Penny from Penny Varley Ceramics

Midday Makers

Back in the 1980’s I threw my first pot on a manual potters wheel, it was one of the most difficult things I had ever tried to do..  keeping clay on the wheel, standing up pushing the kick bar backwards and forwards to make the wheel go round and have some idea about what you are trying to achieve….Then in the late 1990’s I signed up for a pottery evening class at my local college, was I mad or did I just like getting messy? Obviously there was still a spark somewhere.  I attended three times a week and was totally hooked.  I loved throwing once I got the knack and creating slab and coil pots.  Our house was quickly filling up with my work and friends and family knew what they would be getting for birthdays and Christmas.One day my husband asked ‘ what are you going to do with all these pots?’. My reply ‘ I have no idea, but I have lots more ideas and I want to continue. At the time we were living in a small house with a long garden.  We sold and moved to our current home in the village of Tysoe in Warwickshire which had the perfect place for a studio and within 6 months the studio was built.


I started selling my work through the local tourist information centre and some craft fairs and in 2005 gave up the day job as a manager in the Civil Service to follow my dream and I launched Penny Varley Ceramics.It was scary with no money coming in but I stuck to my guns and introduced teaching pottery into my repertoire. As well as speaker events, both things I had been involved with in my previous life.I have a staple range of domestic ware bowls, jugs, coasters and tea towels and then I have my unique pieces.  These are all one off’s and will often be inspired by the view I have from my studio up to the Edge Hill escarpment.  I love to experiment with texture and colour and as a keen dog walker I observe and collect items on my walks to inspire new work. I am passionate about my garden and a few years ago decide to work with a clay that would be frostproof.  New clay, new firing temperatures  and new glazes have all taken my work on a different path.My purpose build garden studio is my area of calm and sanctuary.  My commute to work is less than a minute (usually with a golden retriever and a cup of tea).  The radio switches from radio 4 to radio 2 depending on my mood, but there is no phone or internet.’ organised chaos’ is how I would describe my studio as I often have more than one project on the go at a time.  ‘ there is order but only I know what that order is’.


At the start of March my diary was full of commitments for shows, teaching and talks.  As we know that all changes and I discovered Makers Market From Home.  I decided to embrace social media and technology.  I bought a new phone got posting and signed up for the makers market.  July was my initiation.  I loved setting up my stand and having something to work towards.  I have missed my shows and fellow artists and the banter and the MMFH has filled that  void for me.  It was lovely to do the interview with Andy and the idea of ambassador  is pure genius.  As a designer maker of 3d object s it is difficult sometimes for customers to understand the processAnd to get the overall view of the work, any platform that enables that is a winner in my book.  Thank you MMFH for having the vision and seeing it through.

Watch Penny’s interview on our Midday Makers series on IGTV.

Visit her Instagram @pennyvarleycermics

Becci Davies from Shore Fired Pottery

Midday Makers

My journey into clay isn’t really the normal story that you would expect. I never had the chance to do pottery in school and didn’t study art either. I have always had creativity in my bones and suppose I get it from my family, my mum and sister draw and my dad is creative with music.

During university, my career took a rebellious change of direction into hospitality, I loved being around people and running around like a maniac! My career went from strength to strength and I was managing restaurants and bars at a young age. My husband was in this industry too and we thrived at it, getting a couple of bars in Exeter, one of which I ran with my sister for 5 years, a proper community hub of quirky artistical décor, good people, good music, good times!

My husband and I had a real yearning to get out of the city and sold the pubs and our house and moved near Bude, Cornwall. There was a potter who lived locally and I had one lesson and fell in love! I remember coming straight home and saying ‘I want to be a potter!’ and I bought my wheel straight away and got practicing.

At that time (3 years ago) I was managing a hotel in Bude and on one particular day when my boss was being a vile human being, I handed in my notice. I worked my notice period feeling liberated but also thought ‘bugger, what am I going to do’. I then signed up to my local farmers market and I haven’t really looked back. I practiced even harder to not make wonky pots and Shore Fired was born. My pieces are inspired by the Cornish coast and I love to use blue glazes on most of my pieces. I am still experimenting and trying to find my way.   

I have met so many like-minded makers on my journey so far, many that have provided tips and tricks and many are now firm friends. I believe that we are so much stronger together as a community and not against each other as competition. That’s why I love what you have created, it’s put me in contact with a wider audience and I can honestly say that I have made friends as a result.

I am in contact frequently with makers that I met at MMFH markets and it’s given me confidence again to keep shouting out about my brand (however uncomfortable it may feel sometimes). My journey so far is a result of my relationships with customers and makers and you have to embrace the community if the community is to embrace you. It’s a pretty special community and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy. I probably need to thank my old boss for being an arse next time I see him!

Watch Bec’s interview on our Midday Makers series on IGTV.

Visit her website shorefired.co.uk

Instagram @shorefiredpottery