Jump to navigation

Crafts Council

Home // News & Features // The power of pots
  • Black and white vessel by John Ward. Photo: Courtesy Oxford Ceramics, photo Michael Harvey

The power of pots

Crafts magazine meets British fashion designer and creative director JW Anderson

How did you get into designing clothes? 
Well, I actually first went to drama school, but I ended up kind of falling into it by designing windows for Prada. It was from there that I became obsessed with design and wanting to work in fashion.

Did you grow up in a making household?
I didn’t grow up in anything to do with fashion, but my grandfather was a textile designer for print so it kind of rubbed off. I grew up in Northern Ireland in Derry and I used to go to the Ulster Museum a lot. It has a very good craft section, and a great modern British collection. But I think also going to the factory to see fabric being printed with my grandfather really got me into this idea of making and the art of making. Ireland is one of those places that is very craft oriented, so it’s almost like it’s built into you. 

Where do you go to uncover new makers? Do you have any favourite galleries or even cities?
Anywhere I go for work – I went to South Korea recently, for instance – I like to try and buy something, and to find galleries that specialise in craft. I’ve become quite addicted to finding new things, so I suppose it’s sort of an ongoing process. And actually by doing this prize with LOEWE, it becomes an amazing way of seeing everything that’s happening globally. I suppose my biggest thing is probably ceramics – they just seem to be something I always stumble across. My grandfather collected early British delftware. I think there’s a tactile quality. There’s something about it that I can’t really explain, something so physical. 

Do you use the ceramics you buy, or prefer to display them? 
Oh, I like to use them. There’s nothing more exciting than putting flowers into something you’re not meant to. In the beginning I was collecting John Ward, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper. With Rie, I use the cups, her domestic ware, because I think that’s the point. If something was made for a purpose then you should use it. It shouldn’t be kept behind glass. 

Hans Coper pots from the Crafts Council collection COPER PHOTO: GEREMY BUTLER, 1972, COURTESY CRAFTS COUNCIL

Is there anything that unites the artists you collect? Have any shared characteristics emerged? 
Well, I always like something to be a kind of discovery, or a rediscovery. So recently in Miami [see Crafts no. 270] I showed work by Richard Smith, who I think might be one of the most incredible painters in Britain. I sometimes feel what he has achieved is rather overlooked. But then the show came to be about how things relate to shadow and light. I included the work of Sara Flynn too – I just love her ceramics. I think she’s one of the most talented ceramists. Her work is very physical. I also used it in a show I did at the Hepworth Wakefield. It’s why I love John Ward’s ceramics too, they seem to reflect nature, in the same way that Sara’s have this body-like feel to them. One of my all-time favourite ceramists is Magdalene Odundo, because there is that physicality. To me, it makes what she does more powerful than any other form of art.

You mentioned the annual craft prize, which you’ve founded with the LOEWE Foundation. What was the inspiration behind that move? 
When I joined LOEWE four years ago I had always wanted to do this prize. Why? I collected craft, I go to craft shows, craft galleries – it is an obsession of mine. So when I joined I knew, of course, I was becoming the creative director, but I didn’t want to always have to talk about myself. I wanted to be able to celebrate the art of craft, the idea of making with one’s hands, but also to give it the exposure that I truly think it deserves. I think sometimes contemporary art overshadows what craftspeople do, but there are things going on in craft that are incredibly interesting, and craft, just as much as art, is a way to reflect on where we are today. 

The second list of finalists has been announced. What do you make of it? 
The standard is incredibly high this year. It ranges from some names I know to people I’ve not heard of, which is what makes it so exciting. And the fact that the application process covers 75 countries – I think that is amazing.

What advice would you give to the generation of makers just starting out? 
Let your hands be the brain. 


Jonathan Anderson. Image: courtesy the LOEWE Foundation