The philosophy of Josie Walter is quite simple and straightforward – eating with friends and family is one of our greatest pleasures, so it makes sense to enhance that by using beautiful pots to cook and serve the food.
She is one of a growing band of ceramicists who are encouraging cooks to not simply cherish but also use handmade pots as part of everyday life.
Josie’s fascination with kitchenware has even led her to write a book, Pots in the Kitchen, which celebrates work by contemporary studio potters and also looks back at the history of the subject.
She sent a copy to celebrity cook Nigel Slater in the hope that it might inspire him to use more handmade pots to promote his dishes and is clearly delighted to be able to say that he has name checked her book in his own.
“There have never been so many programmes featuring cookery on our televisions and it is great that people are becoming more concerned with the ingredients they use, but I also want the ceramics they use to cook, serve and eat the food to be of equal importance.
“The idea is that they are used as a frame for what we eat rather than just a background,” she said.
Josie works from a studio with the most amazing views that she and her husband, the musician Jonathan Trout, have had purpose-built in the garden of their home in Bolehill near Wirksworth.
She has only recently given up a part-time job she has had for the last few years teaching Historical and Theoretical Studies at the University of Derby to devote herself full-time to ceramics once again and admits that she is still getting used to the idea.
“When I was working at the university I used to have to grab whatever chance I had to come across to the studio and it still feels strange that I can now come here whenever I want.”
Josie was brought up in Sussex and went to university in London and then Leicester where she trained as a secondary school teacher.
She taught for four years before she became hooked on working with clay and the history behind the art form.
“What started out as an evening class quickly became a real passion for me and I decided to enroll on the studio ceramics course at Chesterfield College.
“It was a wonderful three years and at the end of it I set up a workshop with a friend in Matlock, but I soon realised I needed more experience in production throwing and running a business so in 1980 I found myself a summer job as an apprentice in France making salt glazed domestic ware.
“I saw an advert in Ceramic Review and just applied for it. The pottery was in the Auvergne, so what was not to like?” she said with a smile.
“During those six months I learnt a great deal about the business side of ceramics which I put to good use when I returned to Derbyshire.”
For ten years after that she created her decorated earthenware pottery from a studio at Via Gellia Mill in Cromford and made a name for herself at exhibitions and shows.
Her work can now be found in several galleries including Gallerytop at Rowsley and the Contemporary Ceramics Centre in Great Russell Street, London.
Despite already having the business to run and a part-time lecturing post at Derby, in 1996 Josie decided to study for an MA in the History of Ceramics at Staffordshire University. Her bosses at Derby had encouraged her to further her studies and write her book.
That’s when having a studio at home became more important as it meant she could work on the pots whenever she had spare time.
“Building this studio was the best thing we ever did. I just love it in here and since I left my job at the university I have had time to get a little more organised and I have turned part of the space into a showroom where I will be able to invite people to look at the pots in more of a domestic context rather than having to scrattle through a load of plastic crates.”
If you want to visit the studio and meet Josie then you have the perfect opportunity on December 12 and 13 when she will be opening it up to display her work together with the work of two artist friends, sculptor and printmaker Jeremy James and fellow potter John Wheeldon at a festive exhibition called Christmas Crackers.
For more details go to http://www.josiewalter.co.uk