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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Keith Brymer Jones, Ceramic Designer and Potter Extraordinaire Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

Keith Brymer Jones

Maine Woolens is a weaver of blanket and throws located in Brunswick, Maine. We work primarily with natural fibers, like cottons and worsted wools and are committed to using renewable natural fibers from American growers whenever possible. We do piece dyeing and package dyeing in house and the combined experience of our excellent employees exceeds 300 years. Our wool and cotton blankets and throws are 100 percent machine washable, soft and luxurious to the touch, cozy warm and comfortably light. We have many styles to choose from. Our clients are very positive about our products and happy to support a Made in Maine, USA company. Visit our website at
We have been highly recommended by Whom You Know: 
Maine Woolens, affordable luxury and tradition. 


Keith Brymer Jones is a highly acclaimed British ceramic designer and maker whose distinctive pieces have graced stylish homes for over two decades. Keith grew up in London and became a clay-boy and apprentice for Harefield Pottery after leaving school at 18 years old. He did however, for a time, leave this apprenticeship to pursue his role as lead singer in punk band The Wigs – a rebellious streak is still reflected in areas of his work today.

In 1990 Keith started to design and make his own pottery, entirely hand-making unique domestic pieces in earthenware and porcelain, in which form and function combine to produce tactile modern ceramics durable enough for everyday use. As a pioneer of bringing traditional materials and methods into contemporary use Keith’s work was soon appreciated by major high street and boutique retailers alike; Habitat, Heals, Conran and Barneys New York to name but a few. His unique ceramics have gained a wide and loyal following in the UK and around the world. 

Keith’s design philosophy focuses on creating modern pieces that are bold and simple, stylish yet traditional, pleasing to the eye and useful in the modern home. His signature Word range brings together the very best of the distinctive KBJ style. It is a classic white ware range with a twist. Each porcelain piece features a coloured word imprinted by hand recalling retro typewriter font, while the cosy yet modern shapes give a country feel and charm with urban aesthetic. Due to the huge success of the original tableware, the range and the KBJ brand has now been expanded to include a cookshop collection, fabrics and home fragrance. 

“I’ve always been interested in words as a design and some words work aesthetically better than others. I’m dyslexic so it is often the shape of the whole word that interests me, more than the meaning of the word itself. Having a fairly contemporary look and feel to my ceramics, I like the contrast that using the old typewriter print gives with contemporary shapes.”

His Punk range acts as a nod to his aforementioned punk rock days and brings a new and quirky dimension to the Word range concept. Each item uses the shapes and style of the Word range, but with cleverly re-worded lyrics of classic punk anthems. Examples include ‘Sex and Mugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Smells Like Tea Sprit’. Each mug is finished off with a piercing, through which sits an oversized safety pin for true punk style! 

Keith also uses his expertise in his capacity as “Head of Design” for London-based Make International, where he continues to collaborate with other artists, designers and companies, alongside developing and expanding his own designs and ranges within the Keith Brymer Jones brand. He is based near London in his studio, an old bakery in the seaside town of Whitstable on the Kent coast, where develops and hones all of his prototypes before they go into production.  He has earned our highest recommendation, a rarity:
We could not be more thrilled to present our latest Mover and Shaker, Keith Brymer Jones.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Keith for Whom You Know and we kept his English spellings with s instead of z because he's on the other side of the pond and so are many readers, and we will humor you this time.

Peachy Deegan: 
What is your first pottery memory?
Keith Brymer Jones: 
My first memory of pottery is making a pottery owl at secondary (high) school. I was 11 years old and completely lost myself in the process. My then art teacher was impressed, actually I think surprised at how good it was. Lacking in confidence at the time it helped me and the rest ‘as they say’ is history.

When did you realize you could be a potter on a professional basis and what led you to that conclusion?
I didn’t …..For a long time I had no idea that I could maybe do it as a living. I then started buying a magazine called ‘ceramic review’. It was full of studio potters around the country. Some doing exciting things with clay, and some it has to say clearly not but this inspired me. When in my last year of school upon visiting the career officer she said “right then what do you want to do?” “Fire, army, or police” (she obviously had a deal with all of them). I said “well actually I’d like to be a potter” her reply was ….”Well you’re on your own there then” and so therefore I was left to my own devices.

