STUDIO: Griselda Hill Pottery

Buried deep in the heart of the Kingdom of Fife lies a pottery studio run by Griselda Hill. Called "Wemyss Ware", Griselda has given a new lease of life to what was once a popular Victorian pottery style produced in Fife until the 1930s.  

 Wemyss Ware Pottery, Ceres, Fife

Wemyss Ware (pronounced 'Weemz') was first produced in 1882 by the Fife Pottery in Kirkcaldy. It consisted of a wide range of designs which where exquisitely handpainted - the most well-known were the animal figures produced, particularly cats and pigs. The key design feature was the exquisite hand-painted designs, the cabbage rose being one of the most iconic.

Original Wemyss pig

After remaining popular for many decades, the Fife Pottery closed in 1932 and Joseph Nekola (the son of the original decorator, Karel Nekola) moved Wemyss production to Devon on a smaller scale, but eventually stopped in 1957. Although Royal Doulton bought the rights to the designs, the rights lapsed when no further Wemyss items were made. 

Griselda Hill in her studio

Griselda always loved Wemyss ware ever since she first saw a Wemyss pig in her grandmother's house. In the 1980s, she came up the idea of creating Wemyss-inspired designs at a more affordable price (original Wemyss pieces can fetch thousands of pounds at auction), and acquired the trademark Wemyss Ware to bring the design back home to Fife.

Griselda opened up her studio in 1985 in the beautiful rural village of Ceres (pronounced 'series'), 7 miles west of St Andrews. She worked with artists and potters to recreate a range of Wemyss-inspired pieces, and was lucky enough to secure training from the last Head Painter of Wemyss ware at the Devon studio, Esther Weeks. As a result, the spirit of the original Wemyss wear very much lives on in Griselda's beautiful designs.

Decanting slip from a mould

Each piece is cast in a plaster mould using slip or liquid clay to form a hollow shape. Rena Simpson (pictured) has worked with Griselda for 11 years.

Rena Simpson at work 

Each piece is carefully trimmed to create a smooth finish. Multiple moulds are used for more complex pieces, and the pieces are joined using liquid clay.

One of Griselda's new designs

The pieces are fired for the first time and then hand-decorated by one of the painters. The designs can be complex and it can take up to 1.5 days to finish one.

Waiting to be fired for the second time

Once the pieces are painted, they are fired for a second time to harden on the paint, and then dipped in glaze before being fired for a third and final time.

Finished Wemyss Ware pieces

Each Wemyss Ware piece is created with a great deal of love and care, and no two pieces are the same. If you get the chance to visit the pottery, you can see the painting and pottery studios, and watch the artists at work. Underlying what has become a successful cottage industry is an abiding respect for the original Wemyss designs, but with a modern twist that brings them fully into the 21st century. With Griselda's vision and the tireless work of the five artists working with her, new life has been given to these quirky creations.

Old meets new - a contemporary look for an original Wemyss Ware cat

Find out more about Wemyss Ware at their website - www.wemyssware.co.uk.

Categories: