What does the term studio pottery mean?

Where in the world does a beginner start when collecting ceramics?


Studio pottery is created by artists working alone or in small groups to create one-of-a-kind pieces of pottery in limited quantities. A large portion of studio pottery is dinnerware or cookware, although an increasing number of studio potters create non-functional or sculptural products. 

Since the 1980s, we have noticed an apparent shift away from practical pottery in the United Kingdom. Some studio potters choose to refer to themselves as ceramic artists, ceramists, or just artists. Today studio pottery is created by potters from all over the world, but it has deep origins in the United Kingdom. 

An early 20th century Martin Brothers triple bird group by Robert Wallace Martin.

Sold at Dawsons, £32,000

Interest in modern and studio ceramics has never been stronger... In this digital world where one can pore over wonderful images on a daily basis via Instagram and Facebook, the sheer number of images can make it seem particularly difficult to know where to begin if you're looking to start a collection. As interest develops, so do the platforms for purchasing ceramics, with more and more being made accessible online. 



A fine late 19th century Martin Brothers large vase or jar of wide-shouldered ovoid form, by Edwin and Walter Martin.

Sold at Dawsons, £4,600

The second part of the twentieth century has seen the value of, and interest in ceramics increase substantially within the art world. Several large exhibitions now take place across the globe on an annual basis, including; Handmade Chelsea (formerly the Chelsea Craft Fair) in London, International Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair (SOFA) in Chicago, and International Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair (SOFA) in New York, all of which include ceramics as an art form. 


Know what you're buying

The most crucial aspect of putting together a collection is to become familiar with the works in question. Before you buy anything, we would advise that you visit museums, galleries, auction houses, studios, and markets in order to view, touch and get a feel for any items that you are interested in collecting - images alone will never do ceramics justice. This thorough research will mean that you get a true sense of what you like and, perhaps even more crucially, what you don't like. We would never recommend purchasing ceramics solely for financial gain, as they can often be items that you have around you on a daily basis, so it can be equally important for you to choose pieces that genuinely appeal to you personally - or you may end up storing them out of sight in the attic! 


Hans Coper (1920 - 1981) British a stoneware vase.

Sold at Dawsons, £10,000


Buy the best

We are not suggesting that you break the bank, but even if your budget is £100, it is still possible to find beautiful pieces from well-known and sought-after artists. By way of an example, you can find the most recent studio pottery sale results at Dawsons, here.  

Consider concentrating your efforts on a single artist/potter. Rather than splitting your budget across three or four different works, focusing on just one will allow you to purchase more significantly, and create a stronger collection. If you have a specific amount you want to spend over the course of a year, be sure to concentrate on one artist. 

Always remember that collecting should be enjoyable, and with the aim of truly treasuring what you purchase. One of the exciting attractions of studio pottery is how artists, ceramicists, and potters can use clay in such inventive and differing ways. Such versatility truly means that when it comes to pottery, there is something for every collector - and finding what's right for you is half the fun!



The history of Martin Brothers pottery >

The rise and rise of studio pottery >

Martin Brothers sale highlights >

Large collection of Martin Ware for sale in September >


Our expert team of Valuers at Dawsons would be happy to help if you have any studio pottery you would like to sell.

Please do get in touch if you'd like our experts to provide a complimentary valuation.

We would love to hear from you.

Call us: 0207 431 9445 or get in touch via email: info@dawsonsauctions.co.uk.