Meet the maker: Laura Plant

Laura Plant's collection of bone china ceramics designed for the National Trust

New designer, Laura Plant looks for inspiration in unusual places. Focusing on the often overlooked beauty of grasslands, weeds and wildflowers, she transforms detailed sketches into handcrafted ceramics.

Growing up on a farm near Stoke, Laura’s passion for pottery has been shaped by her city’s industrial heritage. The young designer's bespoke clay pieces earned her the National Trust's Artisan & Craft New Designers Award. Chosen at the 2018 New Designers Show, the annual award supports and celebrates new, emerging British talent.

We spoke to Laura about the techniques she has used to create a range of ceramics inspired by the wildflowers at Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire. Exclusively designed for the National Trust, her distinctive collection is available both in our shops and online.

Laura Plant working in her studio

How did you get into ceramics?

I fell in love with clay while studying for an art foundation course and then studied ceramics at university. I carried on making but struggled to afford a studio and fell out of love with my work. After a few years out, I refocused and started an MA Ceramic Design course at Staffordshire University, with the hope of becoming a designer in the ceramics industry. The course reignited my love of making. Winning the prize at New Designers has given me the opportunity to further develop my skills by creating this exclusive collection for the National Trust.

Close up shot of Laura Plant's floral bone china milk jug

What materials do you use?

I mostly use bone china because it has a lovely surface when left unglazed, is beautifully white, translucent and strong. I think the qualities of bone china give an elegant quality to my work. It's also a material synonymous with Stoke-on-Trent, as it was developed by Josiah Spode, founder of Spode Pottery. I'm from just outside Stoke and the local heritage is important to me and a great source of inspiration. Also, as anyone from Stoke will tell you, a cup of tea tastes much better from a bone china mug!

" Having grown up on a farm, I am greatly inspired by nature and the British countryside and I want to share this through my designs"
- Laura Plant, Ceramicist
Laura Plant working in her studio

How do you create your pieces?

I love experimenting and exploring the unique qualities of ceramics. I mix my own glaze recipes and when mixing a glaze test one time, I added too much water and it created a watercolour wash effect. This happy accident inspired the style of the whole collection. I use a slip casting technique which involves pouring liquid clay into plaster moulds. This process also allows me to work with bone china, which has low clay content so isn't suited to throwing.

Shugborough Mansion and fountain

Which National Trust place is special to you?

I visited Shugborough when I was a child and have happy memories of exploring there. My Dad particularly liked the farm. I remember peering over the walls to see the pigs and my Dad telling us about helping on his grandparent’s farm. I think my favourite thing about Shugborough though is the servant’s quarters and the kitchens. I remember being fascinated by all the copper pots and the jelly moulds and jars.

A close up of a field of pink and white wildflowers

How has Shugborough inspired your work?

I visited Shugborough with my sketchbook and watercolours, and spent a day painting. I'm particularly drawn to weeds and wildflowers as they're beautiful but often overlooked. I find they give a fresher quality to my designs as they are less widely depicted. I sketched the flowers and weeds I saw at Shugborough and developed unique illustrations for the National Trust ceramics. The designs are exclusive to the Trust and each piece is decorated by hand.