Ceramics for the Garden

I am making ceramics for a domestic garden setting, complementing and contrasting natural growing forms.  By using a modular construction I offer future owners /users the option to be involved in the in the final design by choosing the colour, shapes and order of components in a water feature or totem. My range also includes functional items such as bird baths, lights and planters, that will also happily serve as purely decorative focal points.


I use handbuilding techniques including plaster press moulds to make hollow forms in grogged high fired stoneware clay, then create surface texture enhanced with my own range of coloured glazes. These are physically and visually strong pieces suitable for leaving outside all year.


I am inspired by curved forms of all kinds, especially those which repeat and evolve; ‘armadillo’ architecture, potato fields, carved stone drapery and ripples in water. I take my tools for a waltz on the clay, reflecting the elements of the garden: breezes, movement and growth, water and light.  Soil and nurture are represented by the impressed dotted forms where my stamp has hopped on the surface. Sound is created by water cascading down a piece or the force of wind on ceramic.


My MA research has involved extensive testing and retesting in order to solve the technical and artistic challenges of my brief.  Ceramics is an intensely ‘hands on‘ discipline.  Covid 19 necessitated an interruption to study at UCLan, so these images show work in development and not my final pieces.  The concepts however will remain the same; to provide beautiful ceramics which enhance the garden and inspire the soul.


These are a selected few of my many influences.  Clockwise from BOTTOM left they are 

  • Carved stone vaulting from a ceiling in Lincoln Cathedral representing the elegant repetetive (and reverent) architectural forms from generations of craftsmen
  • Cactus in  Tenerife; the beautiful forms of growing plants.
  • Sculpture by James Oughtibridge.  He creates desceptively simple flowing forms from multiple flat slabs of clay that come to life with the play of light and shadow.
  • A traditional wood block in the process of being carved by a master craftsman in Northern India.  He needs skill, flair, and concentration.  One slip of  the tool and the block is ruined.  With clay there is a chance to repair the damage though there are plenty of other stages where things could go wrong! 
Influences Image

Making a plaster mould

My pieces are mostly hollow forms in a grogged frost resistant stoneware clay.  They are formed in moulds then refined and carved or impressed.

This picture shows a selection of my one and two part plaster moulds.

Making a plaster mould Image

Carving the form

After finding the central pivot point I map out the lines for the iterative process of carving.   A piece this big takes several hours. The clay surface is left rough and difficult to glaze, so the next stage before drying of ‘greenware’ and first firing (to bisque)  is to paint on a layer of ‘slip’ or liquid clay.

One pieces are fired to bisque at 1000 degrees C they are ready for glazing.

Carving the form Image


Glaze development and testing needs a whole set of equipment

Glazing Image

final set of glaze test tiles

All these glazes have one base glaze recipe, which I developed to be semi transparent but not to flux/run on the spherical forms.  Colour is added to the glaze using a combination of metal oxides and ceramic stains.

The exact proportions of basic constituents (cornish stone, flint etc), the thickness, firing temperature, position in the kiln, and the clay body all make a difference to the end result.  Research test and retest!


final set of glaze test tiles Image

trying colour combination

The glaze tends to gather (and be darker ) in depressions in the clay surface.  The pattern shows up even better if another colour  (in this case a glaze ) is applied and then wiped off before two further layers of glaze.  These test tiles illustrate the resluts of 12 colour combinations.  the base colours are: (clockwise) red, grey, green, toffee red and grey


trying colour combination Image

developing the design

I have two main patterns; carved curves evoking the movement of  air and water and impressed dots in various sizes.  This pattern represents sustainance in the garden- soil with its organisms and nutrients, sun and moon.  

developing the design Image

test pieces

I have also started to experiment with both patterns on the one piece; this time a birdbath in the process of decoration.

test pieces Image

In need of more interest.

Against the greenery of the garden these glazed pieces show their potential.  Assembled as a totem of one or multiple hues or even as just one large sphere amongst the plants they bring colour interest and focus particularly when flowers are less prominent.

In need of more interest. Image

Portfolio Details


Ann Capewell

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Portfolio Categories

  • Degree show 2020
    • Master of Ceramics