The Production Team

As a Production Pottery – rather than a studio pottery – we’re proud to say a great number of men and women have worked for us since the Cole family took over the company in 1947 – some local, some from far flung places, and some straight from school.

Our production principles are based on Artisanal Manufacturing and we need a highly skilled and dedicated team to be able to re-produce the spirit of our detailed designs each and every time a piece is produced. Timing is everything in the pottery business, not least in the throwing, casting and fettling shops, where lightness of touch and a well-trained eye are also key. In the decorating room, the ability to deftly apply and handle an array of colours and application tools, all of which have their own quirks and difficulties, are as important as the patience required to hand-glaze and trim all of our pieces before the painting even begins.

Every step in our processes requires diligence and skill – one step skipped along the way can destroy the whole chain of pain-staking work.

For the last couple of decade Rye Pottery has been initialled by individual decorators and also carries the current year’s back stamp or mark on the underside of each piece. If the piece has been thrown it will also carry the throwers initial stamped into the Clay. But here at Rye Pottery we always know which pot has been created or painted by which person, while for their part, our team knows if anyone touches or even moves their work or tools, and woe betide a visitor who puts a finger mark on an unfired pot!

This is our talented current team.

Decorators & Painters

Julia Catt Hand painting and lettering a Rye Pottery PlateJulie Catt
With an ability to make our techniques look effortless, Julie Catt’s skills belie the decades she’s spent honing her incredible talent. She retired a handful of years ago, but came out of retirement when Josh & Tabby took over the business – and by goodness has she taught us a thing or two.  Julie had worked for the company since leaving school over 45 years ago – we used to take the tiles to her home for her to paint when she was bringing up her small son in the 70s and 80s.

In 1998 Julie took over from the inimitable June Wooley painting all our bespoke lettered ware. She has also been critical to our hand-painted tiles for many years, and was recently featured in Channel 4’s television series Grand Designs, hand-painting our beautiful Dragonfly Tiles.

Karen Wicking Hand painting Cottage Stripes onto a Rye Pottery Mug

Karen Wicking
Karen came to us as a 22 year-old & is now, well, let’s just say she has a teenage daughter of her own! As one of our longest-standing and highly skilled decorators, Karen has been responsible for an awful lot of our figures and animals and has also moved into painting some of our revived and reworked tableware and homeware designs too. She knows every piece, every detail, every quirk, every brush and every colour inside out. We all her the Oracle.

Now also known as our Cottage Stripe Queen, Karen doesn’t bat an eye lid at painting 30cm long Cottage Stripes – which is a feat we’re all still in awe of. In a digital age it’s easy to forget what an incredible skill this is – no computers, no rulers, this is all down to a steady hand. Cool, calm, collected and unbelievably determined, we don’t know how she does it.

Jane Davies at Rye Pottery today, hand-painting a Black and White Cow, another of the figures in our popular Animals CollectionJane Davies
Jane has recently re-joined us and over many years has decorated a vast array of our figures and animals. She also often man’s our shop at the weekends and during school holidays.

Having originally trained as a teacher (she taught 8 & 9 year-olds for over 23 years) Jane is amazing with new recruits – her kind and reassuring approach never fails. As passionate teachers themselves our post-war founders Wally & Jack would have been very proud. Jane is particularly skilled at painting & decorating our English Figures & English Animals Collections. Her delicate brush & sponge work are admired in homes around the world.

Illustrator Laura Gill eyeing up a Rabbit at Rye Pottery before she paints itLaura Gill
Well, we called her lovely Laura from the moment she arrived and although we’ve subsequently discovered her wicked side, the name has stuck. A talented illustrator who trained at St Martin’s, Laura works with us when she’s not creating her own wonderful work.

She has a fascinating spirit of fun and a lightning sense of humour and currently works most often in our Design Development Team as well as hand-painting our animals and home wares. She’s also a regular wonder in our Rye shop. Laura is a thoughtful, determined ninja-with-a-paintbrush, and is especially good at some of our quirkier figures like the Sussex Pigs and the Dogs & Puppies. As a central part of the Rye Pottery Design Team who knows what we might conjure up with Laura’s input.

Rye Pottery - Carrie Lucas Hand Painting the DirtyMiller Figurine from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales1Carrie Lucas
Carrie came back to us after leaving some 20-odd years ago to live in Italy. Well, she got back into the swing of it so fast you’d hardly be able to tell she’d been away. Carrie’s lightness of touch and love of the right brush makes her an absolute natural with our technique, and we’re pleased to say she put it to good work while in Italy where she turned her hand to a not dissimilar medium – restoring plaster paintings. While fond of sparkly toes, she’s also our culture queen – which makes her the perfect fit to be our historical figures specialist – injecting a welcome (& necessary?!) dose of books, history of art, food and wine into our daily operations. And should any passing Italians ever find themselves stranded nearby, she speaks like a native to boot.

Throwing, Casting & Trimming

Steve Russell Throwing on the wheel for Rye PotteryStephen Russell
Steve has been our Production Thrower for over 25 years, a skill not always appreciated by the wider world until the recent Great Pottery Throw Down series on BBC TV. It is an increasingly rare and specific ability to be able to throw pots to a specified design, in quantity and ensure they’re all the same – and Steve is our Master!

His interest in potting began as a school boy when he worked for The Briglin Pottery in London followed by a stint with former Briglin potter Michael Crosby Jones when he moved to Rye. Steve particularly enjoys working with red clay, which he says reminds him of his youthful potting days at Briglin. All his work will carry the initial S stamped into the clay, alongside the painted initials of our decorators.

Josh Cole in the Rye Pottery Casting ShopJosh Cole
Josh gets a second mention here because he’s so integral to Rye Pottery’s overall manufacturing processes. As well as leading Design across the board, not least the Rye Design Team, Josh oversees all Production and also carries out all of our casting, Jigger & Jolly work, fettling, trimming, kiln packing, tile glazing and anything technical or creative. Or creative and technical. He’s a whizz at the chemistry and physics involved in pottery too. The upshot is that his role at the heart of both Production and Design is critical in terms of creative integrity and practicality.

Julian Lamb Trimming a ceramic figure at Rye Pottery as it comes out of a plaster of paris mouldJulian Lamb
It’s not that Julian’s shy, it’s just that, well, they really are, a very talented pair of hands. Julian works with us in the casting & fettling shop, when arguably the clay is in its most sensitive state. Any undue stress or pressure at this stage doesn’t show up until the piece has been painted and fired for the final time. To say he has a lightness of touch, patience and incredible hand-eye co-ordination doesn’t begin to explain his talents. Apart from a stint with us back in the day, Julian’s background is in detailed modelling – from miniscule, characterful model soldiers to exquisitely intricate jewellery sported by the rich and famous.