Meet the Makers: Dimbleby Ceramics pottery workshops

If, like us, you've been inspired by the Great Pottery Throw Down, then you might be searching for a perfect pottery throwing experience day. A highly recommended workshop, in Stoke-on-Trent, is the amazing day with Mathew at Dimbleby Ceramics. Here's Mathew to introduce himself and his inspirational studio.

Amazing pottery throwing skills to be learned

Q1. When did you start teaching workshops?

I started teaching workshops in 2019 as I was missing teaching, meeting interesting people and passing on my passion for throwing and ceramics in general.
Happy potters

Q2. Tell us about your workshop space/ surroundings.

Initially, I taught my workshops in my working studio, but as the courses increased in popularity, I realised that I was going to need some more space! In 2021, I had a custom built wooden studio, made by an excellent local craftsman, so now I have a dedicated space just for teaching, which is lovely and bright. There are two large windows that overlook the wood and stream at the back of the studio and the kingfisher can often be seen darting past, as well as other wildlife. It is a great setting; I have 5 wheels for students and 1 teaching wheel which is perfect for teaching small groups of novice potters. 
The gorgeous studio

Q3. Tell us about the variety of courses on offer?

I offer courses for beginners with over 90% of the people who attend having never even touched clay before, let alone had experience of throwing on the wheel. I teach the course in a very easy, methodical way that is easy to understand and apply and the results and feedback have always been fantastic. I think people who attend the course are amazed at what they can actually achieve. At the end of the day each student will create 4 or 5 pieces including bowls of different sizes and a small jug. 

My sessions are relaxed and I aim to put all new students at ease, as this leads to greater confidence. The element of fun is essential, when mistakes happen it is understood to be part of the learning process, we can have a laugh and move on, improving all the time. 

A good old chat alongside the tutoring helps me understand each student’s individual needs and skills. 

As the alumni of the beginners courses have grown over the years, I now offer an advanced throwing workshop where previous students can develop their skills further. I generally discuss with advanced students how they want to progress and what they would like to make. So far we have made wool bowls, plates, vessels with handles and even a Japanese tea pot!

The results you can achieve are impressive

Q4. Tell us about your team.

Our main business, Dimbleby Ceramics is run myself and my wife Rachel since 2011 and Rachel has assisted with running hand building courses since 2019. The throwing courses are run by myself (Mathew) as this is my area of expertise.

The Dimbleby crew

Q5. Describe a typical month as a maker/tutor.

Our main business focuses on designing and making our own products which are decorated with Rachel’s surface pattern designs. The courses now run mainly at weekends although we will offer them on other days, as long as there is over 2 students attending.

Our days start with posting out retail orders from our own website and the other online platforms that we feature in. I spend most of my days in the studio, making products, glazing and firing the kilns. Rachel deals with the day to day running of the business as well as developing new surface designs and potential new products. Trade orders make up the most of our output and much of the studio work is fulfilling these.

We attend the Harrogate Home and Gift Trade Fair in July and a lot of time goes into preparing and also fulfilling orders afterwards. We love going to this event as it is great to spend time with other designer makers and small business owners, as we swap advice, knowledge and funny stories!

It's great to celebrate each others success

Q6. Do you also craft in your spare time, are there other crafts that you enjoy?

I think clay is in my blood, as this takes up all of my time either producing our own designs for the business, teaching or throwing/ making for other designers. When I am not in the studio, I like to get out in the fresh air either walking in the beautiful Staffordshire countryside, or out on my mountain bike in the local woodland areas. 
The interior style in the studio

Q7. What advice would you give to other people looking to teach their skill?

I believe that having some sort of teaching qualification is essential, to ensure a structured and professional approach, and understanding the delivery and passing on of skills. Planning is essential, as is time management. Letting your students understand your expected outcomes is also essential, as they will have a clear idea of how the day will progress and what they will be achieving by the end of it. 

There are lots of people who excel in their chosen discipline but are not necessarily great teachers. This is something we often hear from people who attend the course who have experienced this on other courses, prior to attending one of ours. We have had lots of people who have attended our course and have been so enthused with the skills they have learnt that they have set up small studios at home and come back periodically to gain extra skills. Finally, small groups are essential, as this enables you to give quality, one to one tutoring, which leads to great outcomes. It is very easy to lose track of progress in larger groups, especially as with throwing on the wheel, disasters can happen very quickly if you take your eye off the ball (of clay!)
Everyone has fun on these workshops

Q8. Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration professionally?

There are many potters/ designers who have inspired me over the years. Keith Murray, Walter Keeler (who came in to teach my year group at University as a visiting lecturer), Kevin Millward is a good friend who has always been open with his knowledge of ceramics and happy to share it. Grayson Perry is an excellent contemporary role model and we really enjoyed visiting the exhibition of his, that came to the Potteries Museum and Art gallery in 2019.

The ceramic and arts community in Stoke-on-Trent is vibrant and very well established and continues to grow. There is a great misconception that the industry has disappeared but this is far from the truth. It may not employ in the same numbers, as it did in the 80’s, however, there are many smaller firms that form part of this, along with some of the bigger names.

Students are thrilled with what they can throw

Q9. What is the funniest thing to ever happen on one of your courses?

There are plenty of funny moments when you are teaching a group of students, especially when people are initially coning up the clay! We have had some hilarious family groups come to learn together and it is very interesting seeing their low key (or in some cases very high key…) competitiveness on who makes the best pot! 

The best thing for me, every time I teach a group, is the enthusiasm from everyone and the desire to learn a new skill. I have had some occasions where people on courses have kept in touch with each other with a WhatsApp group and come back for an advanced class together. 

When students return it is often like seeing an old friend again and we really enjoy a good ‘catch up’ chat!

A workshop can be like catching up with friends

Are you ready to throw down?!

Mathew has inspired our team at CraftCourses to get our hands dirty and we're all inspired to try out the potter's wheel! If you would like to book a workshop with Mathew in his fabulous studio find out more information here.> We also have a full selection of pottery and ceramics workshops across the UK.

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