What are the difference between and excellent designer and a designer?
Ah well! For me that’s easy. An excellent designer is someone who can design something that is timeless and one of the reasons for it (the design) being timeless is it truly communicates to people. Design for me is linked with the fact that it is a kind of art form and all art needs to communicate. A design by an excellent designer will endure time because simply the design works on all levels. Functionality, aesthetically, and accessibility.

What would you like to design as a potter that you have not yet designed?
An oven to tableware collection (pie dishes etc) which I am currently working on. It would make me very happy!

What other disciplines would you like to pursue as other avenues in design?
Right are you ready! Furniture, fabric, architecture, sculpture and when I’m done with them there would be more. I never want to stop learning. It’s what keeps you alive. 

London is the second city of Whom You Know and we are read more in the UK than in the South or on the West Coast, though that could change as we've started to work with Hollywood much more in 2013. What parallels would you draw between the Northeast in the USA and the UK?
The weather for one. Although more extreme in the U.S.A. it does have its similarities. I love New York and its vibrancy it is very similar to London in that way. Cosmopolitan!

What should most Americans know about London that they don't know yet?
There is more than one centre to it . London is a mish mash of villages . Each having their own characters. Oh and if you walk across the road you won’t get arrested for jay walking. 

What is hot aside from your brand on Portobello Road right now?
The market ! It’s always brilliant .

What should everyone know about Whistable if they haven't been there?
The beach is a pebble beach . Most of the pubs were run by villains (the Krays) back in the 60’s. Oh and Jones fish and chip shop is fantastic although you sometimes have to wait an age for your chips.

What is the difference between a stylish home and a home?
A certain continuity that runs through it. I believe in having aesthetically interesting objects to look at, whether they be functional or merely for decoration. A stylish home needs to intrigue you from the moment you walk in. 

Do you watch Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs, The Bletchley Circle, AbFab, House of Cards, Bleak House, Selfridges and Top Gear and if so what do you think? (We have reviewed quite a bit from the BBC and PBS).
Yes I have. Although I don’t watch too much TV. British drama is I believe some of the best in the world, and as for Top Gear the presenters quintessentially British in their bumberling, self- deprecating analysis . So make for good TV.

If you were creating pottery for the Dowager Countess what would you make for her?
I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met her !

If you were creating pottery for the Queen what would you make for her?
As above ! 

Will The Wigs be playing anywhere soon?
No !

How many music videos have you starred in and what are your future plans in this discipline?
About 4 . 3 when in the band ,and 1 as a potter. I could go in to weddings and bar mitzvah’s

How did you come up with your video idea that we included in our review?
Well in was initially Dominic’s idea my business partner. He saw the original Adele video (rolling in the deep) and the visuals of the video fitted so well with what we wanted to try an convey (the broken crockery, the solitary lone voice in a room, the strange scenes with the dancer) that we thought we could do a really odd comical spoof of it . The whole concept was to not take myself to seriously and do something a little leftfield to promote the brand. In short a cross dressing nutter who has been jilted by his girlfriend so he ties her up in the basement and laments on all the wonderful crockery he’s made for her and how she hasn’t appreciated it.  Oh by the way I’m not a cross dresser. Although I must say I do like the idea of wearing tights…..especially in a cold damp mansion when filming. They keep you warm.

Has Adele seen your video and if so what did she say?
I believe not. Although I would like her to think it was a laugh. She has an amazing voice, and she really is a true talent. Actually in a strange way I think the video plays homage to her. 

Did you really have to break as many pieces as we saw in the video break or was that camera tricks?
Uuurrrrm ! Yes we did unfortunately ,but some of what we broke were seconds. In fact it took ages to break it. My son (of 10) helped, and at first the thought of breaking pots was really good but he actually soon got bored and pleaded with me that he could stop. 

Will Adele be doing a KBJ video in return?
Ha! Well it would be extremely flattering but no it certainly isn’t planned. 

Where in America are you not sold yet that you'd like to be sold at?
Well quite a few places. The brand is fairly new to the U.S. and it is a huge market. I used to make for Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman. I would like to get back in to them. Also MoMa (Museum of Modern art in New York) I visited it when I was over last. It’s a really cool shop .

