“I want my work to be quiet, understated and comforting.” Isabelle Taylor-Jones, Dante Ceramics
Ceramicist and designer, Isabelle Taylor-Jones is behind the beautifully curated sculptural works of Dantes Ceramics. Designed to inspire and help individuals create a slower, more appreciative way of life, here at enki we’re in no doubt that you’ll instantly be drawn to her designs with their aesthetically pleasing soft curves and tactile appeal. We managed to catch up with the maker to discuss everything from how Dantes Ceramics was born, to who she would like to collaborate with and which of her designs she’d fill the enki offices with…
#1 Who is the maker behind Dantes Ceramics? Tell us more about yourself and your career journey…
“I am a ceramicist and designer, and established Dantes Ceramics in 2018, after a number requested to buy my work. Following my honeymoon in the dramatic mountains and fjords of the remote Lofoten Islands, I have been drawn to objects with a Scandinavian feel, clean lines with a twist of rustic imperfection. I specialise in simple hand thrown shapes made in stoneware. I use only three clay colours – black, red and white, with neutral, textured glazes. Every stage of the creation process is by hand, and every piece is unique – often imperfect – baring the finger marks that show it is handmade.
My attraction to ceramics began when I discovered the freedom clay gives you to create without limits. In my thirties, I left a career in the fashion industry to start a family. I started evening classes at Richmond College as a way of finding myself when all consumed by young family life, this was my first contact with clay. More recently, I was fortunate to be invited to assist in a local pottery studio alongside a well-known Welsh potter. He was extremely generous with his time and taught me the discipline of throwing. During this period I was able to hone my wheel skills and glazing techniques before starting out on my own.”
#2 What’s the ethos behind the brand?
“Dantes means ‘giving’ in Latin. Giving is the essence of my brand, as I am completely consumed by the creation process, and put all of my energy and passion into every piece I create. I hope my works bring beauty into our everyday lives, but also combine function and design. I’d like to inspire people to enjoy the pieces, and appreciate the quality and craftsmanship. Simple, tactile and, I hope, beautiful objects can encourage a slower, more reflective pace of life, one that engages our senses. I want to inspire others to notice beauty in the small details.”
#3 How did Dantes Ceramics emerge? What was the key starting point?
“Dantes Ceramics emerged after a failed attempt at running an Art Gallery (specialising in ceramics) in the coastal town of Wivenhoe. I was desperately unhappy at the time, and found great comfort in making small functional pieces to use in my own home. I was very fortunate to have such supportive friends who encouraged me to make and sell my own work directly. Looking back, there was an element of fate that I would pursue a career in ceramics, after a close friend offered me a kiln she had inherited, there was no stopping me.”
#4 Describe a regular 9-5pm work day. What does this often involve?
“A regular day starts at 6:30am, before the family awakes. I use the first hour of the day to catch up on emails, check through orders, answer Instagram messages, and plan my studio time. Most of my business comes through Instagram food and style influencers, so it’s vital I keep in touch with social media. After I’ve packed my four children off to school, my working day begins in the studio. I like to wedge clay and throw on the wheel for the best part of the morning. I find my concentration levels are sharp during early morning when I’m most productive, although this is probably helped by copious amounts of strong coffee. Afternoons are often better suited for less focused jobs, turning bases, attaching handles and packing orders. The kiln will be loaded twice a week for an eight-hour firing through the night. I don’t usually break for lunch but grab a snack after I’ve collected everyone from school. Family life then takes precedence for the rest of the evening.”
#5 Where is Dantes Ceramics stocked? How do people purchase your work?
“Dantes Ceramics can be purchased online at dantesceramics.com , thewood-house.com and the beautifully curated ceramic shop, Vanil, in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Most people order directly via Instagram, I’m always happy to take commissions.”
#6 What draws you in in terms of aesthetics? Who or what inspires you?
“I strive to create shapes that are aesthetically pleasing with the emphasis on simplicity and function. I’m drawn to colours and textures of nature, often gleaned from visits to the Scottish Highlands, where I feel more connected with the dramatic landscape. It’s the perfect escape from the manic busy-ness of England’s South East. I want my work to be quiet, understated and comforting. I’m continually driven by the desire to enhance my skill in the haven of my studio. I tend to be a perfectionist, and have accumulated boxes of seconds which I am not 100% happy with.”
#7 Do you offer bespoke work?
“Yes, most of my work is bespoke, sold to private customers and buyers. I sell my work through beautifully curated online sites that often specify their own collections.”
#8 Which of your designs could you imagine filling the enki magazine offices with, and why?
“I would love everyone at enki to use my white speckled stoneware coffee mugs. The dark clay is the epitome of handmade ceramics, and has taken years to tame its unpredictable temperament. I hope this piece combines craft with functionality perfectly.”
#9 If you could collaborate with another brand, architect or maker, who would it be and why?
“I found this question particularly hard to answer, there are so many brilliant creative people I’d like to collaborate with, but I have to say the ultimate dream would be René Redzepi, he’s so passionate about what he does, I have huge admiration for him. He aims to encapsulate the ocean on a plate, I want to make that plate.”
#10 What’s the best thing about your job?
“Ceramics is a constant learning process. Clay is a wonderful medium to work with, and I am continually discovering new and exciting results (as well as too many disasters to mention!) but I learn something new with each process, and the possibilities are infinite.”
The Quick-fire Round
#1 Natural or metallic?
#2 Vibrant colour or pale neutrals?
#3 Pendant light or chandelier?
#4 Tea or coffee?
#5 Perfect getaway?
“Anywhere on water.”
#6 Favourite book?
“Most recent favourite – Silence by Erling Kagge.”
#7 Favourite way to relax?
“Sailing, it’s the ultimate escapism.”
#8 Favourite wine?
“Good ordinary Claret, Berry Bros & Rudd.”
#9 Dream house and location?
“A cabin in the Scottish Highlands.”
#10 Favourite thing about social media?
“Instagram has enabled me to meet so many talented creatives all around the world.”
#11 Least favourite thing about social media?
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