It’s piddling down with rain on a grim February afternoon when I rock up at Martin and Siobhan’s kooky little studio off the beaten track in little ole Lupton. There’s a couple of good reasons why I’ve come here – firstly these guys are another example of Cumbrian dwellers quietly working away at producing something amazing in their own tiny corner of the county and secondly because these guys genuinly rock on the ‘interesting and super nice’ scale 🙂
I arrive just as Martin Miles-Moore is chucking some clay on the wheel, or to use the right terminology, throwing the clay. What initially looks like a rather large cow dung, soon impressively changes to form a perfect 32cm diameter dinner plate before my very eyes. This creation I see before me, is just one of a set of 500 pieces that both Martin and his partner Siobhan have been contracted to produce for the re-vamp of Hipping Hall near Kirkby Lonsdale.
Fourteen years ago, Martin was working full-time as a physiotherapist and felt like he needed to take up a hobby. Enrolling on a three month pottery course his tutor was soon impressed by his obvious skills and suggested that he take up a three year BTEC HND course in ceramics at Lancashire Polytechnic which he duly did. It was an interesting career transition but not too unusual if you think about it. A physio uses his hands in his work just like Martin does now, needing to be strong to uncover physical ailments but sensitive to handle soft tissue and allay pain. Together with an understanding of balance and symmetry it’s not difficult to realize that the two distinct careers have the same sensibilities. His career took off quickly with exhibitions all over the world together with awards and contracts with the likes of Liberties in London.
Then in the 90s all that was to change. The crash of the stock market meant that no one was buying his pieces, or at least no art buyer in the £600 to £1800 a piece range. Ironically, had his pieces been more expensive, he might have survived. Forced to give up and sell off his kiln and equipment, Martin returned to physiotherapy. Still prominent in his career, he then worked for the likes of the MOD, UK Sport and and impressively, the GB Women’s Basketball team. The return to physio wasn’t all bad though – he met his now partner Siobhan Newton during a stint in the Fire Service.
Retiring from physio in 2015, Siobhan convinced him to give ceramics another go. In November 2015 they both took on this tiny studio where I stand now, a corner of a barn at the back of their landlord’s house off the A65. After initially throwing a lot of clay at the walls and not at the wheel (Siobhan’s words), Martin found his mojo (my words) and started creating once more.
His focus and passion is very much the creation of ceramics following the Japanese Shibui aesthetic technique – simple and subtle but beautiful, calming pieces of work. Wanting to sell direct rather than wholly through galleries, his first show was the local Lunesdale Arts Trail. Both of them started creating together, selling directly to individuals through shows and then with occasional contract work.
Martin’s entry into Cumbria’s C-Art event back in September last year led to the current project with Hipping Hall. It was fortuitous that Siobhan nipped into Hipping with the event’s leaflets at just the time the hotel was looking to replace their dining ware. Head Chef Oli Martin was keen to find locally-produced ceramics to replace the uninspiring uniformity of their current mass-produced pottery.
Martin’s entry for C-Art couldn’t have been any more ‘Cumbrian’ and inspired Oli. He created two different sets of Japanese-styled tea bowls to represent his theme of ‘East Meets West’ – a subliminal reflection of the importance Eastern tourism brings to the Lake District and surrounding area.
In the photograph below, the top set was made using a traditional bisque-fired English method with the set below employing a gas-fired Japanese method at an extreme 1300 degrees centigrade. Most importantly, each set was glazed using four locally-sourced materials reflecting the natural, geological landscapes all around us. From left to right the cups are glazed with Egremont hematite iron ore, Shap pink granite, powdered Honister slate and finally, in recognition of Cumbrian resilience, sand from the bed of the River Lune, piled high on farmers’ fields either side following the destruction of Storm Desmond last year.
It was therefore a no-brainer that Hipping’s Head Chef had found a locally-sourced creator of unique ceramics. Aside from new tableware, his intention was to remove the clutter from the restaurant tables and create a calm and zen-like space. Gone are the staid vases and fiddly tea-lights, finally replaced with a single iron ore-clad table decoration created by Siobhan.
Glazed and lined inside with copper leaf, her Microcosm designs create a dramatic reflection of light with a textured exterior resonant of the local landscape. Together with his highly artistic, creative dishes, Oli now has the complete package to offer guests a unique foodie experience that is highly connected to the environment and location of the hotel. Read our review of the Hipping Hall 9 course taster menu served on Miles-Moore tableware here.
I’m pretty bowled over by this whole partnership. It’s yet again another wonderful story of local businesses who not only support each other but go out of their way to source local produce and materials, respectful of their environment and the wealth that nature can provide us with.
So what’s next for this uber-talented ceramics duo? Well, Martin will continue following his passion for creating Japanese-inspired tableware, which means more exhibitions and shows. Next up is his entry for the Ruskin’s Prize. They will also be providing two executive pieces for the Cumbria Family Business Awards that take place in March this year.
Aside from business contracts the duo are now pleased to announce private commissions for dining sets. If you need any convincing, then check out our review of Hipping Hall’s fabulous 9 course tasting menu, served of course on the exquisite tableware created by this talented duo. Stunning and unique, line an orderly queue folks… these guys will soon be fully booked.
To contact Martin and Siobhan drop in or give them a call:
Miles-Moore Ceramics, The Raines at Foulstone Farm, Lupton, LA6 2PP
T 07921 849463 www.milesmooreceramics.com