Since you have a punk range do you have any opinion about The Met Costume Institute's PUNK?
With such a strong cultural look as Punk the commercialisation into mainstream fashion was inevitable. My opinion is the same as my opinion of night following day. It’s obvious. 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
It depends how one defines excellence. If one is talking of a disciplined process of which I believe art and design to be then my ex boss’s Robert Hudson and Alan Pett where I did my apprenticeship and an old potter called Isaac Button. As regards to a designer it has to be Steve Jobs purely and simply because the Apple products are iconic in there aesthetic and quite clearly recognisable as Apple products which is in my view a main goal when one can look at a product in instinctively know it is from a certain designer or design house. I don’t actually own anything Apple by the way. 

What are you proudest of and why?
I am most proudest of the team that Dom and I have created around us . I am quite a control freak and as the aforementioned sometimes it is hard to let go of certain processes with in the business. You have to put your trust in people which from a creative side for me is very hard to do. From a product point of view it has to be the Bucket Mug. It’s simple, clean, and so obviously a mug but the shape was quite unique at the time of conception, and is our biggest selling item. On a personal side I am proud of my wife for living with a complete workaholic and supporting me in my mission. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Own and run a Hotel. Design and build a house. They are the 2 that most come to the forefront of my mind when asked that question.

What honours and awards have you received in your profession?
A few years ago the egg cup set won gift of the year, and then more recently the cookshop range won best collection of the year in the U.K. Because my background has steered an unusual path I very rarely have much to do with award ceremonies. The ultimate honour for me is being able to create and make product that people like. 

What one word best describes you and why?
Obsessive !

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And in London? 
Hells Kitchen . It’s a great little flee market. In London probably Primrose Hill. It’s relatively quiet and has nice little shops.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And in London?
In Manhattan it would be MoMa and in London Selfridges department store.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Kate Bush. Her voice makes me cry ………in a good way.

What is your favorite drink?
Whiskey !

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
I used to suffer badly from being rather outspoken (I call it social tourettes ) when I was a lot younger. I was at an architect’s ball in Bath, England (black tie) when I was feeling rather out of my depth . I got talking to this girl who wasn’t really responding . So the more I tried to communicate with her the ruder and more forceful I got,also loader . To the point when another guest came up to me to inform me the girl that I was talking to was deaf and dumb. Not only that she was the host's sister. It wasn’t good !!!!

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And in London? 
Keens Steakhouse in Manhattan and the Savoy Grill in London

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And in London?
Woody Allen in Manhattan and Alfi (Micheal Caine) in London.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Me …..cos I know what I’m getting.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And in London?
A building in Manhattan (The Brymer Building) , and Park in London (the Jones park). They're both places where people think. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And in London?
I haven’t had a Manhattan athletic experience except walking which I have to say is good. In London winning the 1500 metres when I was about 14 years old at school.

What is your favourite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And in London?
Wake up at dawn and watch Manhattans go to work, and the same in London. I get up pretty early myself so I Love that feeling of waking up in a city when it just starting the day . You learn a lot about a city and its people that way . 

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
If it was just one person ………that’s quite hard! I suppose it would have to be Muhhamad Ali. I think his view on life was observed from a totally different perspective. He was/is a true citizen of the world thus making him a citizen of humanity. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And in London?
Well best art experience in Manhattan would have been visiting MoMa and seeing a friend of mine on a loop singing about a Kitchen built in the 1950’s (Robert Rotifer) that was an exhibition at the time. Totally by surprise. The last time I saw him was on the beach at Whitstable in Kent. In London probably seeing Yann Tiersen playing the musical sound track to the film Amelie at the Festival Hall, just sheer brilliance. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Be conscious of people around me and treat things, people, and places with respect. 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
If you mean in the world . Well the most underrated is the third world, and the most overrated is politicians. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favourite Whom You Know column and why?
I like Manhattan tips as I’m keen to use them next time I visit.

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
Unfortunately I have not drunk the Peachy Deegan. Next time when I come to Manhattan I shall obviously have to try it. It looks great!! 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I only wear red socks or no socks in the summer. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Well my face book account or my twitter account would be fine.

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