The Maker Interview. MOOR MAKING...Feldspar Studio on fresh air, open space & tree houses

It's been quite a while since our last Maker Interview, but a few months ago we added Feldspar to the Simple Shape stable of Makers, their intriguing name alone warrented further investigation. We asked Feldspar's Cath and Jeremy Brown 10 questions...

The Out Takes
1 WON'T...compromise on any aspect of the design process
2 NEED...fresh air and moors for perspective (& coffee. Of course coffee)
3 DON'T...subscribe to any trends
4 MANAGED...with no phone signal, landline, internet and tv
5 INTEND...to dig clay from surrounding fields for new ceramics collection

Dartmoor National Park, built on a bed of granite of which 'feldspar' is a main constituent.

Dartmoor National Park, built on a bed of granite of which 'feldspar' is a main constituent.

Cath & Jeremy swapped a basement flat in London for a thatched cottage in Devon. 

Cath & Jeremy swapped a basement flat in London for a thatched cottage in Devon. 

"We started messing around, making the things we needed"

"We started messing around, making the things we needed"

"...when we decide an idea has 'got legs' we will start sketching, making paper models, prototyping in whatever materials we’re considering..."

"...when we decide an idea has 'got legs' we will start sketching, making paper models, prototyping in whatever materials we’re considering..."

Coffee break, critical ritual to working life "it's no coincidence that our first product was a coffee mug or that we were particular about it’s size!"

Coffee break, critical ritual to working life "it's no coincidence that our first product was a coffee mug or that we were particular about it’s size!"

Useful tools (not necessarily for new products though...perhaps handy for a larch-clad tree house...?!)

Useful tools (not necessarily for new products though...perhaps handy for a larch-clad tree house...?!)

Q1: Feldspar. This is an unusual name...what does it mean, where does it come from and why did you choose it?
We started Feldspar after moving to the middle of Dartmoor National Park - which sits on a bed of granite. Feldspar is one of the main minerals in granite, and is what give ceramics and glass their strength - as well as making up a huge percentage of the earth’s crust. We were intrigued as we’d never heard of it. We liked that it was so ubiquitous, yet so mysterious and it just felt right. The ‘F’ of our logo is also - coincidentally - very similar to the ancient rune for ‘Ash’ and ‘Oak’, which is what surrounds us and also what we’re looking to work with more in the future.

Q2: Feldspar Studio - you’re a husband and wife team. How did you begin working together? What are you professional backgrounds?
Our backgrounds are both in design. Jeremy worked for the UN building ethical and sustainable supply chains for fashion houses and so was constantly travelling, and I was working in central London as an architectural designer. We had both been frustrated at having to compromise in our previous fields of work. For example working with clients who want to say they’re supporting ethical manufacturing while grinding prices down to unfeasible lows. So, we decided to set up a design brand that doesn’t compromise - where we could be in control of every aspect of the process from the initial spark of an idea to the finished packaged product.  

We moved from a small basement flat to a farmhouse with no straight lines or floors, and had the luxury of having a lot of space in which to set up a pottery wheel and build our kitchen table, we started messing around with making things we needed and wanted. Working together was something we had talked about doing in the future, but then we figured there’s no time like the present...

Q3: You’re based in Devon. Tell me about that decision to leave London?
It was actually a pretty easy one! It came about when our son was born, we both took a step back and realised that we didn’t want to bring him up in London - we wanted fresh air and open spaces - so we moved when he was a couple of months old, to a house on Dartmoor with no phone signal, no landline, no internet, no tv… it was a great time, lots of walks on the moor and cooking and just hanging out with our son - albeit quite a shock initially!

Q4: What are the guiding principals of your studio and your work?
We want to make good things, properly. We are inspired by items from our grandparents have - be it a fine bone china coffee cup from the 1700s that's still in perfect condition, or an old kitchen aid machine from the 1950s that still works perfectly. We love the notion of something that is made properly, using the finest materials we can find locally, by highly skilled craftspeople. Our objects don’t subscribe to any trends or fads - they’re intended to be beautiful and functional objects, ones that last! Our tag line is ‘objects for life’ - they’re designed to be used everyday, but to last lifetimes… 

Q5: How do you divide your time? Do you both have different roles? Is there a ‘typical’ day for you?
There isn’t really a typical day - some days we’ll be in the workshop, some days just sitting around the kitchen table emailing - all the while our now 2 year old son and our new puppy are running around! Jeremy probably spends the most time in the workshops, and I spend more time sketching or doing graphics. It’s always changing though!

Q6: You prototype your work yourselves but use small British industry to produce your designs. Is it important to keep production in the UK ?
It’s important to us to support traditional industries - where there is that generational knowledge and highly skilled craftspeople - which is why we have our fine bone china made in Stoke-on-Trent - because that’s where all that expertise is, and to us it’s important that these artisan hubs keep on going! So it’s more important for us to have things produced where there is a history of that material being produced, rather than specifically keeping things within the UK. 

Q. 7 - Where does an idea for new work or designs come from? What’s your process?
It’s normally something we have been talking about for a while - an idea we’ve had that has just grown and then when we decide it’s got legs we will start sketching, making paper models, prototyping in whatever materials we’re considering. We prototype everything from our home and studio in Devon, and then visit our manufacturers to discuss production. 

8 - Are there tools or objects or rituals maybe, that are critical to your working life?
Coffee breaks, probably! We were sure we’d miss good coffee when we moved so we acquired a broken coffee machine and fixed it up to make delicious coffee (normally Monmouth) in the kitchen. It’s no coincidence that our first product was a coffee mug, or that we were particular about it’s size! Other than that we find it invaluable to be able to just walk out of the studio and into fields, forests, and moorland - to gain some perspective or hash out ideas.

9 - Do you have a dream project in mind?
We have hundreds! Right now, we are in the middle of building a tree house. Ostensibly for our son, but in real life it’s really spiralled out of control. The sides are being clad in charred larch, and we’re planning to build a sink from clay we dig up in the garden - both of which I think will be lost on a two year old.

We are looking forward, in the near future, to expanding our ceramics range using clay that is dug from the surrounding fields - it is , we think, a mix of terracotta and china clay, so is a beautiful deep orange red colour but is much stronger than traditional terracotta. Our local farmer is conveniently digging a lake for his cattle, so very soon we will have tonnes of it to process and turn into objects.

10 - What’s at the end of the rainbow for Feldspar?
Not sure! As long as we can keep on creating objects from our studio in the middle of nowhere, we’ll be very happy!

Picture credits: Matt Austin / Feldspar / Yeshen Venema