• Claire Venus

Artist Spotlight - Keith Webster - Ravn Clay

Updated: Mar 17



About Me


HELLO! I’m Keith Webster, a new potter based in Northumberland and working out of premises on the Ford And Etal Estate at Heatherslaw.


I’ve been many things in life, but rarely what I’d call properly happy.


Now I am (almost) a potter, I am closer to being happy than I have ever been.




Why Pottery?


I have always enjoyed pottery, as a consumer and sometime-collector at Potfests over the years, and as an archaeologist who has spent many a muddy moment in puddles looking at pre and post medieval pottery fragments.


I finally took evening classes for two terms at the Edinburgh Ceramic Workshop before Covid locked everything down, forcing me to make pots in my kitchen for practice, and driving them to a friendly kiln-owner near Alnwick to have my work fired. This rather laborious procedure was frustrating endnote ideal, so I took the plunge to look for rented premises that might be suitable for my own kiln and workshop.





Once this had been found (and its an amazing re-purposed timber loft that has been unused on the estate for thirty two years) I ran a Kickstarter to raise funds for a top-loader kiln. A strong principle behind the successful campaign was being able to let other people play with and fall in love with clay, and the concomitant mental health and wellbeing benefits associated with participating in craft activity.


Making the leap

August 2021 saw me leaving my proper, grown-up job at the Youth Hostel in Berwick-upon-Tweed, and taking the big plunge. I make hand built, mostly slab built, functional ware, essentially mugs, vases, jugs etc, with the odd leap in to nonsense that sees me putting spikes on to all sorts of forms - giving them a spiny Norman character. I have been lucky enough to work with a few other small businesses across the area - Cheviot Candle Company and Boes at Heatherslaw being notable patrons - which has seen me making tiles and candle holders and mugs and plant pots and the like. I have been running workshops since I fully opened, with half and full day courses at the studio and at partner locations (Broomhouse Farmhouse and the YHA in Berwick so far), alongside shorter one-off making sessions designed for families, tourists and anyone wishing to try something new. We’ve made pinch pot pumpkins, Christmas Trees, monster plant pots - all with great success and enabling me to reach more people with the benefits and joy of working with clay.




I'm a (suprised) winner!

I opted to try the Ad Gefrin Design Challenge because I hoped the process would help me see what’s involved working towards tendering for a bigger client, and to meet other artisans, makers and creatives in the area. As a very new potter I had no expectations beyond understanding more about the relationships that would be beneficial to a self-employed ceramicist. The workshops that I managed to attend were useful in exploring how a prototyping process benefits the final product, and how to consider audience and voice when addressing a potential client. Then I made a video submission for my whiskey water pot, and hoped for the best.


The final pitch day was a bit too much Dragon’s Den for me - I found that I benefited from hiding behind the camera - but the judging panel were incredibly engaged with the process, and stunned me when they announced I was the overall winner.


Up to that point I’d not considered what winning would realistically mean - I’d just enjoyed meeting paper artists, soap-makers, sculptors, furniture makers etc - and its been a bit of a whirl wind since then. Obviously the folk at Ad Gefrin have a lot to pull together for their opening in Autumn 2022 - giving me a bit of time to consider whether my premises are going to accommodate the new focus of my business (I will retain the workshops - pottery should be available to anyone regardless of location, age etc) and work with the Institute of Apprenticeships to help formulate a Craft Assistant role that will see Ravn Clay employ and train a new potter or potters!


Find me online

Ravn Clay has its own website at www.ravnclay.co.uk and is on the usual social media platforms. I am currently in the process of moving onto www.cademy.co.uk as a better booking platform with a strong educational focus to the courses, workshops and experiences it promotes.





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