Interview with Rachel Carley

Dining, in any such circumstance, should be somewhat celebratory. That is why we love Rachel Carley's ceramics. With names like 'Sunray Plate', 'Petal Dipping Dish', 'Celebration Bowl', and 'Heart Plate', her beautifully coloured pieces bring joy to any table. 

We caught up with Rachel and talked architecture, colours that enhance specific foods, and rose water meringues...


- You started making your ceramics after studying architecture - how do you feel this study informs your designs?

The collection developed from an interest in collecting, revising and re-casting rejected tablewares. These found forms are frequently altered to remove applied decoration or add additional detail where necessary. The intention was to create a ceramics collection that brought together a motley aggregate of waifs and strays, providing an afterlife for abandoned objects. This curation focus was informed by further research studies in architecture. In my final year of undergraduate study I completed a sub-thesis on British sculptor Rachel Whiteread’s House (1994) which later developed into a PhD. The doctoral thesis, Whiteread’s Soundings of Architecture explored the complex ways in which the artist enlists architectural drawing and modelling practices to shed light on the rich interior lives of quotidian spaces and typological structures frequently overlooked. The artist is well known for her casts derived from derelict furniture, rooms and buildings. Whiteread’s practice influenced the development of a collection (with more modest ambitions) that sought to rescue and revivify an assortment of tablewares. Transformed through the casting process these pieces are re-circulated in homeware and foodstores, used by well know food writers in the production of cookbooks, enlisted by stylists in national and international design magazines, and represented by a range of fine artists through the mediums of painting and print.

- One feature we love about your work is the colour palette of your pieces - a singular colour for each piece. Can you tell us about your decision behind choosing these?

Each piece can be made in 14 glaze colours that have been chosen because they enhance specific foods. The opaque glaze colours were inspired by the pastel hues employed by the eighteenth century Scottish architect Robert Adam in his developed surface drawings and interior schemas. Adam liberally deployed pale pinks, greens, blues and lilacs, counterpointed by white decorative panelling and jasperware ornamentation in the form of cameos and medallions. His ornate plasterwork ceilings (such as those found within the drawing room at Osterley House c. 1773) were often the key element of his interior designs. His use of colour on the walls and ceilings of his designs were considered as part of a greater whole: taking into account details such as pictures, mirrors, hangings and carpets. The colours in the collection also recall those used for kitchen equipment and plumbing fixtures in post-war America. The pieces can be mixed and matched in a multitude of ways to create diverse chromatic compositions on the dining table. The intention was that these different combinatories could enhance the aesthetic appeal of both the container and the contents. The vessels were designed to collaborate with food rather than act as a distancing, background foil to it.

- As well as your current collection pieces, you are also about to have a new piece come into Tessuti - the 'Sunray Plate' which sounds lovely! Can you give us any insight into this new piece?

This plate has lovely fluted edges and its finely articulated ribs respond beautifully to the translucent and opaque glaze finishes. It is a perfect complement to the existing items in the collection.

- What is the best thing you have ever eaten off of one of your plates?! Was it your own baking or a friends?

It is very difficult to choose just one! I would perhaps have to say rose water meringues studded with pistachios sitting atop a light peony bebe platter. My friend Julie Le Clerc wrote the recipe and it is available in her book, Taking Tea in the Medina.

- How are you going to be spending your summer this year?

We will be camping in Hahei.

- On the top of your Christmas wish-list is...?

I would love a Petit Boule D'ambre from Tessuti. I had some amber perfume by Creed a number of years ago and the fragrance was delicious. I would love one of these so the scent can percolate through our home.


We are very excited to show you a sneak preview of Rachel Carley's new cup and saucers coming into store mid-December!

You can see our full range of Rachel Carley ceramics here.

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