For this article Olivia chats to Sam Marks a ceramicist based in Falmouth, Cornwall. Sam is a second generation potter and maker and moved down to Cornwall in 2019. His studio is in the centre of Falmouth in an old beautiful building and he takes inspiration from daily coastal walks with his dog, Senga. He blends hand-dug clays to create stunning natural colours in both functional wheel thrown pieces and original sculptures. These photos were taken by the super talented Kasia Murfet, a photographer also based in Cornwall. It was lovely to have this shoot as a crossover for all three of us to combine our work.
Please give me a little description of your studio and your favourite thing about it?
I’m very fortunate to currently have a studio above Morgans Gallery in Falmouth. The family that own the building did a wonderful sympathetic job of restoring the period building to its former glory with beautiful original features retained and some very clever repurposing of the old materials on site. In addition to this, my studio is filled with natural light, with multiple aspect wall and roof windows and French doors onto a small decked area. So all in all its a beautiful light space filled with old energy, a great place to be able to create. Oh and as a bonus, in has central heating and a hot water tap, luxuries I haven’t always had in my former studios!
What is your studio playlist?
This massively depends on the task at hand. Often if I need focus, I will have artists like East Forest, Matthew Hallsall or Nitin Sawhney playing, and other times if I need rhythm and speed (for example of I’m mixing and prepping clay) it could be some more up tempo world music influenced vibes like Thievery Corporation, Quantic or Bonobo. I play a lot of hip hop/rap music too, its what I grew up with, especially love some of the newer music being produced my female artists like Kate Tempest and Little Simz.
What's a typical day in the studio like for you?
Again this really varies depending on the projects i'm working on. To make pottery work successfully, you are often working on multiple projects at the same time. Its a bit of a juggling act, working on one batch of products initially, and then jumping onto another while waiting for the initial to be ready for the next process etc. But typically I start my day with freshly brewed (i'm a former Barista) coffee, respond to any emails needed, mop the studio floor and change over my water buckets before jumping onto any planned tasks for the day, often starting with mixing clay for the days throwing. If it's like today, I am in the middle of glazing and cleaning up a big batch of work for a restaurant project ,which will then be loaded into the kiln and fired over the weekend. There are many more processes than you might imagine in a pottery studio, I won’t bore you with all the details!
Favourite studio snack?
I’ve been on a massive health kick since last September, including giving up all animal products except eggs, so my snack game is evolving! I am a massive foodie and love experimenting, so my studio snacks will often be leftovers from the weekends trials anything from Tacos to dumplings. One of my favourite things at the moment are banana, peanut butter and oat flour pancakes with fresh fruit. I have a portable induction hob in the stdio, so can cook whenever the mood takes me!
What would be the dream addition to your studio?
Well, how many additions am I allowed?! As beautiful as my studio is, its a little on the small side, so ideally a bigger studio, or at least a second room to house my kiln in. It gets a little warm in the space when its firing, so I have to time it for when I’m not in the studio. If I could have a room with a view of the sea, or some rolling hills I would be very VERY happy indeed.
For a practical answer though, one thing I desperately need to invest in is a machine called a pug mill, which is used for mixing and reconstituting recycled or fresh clay. I am a maker who decided to make life difficult and interesting at the same time by mixing multiple clay bodies to achieve more unique materials for me to work with and create my own style. I currently do this all by hand, so often at the start of a project I might have to mix up 100+ kg of clay by, while it keeps me fit, its exhausting and will take an entire day sometimes.
Sams website can be found here.
Kasias work can be found here.
Sam wears a Studio Kimono in Deep Sea Navy which can be found here.