It’s a little whacky but it works and it makes you smile.

‘I think you would use the word utility when referring to my work,’ he says. ‘It’s always stripped back and rarely has decorations yet it’s tactile.’

The clay he has used for his most recent collection of kitchen ware produces an ivory stoneware and this contrasts well with the local cherry wood he uses for lids and handles – all turned by Joseph on a lathe. Prices are modest, ranging from £40 to £135.

‘Friends say that if I wasn’t working as a potter I’d have been on the Great British Bake Off,’ he laughs. ‘But I think I’d have my own bakery. Besides, I haven’t got a TV so I’ve never see the programme. I’m too busy making pots to watch telly.’

Fire your imaginationJoseph’s show at the Manchester Craft and Design Centre runs until June 29 but he also has an exhibition at Liverpool’s Bluecoat Centre between April 1-30. Kate Day, director of the Manchester centre in the Northern Quarter, said: ‘Joseph is a fascinating and brilliant talent. The simplicity in his designs belies his complex and rigorous thought processes and his technical abilities. The quality of the finished product is quite incredible. Each piece is beautiful and useful.’ You can see more of his work online at josephjameshartley.wordpress.com