Wax Meets: Florian Gadsby

Posted on: Sunday 11, February 2024 – Words by

Step into the captivating world of Florian Gadsby, the brilliant potter and ceramicist who calls North London his creative haven. As we enter his studio, the air is filled with the earthy essence of clay and the subtle energy of artistic expression. Meet Florian, a maestro at the pottery wheel, whose hands bring life to raw material, shaping it into intricate works of art.

Where do you consider home to be?

The romantic answer is my wheel, but London is definitely my home. I’ve made pots here almost every day since I was 15 years old. Any period I’m not making I feel off. Last year when I wrote the book there was a period of 2 months where I wasn’t making, and I was angry. I could feel tension within because I wasn’t actively going to the studio every day and throwing pots. As long as I have things to make, then I am happy.

How many hours per day do you spend in the studio?

I am easily here 9-5 every day making pots, filming, firing, glazing, trimming. I have built my business model to a point where I can choose exactly what I’d like to make each day… which is very liberating. It’s freedom. But when I get home, I spend 3 or 4 hours making content for social media to fuel the tank and remain relevant. That’s my second job. I haven’t missed a day posting on Instagram for almost 10 years now… which is something I don’t like to admit to. I wish I had more time actually making pots, but when you see a formula work successfully, why would you stop?

Last year you were clearly focussed on so many other things, is this year all about getting back to making?

Last year, I was focussed on writing my book and preparing for the exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which I had to produce 370 pieces for. Things like that come with so much admin, and I’m not someone who’s used to having corporate email chains. It was interesting, but strange. I really enjoyed the process of writing, but again the one thing I wasn’t doing was making pots… and I could just feel myself missing it. I’m so excited to get back to doing what I love.

Do you have a community of potters? Can the process ever be collaborative or is it always personal?

Over the years, I have thought about potentially scaling up or hiring a team… but ultimately, I feel like my audience appreciate the fact that when they buy something from me, it’s made by just me. It is a very personal craft. I am in High Barnet by myself. There are no other potters in the area, that I am aware of… which can feel a bit lonely at times. It’s just me and Ciro, my dog. However, being online, I have so many knowledgeable people at my fingertips.

If I ever have a question or even just want a chat, there are plenty of potters who I have met through Instagram. So that side of social media, I’m glad exists. In terms of collaborations, since pottery has become ‘trendy’ again, there are definitely more opportunities for collaborative work out there. Particularly with restaurants and chefs. If you’re making beautiful looking food… you need beautiful looking tableware, right?

How do you receive feedback?

Online… whether I like it or not. Most people are very positive, but there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like your work. It’s hard, but you have to shut out the world and minimise external influence. Otherwise, your work ends up looking like everybody else’s. I try not to have work from other artists or potters around my studio. I keep it exclusively to my own. It’s like my brain is unfilled into my space.

What’s the worst thing you’ve made?

When I was learning, I was constantly making bad things… but that’s natural. I made some very poor Art Nouveau inspired coil pots when I was a student. I don’t know who owns them now, but I’d happily ask if I could smash them! Luckily, they didn’t have my mark on them. My most viewed content is often compilations of me smashing bits I’ve poorly made. More people have probably seen me fail making pots than make successful ones! I think that helps people settle into the craft, when they realise that it is okay to fail. You’ve got to make the bad bits to start making the good. That’s part of the process. Any potter who says they don’t make mistakes is lying.

When do you know when something is finished?

Well… I was taught the kiln is your finishing line. But ultimately, it’s when you’re happy with the work. Once something has been turned into ceramic and fired with a layer of glaze on it, there’s not much you can do to change it. You can re-fire pots, although it’s not very ‘Green’. But sometimes the re-fires become something very unique and impossible to replicate. The metallic pots I have been making recently are my current favourites. They’re somewhat ‘Sci-Fi’ and ‘Angular’ and a bit strange looking which really speaks to me.

Do you ever make pottery in your dreams?

Yes! I have recurring pottery nightmares! I have them nights after I start firing the kiln: I leave the studio, go home, and have the same dream every time. Because everything is locked away, I have no control, so something ALWAYS goes wrong…and I can’t fix it! It’s INFURIATING! But what can you do?

Pottery seems to be a mediative practice; do you find your centre on the wheel?

I think pottery being labelled as a relaxing process can get thrown about too much. You learn that when your hands are covered in clay, you can’t touch your phone…so you have to be connected with the process. It requires a lot of attention at first, but as you get better, it becomes more natural. Most of the time, when I am throwing the same thing in big batches, my hands know exactly what they are doing, so I can put on a Podcast or an Audiobook. My mind will be completely transfixed on the story…and suddenly hours will pass by. Those are the moments where I feel most relaxed. It’s very gratifying; when you have produced 100 bowls or mugs, all in a line, and the day has flown by because you’ve been lost in a story.

If you could only make one more thing, what would it be?

For the rest of my life? Bowls. Something like a vase is more constricted. It doesn’t flow out in the same way. With a bowl, there is something so free about making a cylinder and watching it open up… widening the form naturally and letting the clay follow the centrifugal force of the spinning wheel. It is very pleasant to watch.

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