In our first Class of Glassette interview, we talk to Richard ‘Stick’ Mutimer, the potter behind Stick Ceramics. Read on for an introduction to Stick’s process, a look at the raw materials he works with and a conversation about creativity as a route to spaciousness. Stick tells us how becoming a potter has unlocked a new way of living for him and how rituals from his early life, particularly around music as a constant, have found their place in his process.
How did Stick begin?
‘Stick’ is a nickname my dad gave to me when I was eight years old. Twenty-four years later the name is still here; I’m completely numb to what it means to be known as Stick or how the word is perceived, it’s just a syllable. My parents both passed away in my early twenties, so hanging on to this name keeps me in touch with them, if that makes sense.
Towards my late twenties, I struggled with depression and, seeking some solace, I committed to a short pottery course in east London.
Though those who suffer with depression will have their own relationship with it, and what it looks like. For me personally, the day often starts in negative place and I spend the early hours of the morning striving to push past the ‘half full’ glass line. Some days positivity arrives and normality chimes, others, its absence results in one of those bad days; socialising can feel like a performance.
On those cloudy days, for me, creativity started to feel more of a necessity than a hobby. Following my course, I continued to learn the fundamentals of pottery on my own, with the assistance of Youtube, in late 2019.
In early 2020 I was working as a music agent - a dream job really - but having already worked in the music industry for eight years or so, I realised I couldn’t picture myself working there long term. It’s a beguiling industry to work in; with a unique accompanying lifestyle. I always had one eye on a creative outlet as a profession. The start of the pandemic was effectively the catalyst for a wave of change for me
What do you love most about what you do?
Before pottery I worked in an office for eight years or so in London, so I would have to say the freedom that comes with being a self-employed creative. I have a ten step commute currently, from my bedroom to my studio, each day, which is ridiculous, really. But it has given me a great deal of flexibility with my working hours and surrounding lifestyle. I now have the time and space to be creative without too much added pressure, which has been very important, I think.
Talk us through the making process
My making process is perhaps a little different to a regular production thrower. Being sat at the wheel all day making the exact same form to the millimetre (production line throwing) requires a great deal of focus, something I do struggle with, if I’m being completely honest. So, I tend to split my day up into sections making various forms at the different stages of creation. I might throw just 20 cups at the start of the day before moving on to plates, and then spend a few hours attaching handles - it does mean I need to be a little more organised but I’ve made it work for me, I think. The variation in my day has helped me become a more versatile potter too. It keeps me interested. It keeps me energised.
What materials do you use?
I mostly mix various stoneware clays adding other raw materials in the process to create different earthy tones, speckles and flecks. I don’t tend to use many glazes, which is helpful in a particularly small studio.
You talk a lot about music with your community - what role does music play in your approach to work?
I love discovering and sharing music. I definitely think a big part of one's relationship with music is the discovery itself and many will want to keep that element of discovery for themselves, to find a new artist and to feel some kind of ownership. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s nice to be served up recommendations as the luxury of scrolling through blogs and playlists can tend to become more distant in our adult lives.
Having the music part of my brand is my way of becoming more unique as a potter and conveying more of my personality in my work. There are a lot of subtle cultural references in some of my upcoming work too: lyricism, wordplay and album cover colour palettes.
What do you listen to while you’re working over the wheel?
I’ve got a bit of a routine forming actually, where I alternate from my favourite radio shows (mostly Radio 6 music) to my own playlists and back again throughout the day. I grew up in a house where the radio played all day and night, in three seperate rooms and I guess that’s had a huge effect on me and my relationship with music growing up. Rarely will the studio speakers be switched off when I’m working.
A few new artists I’m enjoying this year are: Meadow Meadow, Wet Leg, Chubby and the Gang, Coco, Mush and Francis Lung.
I’ve also enjoyed re-discovering: The Blue Nile, Pinback, Elbow, Talk Talk and Martha Wainwright.
Are there any specific conditions you have to create in order to be able to begin working and making?
A tidy studio always helps. But the answer is music really. I've found working as a potter independently very isolating. I work on my own every day. So, my old friend the radio has become a source of companionship once again, I can't ever imagine working in silence.
I find Radio shows are like little villages. You recognise the odd phone caller and feel like you know the broadcasters. It’s a tidy replacement for a small office. It’s good company.
When we look at Stick on Instagram, we can feel a real sense of community, how important has it been for you to cultivate that?
It’s been so important to my business. I am mostly visible via Instagram, so almost all of the opportunities that have come my way have been via this channel. It’s in turn made me think very carefully about the content I am posting and how to continuously engage my followers. I really enjoy that part of the business, keeping in touch, and building relationships; it’s always rewarding to have returning customers. I imagine that it’s quite similar to a band playing the same city each year and seeing the familiar faces on the front row. There is always room for a music analogy...
What is the kindest thing someone has said about your work?
I think the kindest and most influential conversation was the very height of the pandemic when I was furloughed, whereby the notion of working as a full-time potter seemed completely unimaginable. My now wife (and friends) would regularly pose the question as to ‘why’ it wasn’t achievable to be a potter, to provoke a logical response. Perhaps not strictly a direct comment on my work as such, more so a felicitous conversation and the beginnings of a belief that I could be a potter.
Tell us about your favourite item that can be found on Glassette?
The speckled coffee cup. It’s such a simple item, but the form and the volume just work so well I find, and seems to be very popular.
What makes a house a home for you?
A good set of speakers. A well-stocked drinks cabinet. A roast dinner where mac and cheese fill the yorkshire puddings (a new lockdown tradition of ours). I’ve also recently started to appreciate cushions with piping - something I never thought I would say…
Here's my Glassette Mix - I've chosen songs that can be good company when you're working from home on your own.
Follow Richard: @stickceramics