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10 brilliant contemporary Scottish ceramics and pottery artists

Scottish pottery and ceramics have long been held in high esteem. The quality and individuality of studio pottery in particular is rated highly both throughout Britain and internationally.

Finding a ceramics based degree course in Scotland however, is becoming increasingly difficult and many of the larger art schools no longer have a ceramics department let alone capabilities of teaching to degree level.

With this there has been a significant increase in hobby ceramicists, many of whom producing lovely, interesting work. Short-term courses and programs are offering basic ceramic skills to many more potential potters than ever before.

Here we look at the 10 of the best Scottish potters or ceramicists producing work today and in the last 50 years.

1. Dave Cohen

Contemporary Scottish ceramics and pottery - Dave Cohen
Dave Cohen - Contemporary Ceramics

An undisputed master of craft, David worked in ceramics for over 50 years. Former Head of Ceramics at the Glasgow School of Art (1986-1991) he specialised in Raku and designed large plate compositions for corporate and private commission. Some of his work is on display in the garden at Tantallon Studios. Dave Cohen, Ceramic Artist-Craftsman. Born: Milwaukee, Wisconsinin in 1932. Died: North Berwick, East Lothian in 2018

2. Lorraine Robson

Lorraine Robson Scottish Pottery and Ceramics
Lorraine Robson - Contemporary ceramics

Scottish ceramicist Lorraine Robson makes beautiful, thought-provoking works that pay homage to ancient and primitive skills, while embracing contemporary influences. In a world dominated by commercialism and technology, the meditative nature of allowing the form to evolve with handwork, imagination and human labour, using the most primitive and natural materials available: the earth itself. Exhibits UK and International

3. Lara Scobie

Lara Scobie - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics
Lara Scobie - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

Lara Scobie studied ceramics at Camberwell College of Arts in London and has a Post Graduate from Edinburgh College of Art. Her current work is predominantly concerned with the dynamic interplay between form and pattern. This is explored through the cohesive integration of drawing, surface mark making and volume. She is equally interested in the space that surrounds pattern as much as the hue and texture of the decorated surface. This theme has been developed further within her ‘Tilted Bowls’ that articulate the symbiotic relationship between pattern and form. Surface pattern and colour observed in botanical life enable Lara to explore her love of colour and abstract pattern making.

4. Carol Sinclair

Carola Sinclair - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics
Carola Sinclair - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

Carol Sinclair explores the theme of connection in her ceramic work, and the importance of memory in how we relate to each other and our environment.

Porcelain compositions are built using layer upon layer

of white and coloured elements, echoing the way we each build our own memories through layers of experience. Coloured and textured ceramic pieces simultaneously connect and obscure, seeking to balance what is present with the random absences that are created by time.

A graduate of Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen, Carol runs her own ceramics practice from her studio in Edinburgh and has exhibited internationally and across the UK.

5. Hilary Duncan

Hilary Duncan - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics
Hilary Duncan - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

Hilary Duncan creates handbuilt vessels inspired by the colours and natural environment around her studio, deep in Blackhall forest and beside the River Dee. Building with slab and coil using different colours and textures of clay, Hilary decorates with slips and screen prints made from drawings. Working on form, surface and finish to make vessels that sit well on a shelf either alone or in a collection, and feel comfortable to hold in the hand.

6. Jo Walker

Jo Walker Scottish Pottery and Ceramics
Jo Walker - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

Fife based ceramicist, Jo Walker produces work from her pottery studio just outside Dunfermline. Jo originally studied jewellery design at Edinburgh College of Art but then discovered clay and fell in love with the possibilities it offered. Jo says, 'I'm still learning and my work is still developing.'; Her work is design centred, striking and very pleasing.

7. Karen James

Karen James - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics
Karen James - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

‘Fleshpots’, Rubenesque female sculpture in ceramic, make up Glasgow based Karen James’s primary body of work. She employs a range of hand building techniques using several types of clay and endeavours to impart warmth and humour in her work. The figure is finished in wax then married with driftwood creating the finished piece. Life is inspirational. There is always something new, an idea, a technique, to inform.’

8. Julia Smith

Julia Smith - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics
Julia Smith - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

Julia Smith lives and works in Ardersier near Inverness. The studio was established in 2010 after Julia moved to the Highlands from Glasgow. She graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1996 and worked on ceramic mural commissions with school and community groups then set up Deepfired Ceramics Studio in Govan running clay classes for all ages. Her work now is mainly thrown, working in series and making one-off pieces. She finds pleasure in making things which enhance the simple rituals of life; having a cup of tea, enjoying and sharing food or giving a thoughtful present to a friend. People often describe her ceramics as nostalgic and evoking a sense of comfort. She strives for an elegant and simple aesthetic which makes the best use of a material’s characteristics and craftsmanship. She has an online sale once a month, allowing her enough time and space to continually evolve her range of illustrated wares and explore her interests in illustration, colour, texture and form further.

9. Walter Awlson

Julia Smith - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics
Walter Awlson - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

Born in Galashiels, Walter Awlson studied Furniture Design and Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art. Graduating in the early seventies, he went on to a successful career in secondary and further education before focusing full time on his multi-disciplinary art practice.

Walter states that his influences are many and varied, ranging from the Renaissance masters to the Glasgow Boys. The figure is a primary focus in Walter's work, an interest that began during his days at secondary school, he sees the figure as holding endless possibilities for an artist, from the nuances of light and shadow to the ability to depict movement and poise.

Artist and sculptor, on canvas Walter works mainly in oil, using his innate understanding of light and human anatomy to conjure up images that possess a dramatic yet contemplative quality. A similar tone is struck in his sculptural work in which he creates complex figurative forms using slip-casting before employing raku firing methods and completing the piece in a range of stone or bronze-like finishes.

10. Archie McCall

Archie McCall - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics
Archie McCall - Contemporary Scottish Ceramics

Archie McCall was born in Dumfries in 1951. His career in ceramics began in 1970 as an apprentice to the potter John Davey at Bridge of Dee, Kirkcudbrightshire. In 1974 he travelled in Japan and Korea before establishing his first pottery in Garlieston, Wigtownshire. Archie was appointed full-time lecturer in Ceramics at the Glasgow School of Art in 1986, becoming Head of Department in 1992. During his period as Head of Ceramics he introduced the innovative part-time BA(Hons) degree programme which is delivered through residential schools and on-line, distance learning. This was the only programme of its type in Europe. It is the landscape of Dumfries in southwest Scotland which has inspired much of Archie’s ceramics over many years and decades.

Scottish craft made pottery and ceramics are a great way to start or add to any orginal art collection.


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