Keith Brymer Jones is Director and Head of Design at MAKE International, an expert ceramicist with over three decades of experience and a judge on BBC2’s The Great Pottery Throw Down.
As the home of England’s pottery industry, Keith has regularly visited Stoke-on-Trent since his career as a ceramicist began in the 1980s. He was later involved in The Potteries’ bid to become UK City of Culture 2021 during 2017 and 2018, has made appearances at The Spode Works British Ceramics Biennial and continues to support the revival of the Spode site.
He has also been a judge for the New Designers awards, where many Staffordshire University students have showcased their work, and opened the University’s Art and Design Show in 2018. He said: “I am always blown away by the Staffordshire University offering. I still get blown away by the amazing talent coming through – especially from Staffs.”
Keith’s own start in ceramics began at secondary school, in London, when he first touched clay and made himself a pottery owl. He spent much of his school life in the art classroom and going to see the ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
His first job came as an apprentice for Harefield Pottery in London at 18. After seven years learning his trade and working his way up the ranks, the pottery relocated to Northern Scotland, but Keith decided to stay in London and open his own studio in Highgate. He worked in this studio for many years, handmaking large orders for renowned retailers, including Laura Ashley, Monsoon, Conran, Habitat and Heals. At one point, Keith was making 1,000 pots in one day and fulfilling orders of up to 16,000 pieces by hand.
During this time, he conceived his Word Range, a collection of super white porcelain ceramics which feature a coloured, hand-stamped word in retro, typewriter font. The Keith Brymer Jones Word Range is now a successful, award-winning brand distributed and sold in over forty countries.
In 2008, Keith joined MAKE International as a Director and Head of Design, setting up a new studio in a converted bakery, in Whitstable, Kent, where he still works today. The company has grown significantly since, with distributors around the world. Keith still gets behind the potter’s wheel, however, and produces every one of the company’s prototypes. He then takes these to MAKE’s expert product supervisors in China, to match the same high specifications as the pieces made in his home studio.
The Award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Keith in recognition of his considerable contribution to the University and Stoke-on-Trent, as an ambassador championing the city’s rich cultural heritage. It also acknowledges his support of the ceramic and creative industries in the city, with his engagement and appearances at The Spode Works British Ceramics Biennial.