Apprenticeship to Chris Keenan

In early 2013 I took my first course at West Dean College in 'Throwing and Turning for Beginners' with Ali Sandeman. It was enough to spark my interest in pottery and I also met a then current Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (FDAD) student that initiated the possibility of taking things further. Shortly after I bought my first 2nd hand potters wheel (very unreliable!) and began practising at home in the kitchen.

At the end of 2013 after a somewhat stressful year I resigned from my job as a director for a wholesale coffee company in Southampton. My role had become very stifled and I found myself with an opportunity to take time away from work to explore a more creative journey. I immediately signed up for the FDAD and shortly after, swapped my unreliable wheel for a more reliable upgrade.

Pottery, pottery, pottery

I was very clear when starting the FDAD that pottery was going to be my focus. I practised hard in the following months to ensure I was competent enough to take Chris Keenan's 'Form, Function and Family' course as well as spending a week with Shozo Michikawa. I can't remember when I was first introduced to Chris but I had a pretty good feeling from researching his work and background that he was someone I wanted to learn from.

Chris Keenan

Being quite a driven person, I was already looking at my options for what I wanted to do when the FDAD finished. An arts degree wasn't for me and Chris was the first potter I had come across that had solely learnt practice rather than theory through an apprenticeship. I am very hands on so the idea of this really appealed to me.

I nervously introduced myself to Chris at Ceramic Art London last year which luckily for me broke the ice before my course with him started. I made sure that the few days I spent with him at college were as constructive and focused as possible. I already had an inkling that he was the potter I would want to do an apprenticeship with, it was now just a case of working out how! During the course he was incredibly supportive and encouraging and I made sure we kept in touch in the months that followed. I found his work really resonated with me and my increasing love for porcelain and need for perfection really solidified this.


Late last summer I went up to London to visit Chris in his studio, and also met Carina Ciscato who he has shared his studio with since they both became independent studio potters after apprenticeships with Edmund de Waal and Julian Stair respectively. Soon after my visit Chris was about to leave for a 6 week residency at the Mashiko Museum in Japan so it wasn't until November that I eventually wrote to him to ask if he would consider taking me on as an apprentice. After three nail biting months I finally had an answer with an invitation to join not just Chris but also Carina in their Camberwell studio from 11 February. I was overwhelmed and I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to spend the next year with them both.

Rachael Potter, Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, West Dean College @rachaelpotter