How time flies when you’re having fun!

Ceramic artist Caroline Bousfield reflects on celebrating her 45th year at The Workshop in Victoria Park Village.

It really is 45 years ago this autumn when I first came to Hackney from Bow, and set up my pottery workshop. I was then teaching ceramics in further education, and also teaching woodwork/furniture making for Hackney Adult Institute.

The Workshop, back in the day…


The Workshop today

Clay is the most wonderful, responsive stuff in one’s hands, until fired in the kiln, when it becomes durable and the objects all strong and usable. I am inspired by experimenting with the variety of ceramic techniques, by cooking and serving food, and by my lovely customers who come and make comments and requests and then enjoy the results in use in their daily lives. The user completes each pot with content and emotion.

My life has evolved and revolved happily around the roundabout, with my friendly neighbouring businesses and residents, with my children at nearby schools, with local choir/book/walking groups, Well Street Common and gardening on the roundabout.

It is a pleasure to be here still; the workshop is now open again on my usual days. Though I cannot have a party or offer hospitality in the current times, I hope you will celebrate with me when you take your next sip of wine/coffee/gin – wherever you may be.

Caroline at work

We asked, Caroline answered…

What inspired you to become a ceramic artist? 
Since a child I always wanted to make things. After discovering both wood and clay at art college my future was set. I taught ‘woodwork for women’ classes for 20 years, alongside my pottery workshop.

In terms of making, do you have a favourite piece that you enjoy making more than others? 
I think my favourite projects are bowls and dishes: there is just such a variety of possible sizes and shapes and uses. Some close in around the contents keeping them secret, and some open out to display what is inside. I am inspired by all the ways pots can be used for storing, serving and presenting food.

Have you always made your own glazes or is that something that evolved over time? 
My work is all stoneware. I have always developed and mixed my own glazes so that, knowing the ingredients, I can experiment. Glazes are often applied over blue and green slip decoration applied with brushes and cut sponges. I am especially fond of semi-matt surfaces.

What do you love most about working with clay?
I love its malleability and flexibility when wet and then its permanence and hardness when dry and fired. I enjoy the pace of work: coming back to a piece over a period of days, and then returning to glaze it later. It is very satisfying to have such a tangible result to one’s labours – and very pleasing to hear how my pieces play a part in the lives of the users. I do take commissions.

Any advice for someone wanting to learn the craft? 
Don’t hold back, have a go – all you need is your hands, some clay and eventually access to a kiln.  Finding a class will give you confidence.

Caroline has also tended the garden in the Victoria Park Roundabout for many years. Find out the story behind how it came about on Spitalfields Life.


FB: @carolinebousfieldsworkshop

Or visit her workshop for a chat!
Hours: 10:30 – 5:30, Tue/Wed and Fri/Sat or by appointment.
**Check before visiting during Lockdown**

Images courtesy of Caroline Bousfield Gregory