CELEBRATING BRITISH CRAFT WITH FELDSPAR
Led by an ageless aesthetic with a focus on creating long-lasting designs, Feldspar creates objects for the home — hand-made from the finest materials by the most highly skilled craftspeople in the UK. Founded in late 2016 by Jeremy and Cath Brown, the couple left their careers in London, Cath working for an architect and Jeremy working with the UN on sustainability, to pursue a new life in Dartmoor, Devon. For our latest campaign, the Turnbull team visited the Feldspar studio where it makes most of its wares (the rest are crafted in a family-run factory up in Stoke on Trent). Like Turnbull, Feldspar’s focus on artisanship and craft drew natural parallels when photographing our crisp cotton shirts alongside their much-loved ceramic moulds. We caught up with the couple on all things Feldspar, finding the perfect work-life balance, and the future of British ceramics.
Turnbull: Firstly, thank you so much for giving your studio over to Turnbull for the day – it is such a beautiful part of Devon. Did you always know you would leave London? Where were you when you had that first conversation about starting Feldspar?
Feldspar: Thank you for coming! We actually always said we would never leave London – there was always too much going on… but now I just cannot imagine living there again. We moved on a whim, our son was a tiny baby and we just wanted space and – most importantly – fresh air. Originally, we had just planned to take some time off and then go back to our old jobs; it was only after beginning to make things for fun down here that we thought we should see where this takes us…
At Turnbull, signature details like our three-button cuffs set our shirts apart. What makes something distinctly Feldspar?
Yes – everything we make has an uneven profile. They are designed to be tactile and are obviously handmade without compromising on design and elegance. Mugs are made to be perfect cylinders as that is how they come off the potter’s wheel or out of a machine, but hands are not perfectly cylindrical. Our wares are harder to make but sit perfectly in the hand.
You started with a single kiln and a potter's wheel, but your collection now includes candles, soaps, blankets, and vases. Imagination and play – thinking specifically of your giant teaspoons and multi-handled teapots here – seem central to your ethos. Where do you get your inspiration for new work?
We like the naivety of children’s book illustrations, or just a simple drawing, to try to create something in three dimensions that are useful and beautiful but also still have a relationship with that initial sketch. We are also drawn to extraordinary objects that have a sense of humour – things like Caractacus Potts’s breakfast machine. Now that is the dream kitchen gadget. My dad always says “you don’t have to be mad, but it helps” – that has always informed our approach to designing. And life.
You describe running Feldspar as a 'lifestyle'. How do you keep a healthy work-life balance and how do your earlier careers affect your ways of working today?
I do not think that anyone who runs their own business has what you would call a healthy work-life balance! We set it up because we really enjoy it though – every aspect, whether it is making ceramics or designing packaging. Also one of the main driving forces behind Feldspar is the fact that we do not have to compromise on anything – in our earlier careers it was frustrating when, what were initially great ideas, were often watered down in the end by various things, be it time or cost, but with Feldspar we are able to control every aspect of production and onwards, so we can do things exactly how we feel they should be done – with care and integrity.
Mould making, slip-casting and industrial bone china production are all critically endangered crafts in the UK according to the Heritage Crafts Association. What do these processes entail and why is it important for us to preserve these techniques in Britain?
Slip-casting is the method of casting ceramic forms using plaster moulds – which themselves are painstakingly handmade. It is a lengthy process – each piece goes through countless stages and is passed through many pairs of hands before it is finished. It is a labour of love really, but it is so important to us to keep these traditional skills and to be a tiny part of keeping the amazing generational knowledge from the factory up in Stoke on Trent going. It would be devastating to lose all these meticulous and extraordinary skills – we are proud to be a small part of keeping these crafts alive here in the UK.
Through stockists like Fortnum & Mason and The Conran Shop, Feldspar has found fans from all over the world, what do you think draws people to your pieces and British craft more generally?
I think, and hope, people are increasingly embracing handmade objects and have a new respect for the time and skill that goes into making things from start to finish, as well as, I feel, being more considered about what and where they are buying from. We take the traditional processes and a well-established local material (our bone china comes from Cornwall) and create modern objects that will last a lifetime – objects that are obviously handmade but do not compromise on elegance and strength.
How did lockdown affect you and the Feldspar family? Jeremy, we noticed you were busy putting your woodworking skills to practice on an incredible chicken coop, for example.
We live in quite a remote spot and are fairly self-sufficient, so apart from closing the workshop during the first lockdown it has thankfully not been a million miles away from our normal every day. Jeremy set up a wood workshop at home and built a fenced vegetable garden, a very elaborate chicken coop for our hens with a pulley system to open and close it and has started making wooden pieces for the home and furniture that we are going to add to the Feldspar collection. And I grew 4,302 radishes.
Finally, as we all begin to imagine life post-Covid 19, what are you most looking forward to?
Being able to travel again! We are so lucky here to be surrounded by fresh air and open fields, but we are longing to travel again. In our past lives, we travelled all the time, and I want the kids to be able to experience diverse cultures the way that we have been able to – to eat pasta in Rome overlooking the Forum, fresh sushi in Tokyo surrounded by neon lights and glass skyscrapers (these are kids that roam fields and have not been in a city for over a year…), or to go to the annual summer festival in Corfu and dance in the village square until the early hours…
Discover more at feldspar.studio