Most of the live Hastings May Day celebrations might have been cancelled this year, but Liz Emtage launched her new range of tea sets on 1st May to coincide with the coming of spring. As it was also National Tea Day on 21st April, she decided to have a tea party at her shop, Pelham’s fine furniture & ceramics, in Kings Road, St Leonards. Her partner, Geoff Osler baked a light and elegant Victoria sponge cake which complemented the tea and bone china perfectly.

Ceramic artist Liz and furniture restorer Geoff have been working alongside each other for over 20 years, with Geoff rejuvenating old furniture and Liz making and designing ceramics as well as teaching and lecturing. She started out making thrown tableware but until now, the shop has focused mainly on delicate translucent porcelain lighting, tiles and vases.

She tells me: “When you have a shop, you have to think in a different way from other artists  – you have to keep changing your stock and think more about what people need and want to buy.” As lockdown allowed us to spend more time on simple pleasures and to value precious moments at home, tea sets would seem to be the perfect way to go. Her new range of mugs, teapots and plates are decorated with images of grasses, stems of flowers and seed heads and can be bought as sets, or mixed and matched. 

PICTURE CREDIT: (left) Miranda Cobbing / (right) Veronique Le Plat

“I love being outside in nature and most of my work is inspired by the natural world.” she says. “I have taken nature’s beauty, and memories of care-free childhood days and transferred them onto my ceramic pieces.” This new range features grasses and flowers taken from her porcelain lighting and tile range. Images are created and sent to a company in Stoke-on-Trent and used to make transfers.  Liz then applies the transfers to the mugs before she fires them. It took about a year to arrive at the final version because of all the “tweaking” of the designs.

Liz feels that people shouldn’t only use fine china on special occasions: “The main point for me is that beauty is in the function. The feel of sipping your tea from a bone china mug. How the rim feels against your lips. How the tea tastes. How comfortable the mug is in your hand.” She mentions that several people have bought mugs  for their mothers, who like to drink tea from good quality porcelain. When she asks:  “Did they like the cup?” the response is often: “Yes, they love it, but they won’t use it because they’re afraid it’s going to get broken.”

“I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about shelves filled with the best ceramics falling off the wall and breaking – and no one ever got to enjoy them! Using them maybe once a year – it’s a bit like keeping a bird in a cage.”

She says: “My hope is that when you are using your tea set, be it on a busy morning, escaping for a bit of ‘me time’, or catching up with a group of friends, it’ll bring you relaxation and calm.”

Pelham’s fine furniture & ceramics is open Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm. Find out more at www.pelhamsonline.com or www.instagram.com/
liz_emtage_ceramics


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