New Pottery Made of Clay From the River Thames

Talk about local. This pottery is made in London, of clay dug from the banks of the River Thames. Appropriately called Wharfware, it is the work of two Designers in Residence at London's Design Museum.

Each year the Museum holds a programme for up and coming designers. This year's theme was Thrift: designers were asked to "explore the idea of economy and resourcefulness in an object, an environment or an experience".

Designers Oscar Medley-Whitfield and Harry Trimble were both interested in a project that used local materials and reflected the area's heritage.

It's not inadvertent that the two designers chose mud from the Thames: Southwark, the local area,was the site of a thriving ceramics industry for three hundred years. They spent their design residency researching and developing how to make products with Thames mud taken from under Tower Bridge, two minutes away from the museum. They wanted to make something out of nothing, in keeping with the thrift theme.

It was not an easy process. They collected the clay in low tide, with a spade and a bucket. They transported it to their studio by wheelbarrow, on the bus.

Before the rough clay could be used it had to be refined endlessly through a sieve to remove impurities and to make it a workable consistency. Then it had to be moulded and fired. The only additive is sand.

new potteryBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The duo developed their own moulds, made from a modified industrial technique. The moulds were designed to allow the clay to be shaped under pressure reducing the likelihood of warping and distortion. The geometric shapes that they chose made it easier to remove the pieces from the moulds.

In the end they have produced a range of 5 different pieces of tableware. Some of the ‘Wharfware’ collection will be for sale.

The brick is called Fishbrick, in homage to the river and to the designer Sir Terence Conran's famous Chicken Brick first introduced to the UK in 1964.

wharfBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Here is more of their range, on view at the London Design Festival, 2013.

New Pottery Made of Clay From the River Thames
This pottery is made from clay dug from under Tower Bridge in London.

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