Sue Gorman’s labour of love

Very few potters take on the challenge of the delicate and labour intensive process of neriage.

The reward for anyone brave enough is breathtakingly beautiful and colourful ceramics that are at one with nature.

So for Sue Gorman, whose desire is to make things so lovely people will want to pick them up and use them, there was no contest when it came to choosing a focus for her work.

“Porcelain is the most seductive and beautiful of all the clays and I just love the uniqueness of each piece as it comes out of the kiln when I use this process. Sometimes I just open the door and go ‘wow’ when something you hadn’t planned happens,” said the ceramicist.

The simple description of neriage (pronounced nair-ee-ah-gee) is the wedging together of different coloured clays to a point at which they are marbled. It is then used on the wheel, hand built into various forms or applied as a decoration. In Japanese the word neri means to mix and age means to pull up.

Sue discovered it while studying for a ceramics degree at Loughborough University and since graduating in 2006 she has made it her USP.

“I enjoy exploring ideas and I was all over the place trying out many different things and my tutor said ‘you must focus Sue’.

“I loved colouring clay and so neriage with its combination of porcelain and colour seemed to be the perfect answer,” she said decisively.

“I have always been told there is no such thing as a perfect pot and you shouldn’t try for that and neriage fits that bill.

“I quite like accidents and when I am working I like my sub-conscious to decide what I make. My hands are working but I am not thinking about it. I don’t really ever plan what anything will look like.”

It was while she was living in Sheffield and her then teenage son was studying at Chesterfield College that Sue made her decision to jump ship from her routine life and job and take up art.

“I had been going to life drawing classes and on sculpture courses as a hobby but it never occurred to me to take it any further. But when Toby came home from college with projects I wanted to get involved.

“One day he just turned around to me and said why don’t you do it yourself mum. You go to college and do your own projects.

“I thought about it and eventually I just did that – I signed up for the Art and Design Foundation Course at the college and it changed my life. While I was there I got my hands on clay and I just adored it.”

With a ceramics degree the next logical step, Sue and her husband moved a little further south to Ashover so she could easily commute daily to Loughborough.

What was supposed to be just three years turned into six when she was offered a Research Scolarship at the university. She is now something of an academic with a few publications and overseas lectures to her name.

In the art world she is gaining a respected reputation and she exhibits at a number of galleries across the country including Derbyshire where she is at Opus at Ashbourne and Martin Sloman’s new gallery in Cromford.

She is also a member of the Peak District Artisans and will be taking part in the Derbyshire Open Arts weekend at The Whitworth Centre in Darley Dale.

Sue and two fellow artists –  textile designer Diane Gilder and sculptor Vivien Whittaker – will be exhibiting and selling their work at Small Is Beautiful in The Art Room, Wilkin Hill, Barlow from June 3-14 between 11am  and 3.30pm.

For more details about Sue and her work go to