Brush Strokes with Adam Frew

Adam Frew

In a calm seaside studio, inspired by the colours of the wild north coast, ceramicist Adam Frew creates his distinctive hand-thrown porcelain.

Adam Frew has had quite a busy few years. In 2016, he spent three days throwing pottery in the window of Heal’s for Design Ireland and was featured in the New York Times as one of one of five up-and-coming Irish designers to know. This year has seen the development of his oeuvre extend even further, with the introduction of plates, bowls and beakers to his established collection of vases and added an online shop for his wares. On top of this, Adam as also just closed out a very successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the next leg of his creative journey – renovating an old barn just outside his home into his new studio.

Adam Frew

It all began for Adam after leaving school aged sixteen, when he first tried throwing and working in clay, at Castlereagh Technical College in east Belfast. “It was the first time I was really excited about something I was studying,” Adam says.

After staying there for two years, he went on to study ceramics at Belfast Art College, where he took a “year in the industry” going to Winchcombe Pottery in the Cotswolds, followed by a stint working for Judith Kuitunen in Finland. “This taught me so much about production throwing and I got to know some amazing potters.”

I’m inspired by the last piece I made

After art college, Adam started a two-year apprenticeship in Greenwich, London with Lisa Hammond.  “This was the best training I could have had, learning the daily runnings of a pottery studio and also about selling pots. It set me on the right path to start my own pottery.”

Adam Frew

His current studio is in Flowerfield Arts Studio, where he started on Craft Northern Ireland’s Making It start-up programme back in 2006. “I've stayed on since then! There are lots of windows, so natural light is great and it’s set in a little park, so on sunny days we eat our lunch outside,” Adam explains. But now, he feels ready to move on from the place that saw his skills as a ceramicist really come into their own. "Portstewart has been a brilliant space to develop my ceramics and grow my business, however with increased demand for my work I have now outgrown it."

Adam Frew

The move is also partly due to a potter's unusual schedule. "I'm currently 25 minutes from home and making pots doesn't always work with nine-to-five routines, so sometimes I have to do more than a ten hour kiln firing, or go back into the studio in the evening to cover pots so they don't dry out too quickly.”

He bought a cottage in the country with his wife (glassblower, Catherine Keenan), and work is currently underway converting an outbuilding into a pottery studio.  “I'm looking forward to having more space and the flexibility of working at home. Life will be a lot easier when it means I pop out of the house and walk across the garden to my studio.”

Adam Frew

All Adam’s work features a turquoise celadon glaze. “Surface pattern is important, whether the surface is entirely covered or a simple band of colour. All the decoration is applied in coloured clay slips, which I sometimes scratch into or use in a more painterly way.”

Inspiration is often inwards. “I'm inspired by the last piece I made. I'm always refining technique and also experimenting with colour and pattern. I like to be spontaneous and have fun with my work.”

WORDS Amanda Kavanagh