Imogen Head established IRH.STUDIO four years ago, creating hand-built ceramics from stoneware with neutral glazes. She creates small batch ceramics for Marla & Primrose including our bestselling petite shell, as featured in SheerLuxe. We spoke to Imogen about her love of making and how her career in ceramics began.
How do you start your day?
Saturday morning is my favourite day of the week. Recently, I've been taking my dog for a walk in London Fields, then heading to Wilton Way Deli to sit down to read the FT with a coffee and a pancetta and avocado bap. There was a great article about one of my favourite contemporary painters, Kerry James Marshall, and another where Luke Edward Hall discussed the joy of tablecloths.
Please can you tell me how IRH.studio began?
I work in design, IRH.Studio started as a space to share my portfolio. Last year, I was given gardening leave which allowed me to dedicate time to ceramics for those couple of months (and, I feel very lucky to have had that). Slowly, the ceramics business grew along with my skills and confidence in what I was making. I still work in design, it's just as much a part of me as my pottery-making.
How did you start making ceramics - any tips for new ceramic makers?
I rarely find a craft that I do not want to have a go at. Shortly after moving to east London, I signed up to some classes and never stopped. Whenever I teach someone who has never tried ceramics before, I always joke: ‘You may have just started the most expensive hobby of your life’. It just captures some people.
My advice to new potters: 'if you are making lots to hone your skills, do not be afraid to start selling a few pieces' – even if it’s just on Instagram to your friends. It’s literally only you who thinks they are not quite good enough yet. Oh, and do not fire pieces you do not love, these pots are going to outlive all of us!
Where do you find inspiration for your pieces?
A little bit of everywhere - from the textures of mid-century west German ceramics I see in books to a nice pebble on Brighton beach. In terms of forced inspiration, I make a yearly trip up to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and The Hepworth Wakefield. I pack a sketchbook and have a wander around to see what captures me; while getting my annual fix of 'really' fresh air and a rhubarb dessert at The Weston. Then, back on the train home, I look back on what I've drawn through a ceramics lens - it is usually a lot of organic forms.
Can you describe the process of creating your ceramics - do you have a favourite?
I adore making the croc coiled items as it's very meditative. The technique was a happy accident, deciding to texture the coils before joining them. You have to let the piece dry quite a bit between each coil, so this method really taught me to slow down. I make planters in this style because the glazed surface looks so beautiful in natural light. I’m currently sampling a vase and large bowl in this style.
What is your favourite thing about running IRH.Studio?
A friend bought some of the first cups I ever made and has never had her coffee in anything else. It really was the best compliment to hear; to think something that I have made is their everyday favourite ceramic is really something special.
Any tips for hosting?
My favourite space to host is in my little garden in east London. I have a vintage picnic bench, which I always cover with a large linen tablecloth, which was a Christmas present from my mum a few years ago. It really elevates your al fresco dining game and makes a more intimate setting when having friends round for a small get-to-gether.
How would you style your table for a get-together?
I love to capture the feeling of being on holiday, going to the local market and cooking for friends, sitting outside late into the evening. I love to light candles and often recycle empty wine bottles to decorate the table with tall dinner candles.They are also quite handy for keeping the mosquitoes away - one of my favourite scents at the moment is Verden’s Herbanum, it smells like you're in a garden in the south of France.
If I’m hosting a drinks at my home, I will get all my samples & second cups out the cupboard to use as wine glasses (I really do think I’m a convert). Ceramic keeps your wine cooler and actually I prefer to use them over wine glasses as it makes the table setting unique and mismatched and flung together, but to me, that is the charm.
What are your favourite homeware Marla & Primrose pieces?
The brown paper bag ceramic vase - it reminds me of the iconic Jil Sander paper bag which I have pined over the leather bag for a decade. (God, I wish I’d had that idea!). Then all the incredible, colourful glassware, because I can’t make them myself *yet!