an interview with Nation Pottery

Designer and fashion illustrator Cheryl Denby started creating unique ceramic gifts for special occasions in her own family and friends’ lives when she found mass produced, anonymous gifts simply weren’t enough. Demand for her bespoke hand-painted treasures grew, and Nation Pottery was born. We talked to Cheryl and asked her about her business, and the pros and cons of being a small independent seller of unique, handmade products.

1. What inspired you to create Nation Pottery?
When I got to my mid-twenties, landmark celebrations started happening all around me. Friends getting married and babies being born, big family anniversaries and birthdays… and I simply could not find gifts that were personal, ethical, and as unique as the occasion. I started illustrating and hand-painting pottery in my spare time for special gifts and as the pottery spread, so did the demand!

2. Describe your product range and what makes it unique?
Personalised pottery with personality sums it up! Hand-painted to order earthenware plates, signs, dishes, mugs, and money boxes all painted, dip glazed and fired by me in my small scale studio. Each piece is unique as the design incorporates your special names and dates, so it is a true original. I also offer a wide range of glaze colours so you can tailor your gift to suit wedding themes or nursery colour schemes. I also do pieces for the home such as room names and, most recently, personalised pet bowls.

3. What is your best selling range / product?
My Personalised Mr & Mrs Coasters are my most popular product at the moment with it being the wedding season.

4. Where did you start your company and where you work now?
I started the company in my old house in the city centre of Plymouth. It was a tiny cottage and I actually painted in an old closet with no windows! We built a kiln room outside in the 8ft square courtyard. I now paint in a studio in the Tamar Valley, with a stunning backdrop of Kit Hill in Cornwall and share the view with my neighbour’s seven alpacas!

5. Describe where you live / the style of your home?
I live in a Victorian terraced miner’s cottage in the Tamar Valley. Luckily it retains a lot of its original features and being a bit of a magpie myself it’s full of interesting new and vintage finds.

6. What are the benefits / disadvantages of being a designer-maker?
As an artist and sole trader, getting that immediate feedback and endorsement when you get return custom is fantastic, as you know it’s all down to your hard work.

Knowing my supply chain is another benefit. I think as consumers we should all be more interested in where things come from. Even down to my packing tape which is made of recycled paper, I want to be as nice to the planet and the people on it as possible.

Disadvantages are aplenty too though. Mainly fighting your corner as a small scale operation with a conscience, when people are used to ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ imported goods on the high street. It can be really demoralising. That’s why is a great marketplace for Nation Pottery.

7. What are your ambitions for your company in the future?
That the business can grow with us as a family and the pottery named Nation (my 91 year old Nan’s family name) has the longevity and vibrancy of its namesake.

  • Comment by Gemma

    I’ve just purchased a great gift from Nation Pottery.

    With more family and friend events coming up I don’t even need to think about the problem of what to get and where to get, I can leave that in Cheryl’s capable hands. Nice one. Cheers Cheryl.

  • I have used some of Cheryls cake plates as presents, they make a lovely original and fun gift – when so much on the high street is bland and mass produced. Ive also used the cake plates in displays for my own business as a cake maker. Well done Cheryl.

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