Who is Keith Brymer Jones? The judge behind the wheel
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- November 14,2019
- by Carmen Camacho
He has been on TV in the last few years, judging, presenting and spreading his love of ceramics. But who is Keith Brymer Jones? How did he end up making us fall in love with pottery? Why is he so special?
Keith’s passion for pottery and his ability to shed a tear has made him widely popular amongst the audience of the Great Pottery Throw Down and more. Those who have been lucky enough to meet him or hear one of his talks will no doubt have felt his warmth and love for the Arts.
Keith’s love for pottery started when he was 11 years old when Mr. Mortman, Keith’s art teacher, handed Keith a lump of clay and asked him to make something with it. Keith carefully crafted a pottery owl which received great praise from Mr. Mortman.
Through secondary school, Keith’s interest in ceramics grew and he eagerly took any opportunity he got to be in the workshop – break time, lunchtime, after school and even before school! Keith even used to bunk off his lessons to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum where he would look at the ceramics and draw them.
Upon completing school, Keith stuck an advert in the Ceramic Review… ‘young, enthusiastic 18-year-old seeks an apprenticeship in pottery’. Sure enough, the owners of Harefield Pottery read the ad and offered Keith a job as their clay boy. A clay boy shovels clay, cleans floors and prepares clay. This was the beginning of Keith’s ceramics career – he really did start from the bottom!
After an early career devoted to ceramics, Keith created pots and different shapes for a string of large retailers including Laura Ashely, Heals, Monsoon, Habitat and Conran. In 2008, he met his business partner, Dominic Speelman and subsequently joined MAKE
International as Director and Head of Design. As MAKE International grew, Keith expanded his Word Range and began collaborating with other designers, illustrators and creators to bring inspiring ceramic products to those who love design.
Keith’s Word Range contains approximately 500 products and is sold in over forty countries with a large and loyal following. To this day, the Word Range follows Keith’s design philosophy: ‘to create simple yet stylish products which are pleasing to the eye, practical in the modern home and, above all, make people happy!’
Keith is a passionate advocate for art, craft and design education. He believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make and create. He has been appointed patron for The National Society for Education in Art and Design. In 2019, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Staffordshire University for his continued work with the University as well as the city of Stoke-on-Trent, the home of the pottery industry. He can often be seen extolling the virtues of creativity to students of all ages at various schools, colleges and events.
In 2015, he debuted as an expert judge on the BBC2 show, The Great Pottery Throw Down, where his readiness to shed tears at the contestants’ work attracted many comments on social media. Filming of the third series has begun in the autumn of 2019 so we are expecting to see more of Keith on the television in the near future. Keith has become a well-known television personality and has also presented the Victorian House of Arts and Crafts and Made in Britain, both on the BBC.
When he is not filming, Keith spends his time in his Kent studio throwing shapes on his pottery wheel for other designers in his job as Head of Design at MAKE International. It is in this role he collaborates with amazing designers and brands like Scion Living, Jane Foster, Tatty Devine, National Trust, Bert & Buoy and Sukie.