Hugh West


I was born in York in 1950 and lived in Yorkshire until I was 6 years old.

I moved to Wales when my father took over the management of a large farm estate in Breconshire. At seventeen I left to study at Hereford School of Art & Design, transferring to Redruth School of Art to take a further ceramics course for which I was awarded a diploma with distinction. After work experience with several established potters, I opened my own pottery in Newquay in 1971.

An opportunity arose in 1975 to begin a large production pottery in Devon on the Flete estate. After this in 1982, I took my family to La Borne in the department of Cher, France, where an ancient pottery village still survives, repeating the traditional forms and ways of wood firing important to that region of central France, using an anagama kiln. In 2000 I went again to live and work in La Borne.

I returned to Cornwall in January 2014 and I have renewed my membership of the Cornwall Crafts Association.

Working now exclusivly in porcelain and alongside Karen Carlyon who now shares the workshop.

I have spent the last seven years passing the skills and tricks I have developed to Karen, formerly my final apprentice. She is now a potter in her own right and works in our shared studio. The tableware range is now a joint affair and seems to work exceedingly well for both of us.

I work with several porcelain bodies, obeying the rules I have made for myself each time I throw. If I am making my Etherial range, then each piece is thrown as thin as possible; if I am not happy then I will try harder on the next. Of course, making moon jars requires different rules.

I pride myself in never having purchased a ready-made glaze. I play with my glazes, making them from raw minerals and oxides. Being compatible with one another makes them easier to blend; the firing does the rest. Kiln packing, shelf placement and the passage of the flames dictate how the glazes will look on the gallery shelf.

As a rule I fire my gas kiln once each week; however, a large order can mean a firing every day. I still find fun in working out timing schedules for each. My firings in general are fast: only 5 hours from cold to 1280c. This is one of the ‘break the rules if it works’. There are many more in the workshop, privy only to myself.

I once asked a dear friend while I was working in La Borne to fire a piece of work to 1300c in one of his gas kilns. After three hours he rang to say that it was ready for collection. This was my first encounter with the fast firing of porcelain.

I don’t often feel the need to name my studio pieces, unless I see a theme that seems to correspond to what I have created, then it is named.

We run a tableware range of pots under the name of Toll House Pottery.

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