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Jeremy Cole

Issue 54 Apr / May 2010

“It’s an incredibly difficult medium to work with, but the end product is worth the journey.”

Over the last ten years Jeremy Cole has gained much praise for his work producing arresting lighting pieces from bone china, with clients ranging from international royalty to world-class restaurants, celebrity superstars to high-class spas. He has even earned the honour of being the first non-Swede to have works purchased for inclusion in several of Stockholm’s stylish government buildings.

Cole’s introduction to interior design came early in life. A New Zealander by birth, he spent many of his formative years in his mother’s design showroom, first as a young observer and later in a more active role, helping out in the family business.

His journey into ceramics began in 2004 when a trip to the Tate Modern art gallery on London’s South Bank brought him into contact with the work of artist Tim Gee. Leafing through an A-Z of ceramicists, he was struck by the image of a vase Gee had created - in particular the way the vessel was etched to allow through different levels and textures of light. The very next day he set out to learn more about the production of bone china. It was a steep curve.

“It’s an incredibly difficult medium to work with,” says Cole. “The challenges are exhausting in terms of finding solutions to support the ceramics when in the kilns so their shape is not lost or too greatly distorted, but the end product is worth the journey.”

In the early days this challenge was heightened by the constraints that came with working in a makeshift studio in Cole’s own living room at his house in Kew, London. “There was a thick coat of plaster over everything,” he recalls. “I would cast the clay into plaster moulds on the kitchen bench and then sponge them in a bucket that sat in my sink.” Without his own kiln, he then had to transport the greenware - the dry, but unfired, clay forms - to a local potter’s studio a few miles from his home, carefully avoiding potholes along the way.

It’s a credit to his patience, perseverance and careful driving that later the same year Cole was ready to show his first piece, Aloe Blossom, at the Tendence exhibition in Frankfurt. Aloe was inspired by the Agave plant – a tropical cactus with distinctive fleshy-leaved flowers; a form that lent itself perfectly to sculptural lighting. The positive reception propelled Cole to quickly produce two further additions to the collection: the Aloe Bud and Aloe Shoot, representing the plant’s birth and death respectively.

The next stage was a move to a small studio in Acton where he spent twelve productive months, before space restraints – coupled with the roof collapsing under heavy rain – prompted a relocation to Brick Lane. Just a year later he had already outgrown the space and moved again, this time to a facility at the end of Hackney Road which he filled with larger kilns, ram press and high pressure casting machines.

With each move his Aloe collection has expanded and now includes five different sizes and finishes: in matt or gloss, black or white, and more recently, gold.

With the continual growth in the demand for his pieces, Cole has now taken a step back from day-to-day production. After searching unsuccessfully in London for a production manager with a background in ceramics, he turned his attention to UK’s traditional home of pottery production – Stoke on Trent.

“That’s where I met Steve,” says Cole referring to Steve Roberts, his Production Studio Manager. “He is an artisan himself. He had worked for Royal Worcester & Spode for 20 odd years as production manger and we just clicked immediately.”

With Cole travelling all the time up to ‘The Potteries’ (as the locals affectionately call the city), he had no issues in relocating there. “I moved everything up to Stoke on Trent and Steve set about assembling a small team to craft my pieces. Collectively they have over 150 years of experience in ceramics. The quality of workmanship is just stunning. I could not have asked for anything more.”

Cole continues to create new light fixtures that embody his philosophy of ‘Beauty, elegance and craftsmanship’. “The bone china pieces themselves are exceedingly beautiful and when you combine them to collectively form the lights, they exceed your expectation,” he says. “I guess if you start with something beautiful in terms of a material it’s hard to go wrong from there.”

Jeremy Cole’s work will be on display at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York this May and at September‘s Maison & Objet in Paris.


Jeremy Cole
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