Damson Tree Pottery – the potter who shares her studio with swallows, owls and a tiny wren

Damson Tree Pottery

Meet the Maker: Damson Tree Pottery

Ceramicist Marieanne Cavaciuti’s  first pottery was set under damson trees, which gave name to her practice, Damson Tree Pottery. She has recently moved to a small farm in Devon, rehoming her kiln and studio in an old barn which she shares with swallows, owls and a tiny wren – which seems fitting for an artist whose work is so connected to the natural world. We talked to Marieanne about her background and her inspirations… 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Damson Tree Pottery?
I’m married with four kids now in their teens and 20’s who are beginning to ‘fly the nest’, except the ‘nest’ has flown to Devon recently, so home is a much more interesting place! I love being outside – kayaking, fishing and walking in the countryside. My work reflects the natural world and I love to work outside whenever possible.

Damson Tree Pottery, making leaves

I started making pottery as gifts for friends and they encouraged me to sell my work at craft fairs. I did this for a while and met other makers who told me about selling online… I haven’t looked back since.

How did it all begin?
I started making pottery as gifts for friends and family and they encouraged me to sell my work at craft fairs. I did this for a while and met other makers who told me about selling online. This works much better as weekends are family time and I haven’t looked back since.

Damson Tree Pottery, how craft helped her recover from a breakdown

Where and how did you master your craft?
I first started pottery in hospital after a breakdown in my late teens. Being creative helped me realise that I had worth and could do something with my life. I then went to excellent pottery classes at Sutton College of Liberal Arts. I bought a kiln and potter’s wheel and got a job as a sculptor making original designs for reproduction. I didn’t have space or time to do any pottery for many years but started back at classes and ended up being asked to teach the class.

Where did the name Damson Tree Pottery come from?
My first pottery was built under the shade of damson trees at the end of our garden and the name also reflects some of the inspiration of the natural world in my work. I’m inspired by the beauty in nature all around us and the greatest designer of all. My family, especially nieces and nephews, and students are a great source of inspiration too.

lily pad coaster, damson tree pottery

I look to nature for new ideas and textures that I can press into the clay and I love experimenting with new glazes and techniques.

Are there any artists or designers you particularly admire?
I love the work of the potter Lucie Rie and of the impressionist artists Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gough, who seem to have captured the essence of the beauty of what they see.

How would you describe your own style?
Impressionist, in a number of ways!

handmade ceramic tiles, damson tree pottery

My work reflects the natural world and I love to work outside whenever possible.

How do you develop your pieces and where do your ideas come from?
I look to nature for new ideas and textures that I can press into the clay and I love experimenting with new glazes and techniques. I also get ideas for new products from custom orders.

Can you talk us through one of your pieces from start to finish?
To make my Cherry Blossom Tiles I first slice the clay into slabs and roll to the correct thickness with a rolling pin. I then cut each tile to size with a tile cutter or potter’s pin and put on plasterboard in the arrangement they will be placed on the wall. I select a suitable cherry blossom twig from the tree and press into the soft clay. To make sure the tiles dry evenly I place another piece of plasterboard on top. When the tiles are leather hard, I number and sign them and write the name of the person ordering and the colour to be glazed. Over a few days I transfer them to different plasterboards to continue the drying process. When they are completely dry, I place them in kiln for bisque firing up to 1060°C for 8 hours. When cooled, I sand any rough edges and carefully paint the tiles with glaze and fire them again, this time stacking them on tile racks for the glaze firing, which is another 8 hours and another 12 hours to cool. It is very exciting and a little scary opening the kiln and laying them out!

damson tree pottery, handmade ceramic tiles, cherry blossom

I love the excitement of opening the kiln after a glaze firing and finding the treasures inside. It’s like Christmas every time!

What’s your favourite part of the making process?
I love the excitement of opening the kiln after a glaze firing and finding the treasures inside. It’s like Christmas every time!

It seems like Damson Pottery is a bit of family affair…
My daughter has been a great inspiration and style guru, modelling my work online and to her friends. She also helps make, glaze and wrap parcels when I’m very busy. My sons and husband help with the technical and computer side of the business and they all help with ideas. My husband hopes to spend more time helping me develop the business now we have the space and time in Devon.

winter decoration, damson tree pottery, pine close, ceramic, tree decoration

I value the freedom to work where and when I want, and the flexibility to work around the family doing something I love.

How did that move go?
The move has been a long process but worth it, as I love living and working on the small farm. It’s very beautiful and inspiring here and people are so friendly. We are learning how to care for our small flock of sheep and hope to plant many fruit trees and get chickens, ducks and pigs.

What’s your new studio like?
I’m so excited as I have 10 times more room for my studio in an old barn than I did before, so there’s no more juggling for space – although my favourite place to work has always been outside! A lot of work will need to be done by my husband before I can use all the building, as it’s been a nesting place for swallows and owls upstairs and we want to make provision for them to share the space as my business grows. A tiny wren currently lives in my workspace downstairs. We want to build decking to work and teach pottery outside beside the stream.

damson tree potter, ivy bobby pins, ivy necklace, ivy ring, ceramic jewellery

I’m inspired by the beauty in nature all around us and the greatest designer of all.

What’s the best thing about being a maker?
I value the freedom to work where and when I want, and the flexibility to work around the family doing something I love.

 

See Marieanne’s work in her Folksy shop Damson Tree Pottery

 

 

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