I first met Caitlin Jenkins over 15 years ago in Cardiff where we were both studying for our Ceramics degrees. It was immediately clear that she was a cut above the rest of us. Throwing pots is not easy, and while most of us on the course struggled to make an ashtray, Caitlin was gracefully turning out the most beautiful pots, making it look effortless, and we were all in awe of her talent. We weren't surprised, then, to find out that Caitlin was an eighth generation potter and her family had been running Ewenny Pottery, famous for it's distinctive blue and brown mottled glaze, since the 17th century.
She is one of the most creative people I know, and since our days in Cardiff Art College she has gone on to get an MA from the Royal College of Art, with her work now in many public collections around the country. Having taken over running the pottery full-time from her father, not only does she continue to throw the traditional tableware Ewenny is famous for, she also finds time to make the most amazing (and huge) sculptural pots, decorated with delicately coloured slips (liquid clay) which she draws or mono-prints onto and are inspired by the stunning countryside she lives in.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I am working on a couple of commissions both very different in look and feel. A newly married couple have commissioned me to make a dinner service inspired by Ewenny’s traditional slip ware decoration ‘sgraffitto’. And I am making some custom-made creamy-white cawl bowls and jugs for an internet company which sells contemporary Welsh crafts.
What attracted you to ceramics?
My family have been making pottery for hundreds of years; I loved art and making things whilst growing up so it just seemed natural for me to become a potter.
What has been your career path?
I was taught to throw by my father and spent most of my childhood practising the craft in the pottery along-side him. I studied Ceramics at Cardiff College of Art 1995–8 and the Royal College of Art 2001–3. I continue to work at Ewenny Pottery making our traditional ware we sell in our shop and my contemporary work I exhibit across Wales.
What has been your proudest moment?
I feel a sense of privilege and pride being the eighth generation potter of the Jenkins family of Ewenny. The Jenkins’s married into a pottery family called the Morgan’s and folklore tells us they had been making pots in our pottery since 1610. This means our family have been potting in the same pottery for 400 years in 2010. I am honoured to be continuing the family craft.
I had lots of things planned to celebrate the 400th anniversary, which included the making of some commemorative pots, but family history got in the way and I gave birth to twin boys in early July!
What or who has been your biggest influence?
My biggest influence has to be my father he has taught me my craft, how to run our business and how not to run our business!
What is the last thing you saw that made you go wow?
I saw Ai Weiwei vast sculpture ‘Sunflower Seeds’ featured on the Culture Show a few months back and I was awestruck.
What makes you happy?
What's the best advice someone has ever given you?
'Keep two legs in one stocking' said my Grandmother. I didn’t listen and have ended up with twins!
What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as a designer or maker?
Work hard, listen to your heart but make sure you can make a few things that are affordable.
I would like to throw some large and voluminous pans; I am often inspired by old utilitarian objects. The plan is to enter them into this year’s National Eisteddfod Art and Craft Competition but the closing date is 14th February so I better get my wheel into gear!