Paul Young’s Pottery

Over the three decades since graduating, Paul Young has been developing his own distinctive style, fuelled by English and European folkloric traditions. Simultaneously, he has built up an impressive collecton of ceramics spanning 4,000 years. “Eating everything and spitting out the pips” is how he describes his journey of discovery.

The human quality is much in evidence in Paul’s work, starting with the unique blend of earthenware and stoneware that he uses. “At college we were lucky enough to be taught by some of the great potters of the day: Michael Cardew, John Maltby and Takeshi Yasuda who showed us how to mix clay using our feet as they do in Japan and China, rather than use a pugmill. Every Monday morning I throw a 25kg bag of each clay onto the floor and tread it together with my week’s supply. It’s incredibly physical and very methodical, and gets all clay molecules going in a spiral, which makes life so much easier on the wheel”.


Paul built his foot-operated wheel when he was a student, inspired by a visit to Lucie Rie, another great potter, who swore by hers. “It is controlled by my feet, so is silent. There are no electric motors and no buzz and you can get completely lost in what are you doing”.

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Paul Young does a steady trade in his domesyic wares, which price range goes from 20 to 200 pounds. He decorates the leather-hard clay bodies with coloured slip and layers of coloured glazes made from earth pigments copper, cobalt and manganese, and finishes rith translucent glaze to get “glossy, juicy look”.


In the past few years his decorative pieces – the wassail jars (1,200 pounds), lidded boxes (900 pounds), and in particular Staffordshire-style figure groups (from 500 pounds) – have become increasingly popular. In some of his figurines there are cheeky mermaids on wrecks beckoning smitten men to watery graves; others feature couples – “None of them blessed with looks” – sitting on settles in what are historically reffered to as “pew groups”, with bocage or clay foliage ruffling up behind them.

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Paul Young’s ceramics have a growing fan base, with collectors snapping up his new figures as soon as he brings them out. His work features in the collections of York Museum and Henley Museum in Stoke-on-Trent. but his greatest ambition is to get a piece into V&A. Meanwhile, he is quite content to share the happines that is the trademark of his style.


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