While some may know him for his iconic t-shirts and his bold and rebellious signature style in the fashion world, Henry Holland has now carved out a successful ceramics business where his distinctive fun and playful identity is woven through each piece. We were lucky enough to sit down with him in his London studio to discuss his journey into ceramics, our Jardan exclusives, his mum’s influence, and his unique naming conventions.
You are a multi-talented creator and are well known for your foundations in fashion, what sparked your interest in ceramics?
I had my fashion brand for 15 years and then I sold it at the beginning of the pandemic. I just felt like I had been on that hectic fashion schedule for so long. We were doing four to six collections every year which had been really hard work. I loved every second of it, however, I was starting to get to the point where maybe I was starting to get over it. At the same time, I started having ceramic lessons in the evenings and it was the beginning of lockdowns. I ordered some clay for the house and literally got addicted! I spent a whole Christmas just making and making and my husband asked if I could stop making so much noise! Then I started trying out new glazes until I stumbled across our signature technique and through ordering different coloured clays, testing with them, playing around, and watching YouTube videos, I sort of taught myself (all while I was locked in the house). It was another creative outlet, a different medium. They say working in clay is addictive because it is such an instant gratification as you’re building 3D forms from scratch. There are so many people involved in the process of fashion, whereas, with ceramics, I love that with my two hands, I can turn a pile of mud into a beautiful piece of ceramic. It doesn’t take anyone else involved in the process. It’s very meditative and cathartic.
Where is your studio based? Tell us about your space/studio. How did you find it? How does the location influence your work (if it does)?
The space we are in is a warehouse-style open house space. We have done bits of decorating that reflect some of the prints that we make - we have checkerboard cork tiles on all the walls. The reason I chose this space is because it’s a five-minute cycle from home, so I can walk the dog here every morning which is a really big part of the work/life balance. It was very important that it wasn’t too far from home. We also have these beautiful bi-folding doors so in the summer we can open them, so it’s well-ventilated and a nice garden space with flowers and plants. We also host events here and a couple of workshops.
You utilise the Nerikomi technique throughout your pieces. Are you able to talk us through this process and how it has been implemented into your work? Do any other Japanese techniques influence your work?
We refer to the technique that we use as Nerikomi because we hand-build everything. I think some people refer to it as agateware. I think the difference is that when you throw on a wheel with different coloured clays, that’s more agateware, whereas, when you build it, it’s more Nerikomi. Nerikomi is a traditional Japanese technique of using coloured clays to make geometric patterns. I use it because it allows me to achieve a level of pattern and distinction of colour that is more similar to fabric. Printing on fabric or weaving fabric, you get much more graphic distinction.
Whereas with glazes, it is more painterly and watercolour vibes and that wasn’t representative of my aesthetic so I found this technique. However, in terms of our shapes, I look a lot more to art deco references - memphis styles. It’s a juxtaposition of that two - nerikomi in terms of the textures and patterns and then art deco, Memphis and Modernist in terms of the silhouettes. My mum was a huge collector of antiques, and she has cupboards and cupboards full of ceramics and vases so I would take a lot of references from those shapes.
Is there one piece of your mums that you have found most influential?
The mug is probably the most referential - the art deco mug. This was a shape I built in my first ever slab building classes and now we sell it all over the world. The size has grown a bit with my confidence and then once we incorporated the pattern, it felt really signature. And the handle is something that we have continued through the collection. I love the fact that it was one of the first shapes, and if I count how many we’ve sold and to what countries - it’s very gratifying! A friend of ours has the original, I gave it to her for Christmas so I still know where it is.
Tell us about the naming of your objects.
Once you’re working on something new, it’s hard to step away. My husband thought I was having an affair, so we named all the vases after famous affairs! So there is the Profumo – which is a famous British cultural affair. He was a politician who had an affair with a girl about town in London. The art deco mug (self-explanatory). Then in terms of the patterns and the prints, we have a workshop in the studio for ideas and thoughts! For the collection that Jardan has, they feel quite cosmic and constellation inspired. We called the colours “Into the Sea” and “The Earth”, based on the colour references. Coming back from Sydney we took the depth of the greens and the blues in Bondi and Bronte and then the clay the sandstone and terracotta. It feels quite Aussie in terms of the colour names we have devised. You don’t get that Bondi blue in England. It is definitely inspired by Australia.
Describe Henry Holland Studio ceramics in three words.
Bold, playful and covetable.
What’s your dream collaboration? Who would you love to work with?
I’ve sort of done it. However, I think it would be really amazing to collaborate with a fashion designer. A really traditional, whimsical British house. I think it would be really lovely to back reference my past with my future. I think there are a lot of blurred lines between interiors and fashion lately and vice versa, so I think someone who has got that heritage of product design combined with fashion. I’d love to do a collaboration in that sense. I’d also love to work in more art pieces. I started in tableware and functionality is really big thing for me. I used to always say about my clothes, ‘I don’t make clothes to be hung in a wardrobe and saved for an occasion once a year.’ I loved the ideas that my pieces in fashion would change peoples every day lives. I feel the same about my ceramics. I love the fact that people will make their first cup of coffee in the morning and drink it from one of our mugs – that it will just brighten their day. Or you could eat your dinner off a piece or set the table and invite your friends around and create memories at the table. I love that about the functionality of tableware but now I would love to start exploring bigger art pieces and installations.
Tell us about the Henry Holland Studio ceramics owner. What type of person are they? Where do you see your ceramics living?
We have warehouse sales in the studio, so we get to meet a lot of the customers. I work those sales myself, I love it! I love meeting customers. There are two customers. Customers that knew me from my previous life who knew me from fashion and travelled with me on this journey and are keen on my ceramics. And then there’s the new customer, slightly older and more in the interior design world. We have collected a new group of customers while also maintaining the older ones which is really nice. People have really followed the journey. I was posting on social media about my first ceramic class, my second class, and the first bowl I made, I was sharing all those pictures. That was part of the reason I made the jump - because of the reaction that people were having to my work. People were like this is really good. The first time I sold anything was through Instagram. It was through my DM’s and I had to turn it off because I sold too much. The reaction was insane! I’ve taken people on the journey and it’s nice that they have come on the journey with me. It’s nice that I have attracted new people and groups. It’s also nice that this brand talks to where I am now in life and it feels relevant, and authentic to me.
Why have you chosen to work with Jardan?
I have lots of friends in Australia, one of my friends messaged me – ‘if you guys are thinking about working with anyone over here, you should definitely work with Jardan.’ A friend of ours introduced us to the store and we had a look, and we were like absolutely, that is the perfect place for us. Some of the other ceramicists that you work with, I am a huge fan of! Alice Gavelet, obsessed! We recently visited Australia and went to the Paddington store and took a look, and it just confirmed that you were the perfect partner for us.
What is next for Henry Holland Studio Ceramics?
I’d love to have a store and café with a workshop all around it. You would sit and eat from the pieces and see the process of how it’s made and put the plate in the bag when you’re finished. We’d love to expand into different categories. We launched lighting which has been very successful so I’d love to keep building on that. I’d love to keep building on what we’ve started and try new shapes, new silhouettes, colours, executions and techniques. I’m teaching myself as I go, that’s why it’s so exciting for me.
Henry Holland is available exclusively in Australia at our Jardan stores and online.