Meet the Maker: Emily Marston

Meet the Maker: Emily Marston

Emily Marston Ceramics

Q and A

Name: Emily Marston

Company Name: Emily Marston Ceramics

How Long You’ve Been Up and Running: 4 Years

 A small black and white ceramic vase with foliage

Welcome back to our maker Q&A feature! Today we’re excited to be interviewing Emily Marston, whose beautiful ceramics are now available in our store

Emily Marston is a ceramicist who makes vases and jewellery out of her Oxford-based home studio. She works in small batches, hand-colouring her clay, and playing with pattern, shapes and lines. ​

Collection of 3 black and white ceramic vases on a white background

Experimentation is at the heart of Emily’s work; she regularly experiments with different techniques and processes to see what might be created. Each piece is unique — like an individual piece of art — and is usually inspired by nature, architecture, sea or sky.

 Collection of unfired ceramic vases, grey and white coloured. On a desk with ah white pinboard in the background

Tell us about your design process - what inspires you?

I find inspiration in natural forms and clean lines of architectural design—and often where they meet. I’m drawn to contrasts, and you’ll often find contrasting elements within my work.

Sometimes an idea will pop into my head, then I’ll need to work out how to recreate it in clay, but I don’t always have a fully formed piece in mind when I start making a new design: it often develops as I’m making. 

Occasionally I’ll make up a card maquette if I’m looking at scale and how shapes work together, but often I’ll start in clay. Any unfired tests can be soaked and recycled into useable clay again so there’s very little waste in making in this way. I take lots of photographs when I’m outside on walks, and these often feed into my pattern and colour decisions (sometimes without me realising it!). 

 Collection of unfired grey and white ceramic vases in a kiln

Nature is such a great source of inspiration! So once you have your idea, what’s the production process like? What do you make, and how?

From a making point of view, I colour clay with pigments, and use this to create patterns embedded into the surface of the work. This means that each one is unique. I have an idea of the patterns when I lay them out, but they transform as I roll out the clay slabs and I love that the exact pattern is a bit of a surprise. 

Ceramic vase in raw clay, with various making tools around

Ceramic vase being made in raw clay, with various making tools around

My patterning process slowly developed as I was working with Nerikomi and Agateware techniques. I started layering the extra pieces of coloured clay slabs more intentionally, to create a looser surface pattern. 

Small black and white vase, held above a piece of raw clay with the same patterns as the vase

Each piece is built by hand using slabs, dried very slowly to reduce warping and cracking, and then fired at home in my studio. I leave the patterned plane unglazed and polish this to create a lovely matte, tactile surface.

 A small black and white ceramic vase held in a white woman's hand, in direct sunlight

We love the polished surfaces—they feel lovely in the hand. Can we ask about your home setup? Which is your favourite part of your home, and why?

I think I would have to say our garden. It brings me a lot of joy, and I try to be out there as much as I can - bringing the clay outside when the weather allows. It feels quite a wild space, to say we live on the outskirts of a city, with fruit trees and lots of flowers. We’ve been slowly working on it where we can since we moved in and I love spending time out there.

 Beautiful garden in sunlight with ferns and orange flowers

Sounds idyllic! Now, heading back indoors… Can you show us a White, Black or Grey item from your life and tell us about it? 

This has to be a grey cotton cardigan, knitted by my Nan for my most recent birthday. My Nan was a dressmaker, and a very talented knitter. I love the feel of this cardigan on and it blows my mind how intricate it is. I would love to learn to knit properly one day, although I’m not sure I’ll ever compare with her 90 years’ experience! 

 Close up of a grey knitted cardigan on a hanger

Spoken like a true maker! And when you’re not making, what do you do to relax?  

I aim to be outside as much as possible, and I love being near water. We’re lucky enough to live a short walk from the river and I’ll visit most days. 

Also, this time of year, I’ll go to our local lido for an early morning swim before making—often with my young sons.

People swimming in Hinksey outdoor pool on a summers day


The last few years I’ve been getting more and more into gardening too; I’m very much a beginner but I love growing flowers—and a few vegetables, as well.

That sounds wonderful; you clearly spend a lot of time outdoors. It’s no wonder there are so many nature themes in your work. Could you tell us about another creative whose work you love? 

The artist Sarah Duncan. I have one of Sarah’s prints but would happily give them all a home if I could! Sarah creates prints and drawings referencing nature, landscape and the wider universe, focusing on key elements of the natural world, including water, stars, ice and snow. There is also a calm, spacious quality to her work that resonates with my love of open expanses of sky and water and celebrates the beauty of our surroundings.

Fjall print by Sarah Duncan

We hope you enjoyed this little peek into the life, mind and techniques of Emily Marston! If you’re keen to see more of her work, you can check out the ceramics collection right here on our website. Or why not follow Emily on Instagram?

Black and white ceramic vase with grasses
Collection of black and white ceramic vases
Images 1, 2, 4-11, and 15 copyright Emily Marston
Images 3 and 14 copyright White Black Grey / Samantha Drury Shore
Image 12 copyright Oxford Magazine
Image 13 copyright Sarah Duncan
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