Meet the maker that uses gold lustre to bring sparkle to her handmade ceramics

Originally trained as an illustrator, the Devon-based potter uses delicate brushwork and gold lustre to bring sparkle to her handmade decorative ceramics

Pottery maker Sarah Bagouin-Harris

These glistening ceramics – hand-thrown from stoneware clay and painted with gold lustre – wouldn’t look out of place balanced atop a pedestal in a high-end city gallery. So it’s perhaps surprising to learn that professional potter Sarah Bagouin-Harris’s wheel sits in her spare bedroom. Passionate about creating pieces that are both beautiful and useful, Sarah’s unique mugs, plates, bowls, planters and vases are adorned with flowing glazes and delicate decoration.

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Sarah uses a wheel to create a mug shape, before 'turning' to refine.
Sarah uses a wheel to create a mug shape, before ‘turning’ to refine.

What’s your background?

I’ve always been a creative person, and I loved art from a young age. I studied Fine Art at college, and then went on to complete a degree in Illustration at Falmouth University, but I chose not to work as an illustrator when I graduated. I learned a lot from my degree, but a career in illustration wasn’t a good fit for me creatively.

What first drew you to pottery making?

I bought some ceramic bake-on pens from a local craft shop and began drawing designs onto plain glazed plates and mugs. I realised that I loved creating something that was both functional and beautiful. I then took a pottery taster session at a local studio, where I was taught the basics of throwing, and I completely fell in love with the process. After that, I hired a pottery wheel once a week so that I could practise, and took my work to the studio to be fired. The style of my ceramics has changed so much.

Sarah uses a knife to create a textured surface to attach the handle
Sarah uses a knife to create a textured surface to attach the handle

Describe the sorts of ceramics you make

I love the versatility of pottery and that you can make an amazing range of items from a single ball of clay. I mainly focus on making mugs, but I also enjoy crafting planters, lidded pots, tea wares and also plates. 

What inspires you?

I’ve always been inspired by nature and the colours that surround me. I also love Scandinavian and Japanese pottery, plus the designs of Dame Lucie Rie and Leach Pottery.

Sarah attaches the handle to the mug
Sarah attaches the handle to the mug

Tell us about your process

I start by wedging the clay, which is a process of kneading it to prepare it for throwing. Once I’ve thrown a piece at the wheel, it is left to dry to a leather-hard stage. I then ‘turn’ it: removing any excess clay in order to refine the shape. I will also add the handles at this point. Once the piece has air-dried for a few days (this is very weather dependent!) it will then be bisque fired. After this, it will be dipped into a glaze mixture and fired again. I then hand-paint the gold lustre design before firing the pot for a third and final time. I fire all pieces in a kiln in my back garden, which is in a coal shed.

Pottery is my outlet for creativity and I really value those few hours when I can steal away to create.

Describe your work space

My studio is a small spare bedroom in my house. I have an area for wedging and reclaiming scraps of clay; a space for my wheel and drying shelves; plus a spot for glazing and painting on the gold lustre. By crafting from home, I’m able to work around my little one, which is very important for my life as a single mum. I also find it very therapeutic – pottery is my outlet for creativity and I really value those few hours when I can steal away to create. 

Sarah paints lustre onto a finished mug
Sarah paints lustre onto a finished mug

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working with a darker clay body and white slip.  I’m really excited to see the ideas it generates and where it will take my work. 

Any future plans?

I’m quite happy with where I am and I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do. I’d love to move to bigger premises where I could fire work in a larger kiln. I’d also love to experiment with woodfiring and using clay that I’ve found rather than bought.

A finished planter and mug
A finished planter and mug
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See more of Sarah’s gold lustre ceramics at sbhpottery.com.