In the past, on every girls wedding present list was a famed dinner service – Wedgwood, Crown Derby, Minton, to name but a few. This treasured wedding present was then brought from the depths of sideboards and into use on high days and holidays. It was far too expensive to be used every day. God help the person drying up after dinner if they dropped a piece. Nine times out of ten the dinner service would have gone out of production so replacing items was a nightmare.
In my Mum’s cupboard is quite definitely the most beautiful dinner service that I have ever seen – Camilla Copeland Spode. It was passed down from my Mother’s grandmother. Indeed one simply gasps at it’s beauty and fragility. I can count on one hand or maybe two, the number of times that beautiful relic has been used.
These types of dinner services are seldom used nowadays. They are too delicate for washing up machines. People want crockery that can be used everyday but that also looks good on special occasions. They also want things that are fun and amusing.
Enter Wonki Ware, Di Marshall’s creation!
Michelangelo said of one of his glorious statues: “I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
When you see an “angel in the marble” one has to carve until your angel is set free. Di Marshall discovered her “angels” at the potters wheel and she let them free in the form of dinnerware, cups, jugs, beautiful bowls…….
Seventeen years ago, Wonki Ware came into being!
Di Marshall had felt an immediate affinity with clay.
“The first time I touched clay I felt an instant identification with it. Clay has this strange feeling for me. I find it difficult to explain. My hands feel at home in that soft, pliable moistness. It almost seems to call out to me to do it’s bidding.”
She loves creating things with it. She has had no training, no art classes. She experiments and tries new approaches.
Di established her studio in George where she could shape and mould things to her heart’s content. People began popping in, observed Di at work, had a look around and left with merchandise clasped in their hands. Di’s work began selling. It began selling well.
A man called Artwell, constantly badgered Di for work. Desperate to help him, she tried to think of an easy and quick way to re-produce her dinnerware. She hit upon the idea of rolling out sheets of clay and letting him drape this clay over moulds that she had created. He did this job with eagerness and perfection. His family subsequently joined the team and today Di has over eighty employees creating from her designs.
Di travels all over the world, visiting museums and art galleries. “I see colours and patterns that are a new input to my psyche. I return with my spirit rejuvenated. Creativity isn’t seeing something and replicating the idea. Oh no, it’s discovering things that you find beautiful and being inspired by them to create new and individual designs.”
She believes that you need to be open and responsive to the world around you. It is only in this milieu that one can create.
Wonki Ware satisfies this need for individualism, escapism, for something away from the norm, something different, and most important, something affordable. Each piece of pottery is a work of art in itself. I asked Di: “Wonki Ware! Why have you called it that name?”
She burst out laughing and said: “Look at my pieces and ask me that question again, if you dare!”
I chuckled. Each piece is different and wonky! She didn’t set out to create wonky porcelain pottery. The wonkiness happened of it’s own accord and I glory in the fact that it has remained. Yes the colours, designs and patterns on the glazing change but the wonkiness stays the same. The pieces although fun are functional, hardwearing and dishwasher proof but they still have a delicacy all their own. It isn’t thick and heavy or in any way utilitarian. The colours that Di uses are everything from the lightest, palest pastels to deep, rich intense hues.
I asked Di what have been the highlights and lowlights of Wonki Ware? Her forehead creased. “Lowlights? Lowlights,” she mumbled searchingly. “We haven’t really had lowlights at Wonki Ware. We have had challenges, some bigger than others. We have met them head on and dealt with them accordingly. Our highlights?” She smiled. “My highlight is that I have eighty people working here. That’s eighty people who have a real purpose in life and eighty families that are being fed!”
I am totally hooked on Wonki Ware. I own six beautiful blue plates with a white squonk in differing places on them. Di Marshall gave me a gorgeous seventh plate of blue stripes. She also gave me this stunning blue salad bowl that almost looks too good for lettuce! I can’t wait to invite someone over for lunch. I know that now that we are in winter, it is not a good time for salads. Forget that! Whoever comes, will be eating this massive green salad out of the most divine blue Wonki Ware bowl!