Be they ornamental or everyday, Penny Withers’s ceramics are made with love and a real lightness of touch. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and finishes, and are fired in a variety of ways – electric, wood and gas – ensuring the charm and personality of each and every piece.
Penny’s delicate white pots, with their simplicity and fluidity, are amongst our favourite pieces. We also love the contrast of her New Manor Ware range, inspired by the history of Sheffield’s Manor Lodge and the 16th century pots made there for visitors such as Cardinal Wolsey. Taking shards from an archaeological dig and firing them in the environmentally friendly onsite wood kiln, Penny’s collection of goblets and flagons are fit for noblemen and commoners alike.
Pay a visit to Penny at the next Yorkshire Artspace Open Studios weekend. She also holds regular classes and workshops in her studio at Persistence Works – so bring along your Righteous Brothers CD and unleash your inner Demi Moore.
How would you describe your work?
I work with ceramic materials and processes which give me the energy of spinning clay and a mineral glaze palette. I like to investigate all possibilities within this field to make vessels with heart, as if a person could feel a small vibration within each pot. I recently made table wares based on original 18th century designs by John Fox, who had a pottery at Sheffield Manor Lodge. I am incorporating local clay and firing the pots in the wood kiln on site. I like the idea of reviving local heritage and making pots that are specific to Sheffield.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by small things in the world around me: the feel of rock or tree bark, misty mornings, the ocean, the smell of rice cooking. Sensations which give me a feeling of well-being put me in the creative zone. I often listen to music as I work. I like traditional music from around the world. Sometimes I just like silence.
What’s your workspace like?
My studio is in Persistence Works. It’s an adaptable space for my making cycle of throwing, finishing, glazing and firing, then sorting and packing pots up to take on the road to galleries and fairs. The rest of the time the studio is an education space for weekly classes and regular courses. It is these that ensure that I keep the space clean and reasonably tidy.
What do you love about Sheffield?
Its proximity to the Peak District, a wonderfully humbling and spiritually refreshing place to be.
What would you do to improve the city?
I would like to give everyone the opportunity to use handmade tableware! It adds aesthetic depth to every meal, guaranteed to aid digestion. Entertaining and cookery are currently very popular subjects for television; I would bring the quality of crockery into the equation and promote the Yorkshire tea ceremony.
- Words by
- Claire Thornley
- Images by
- Nigel Barker