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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Florence St George: ‘It looked like I was living the dream, but I was in a dark place’

Two years ago, I decided to apply for The Great Pottery Throw Down. I wondered whether I was mad for applying at the time – I had to work past a lot of self-doubt, and I was convinced they’d use my story, labelling me as ‘Harry’s ex’, but the producers never pushed that story. They treated me as just another contestant and I was so grateful for that. It was a hugely rewarding experience. The hardest moment was going on set on the first day because they had one camera up in my face, one on a boom, another hidden by my wheel and another at my feet. I was so nervous and for the first 10 minutes, I wondered if it was a mistake. When I won the first challenge, I broke down and cried.

The show was filmed before Covid hit, when travel was much easier, so our plan was to be in London during filming and put the kids in nursery. But then the Bahamas was struck by a terrible hurricane and Henry had to go home. It was tricky to juggle everything, and I remember it as a very sad and difficult time, so if I hadn’t failed at my challenge on the show when I did, I’m sure circumstances would have forced me to stop anyway.

Pottery started very much as just a hobby, but now it’s becoming my business, too. In the early days I loved giving my pots away as presents, but then people began to ask me to make them sets. It was exciting when commissions started to roll in, so I set up my own website and started selling different collections – happy plates sprinkled with gold or pots with bubbling glaze to resemble lava from an underwater volcano. Now there’s so much demand I can’t possibly make everything by hand, so I work with a factory in Europe that make editions of my designs. My conch-shell bowl, with its rippled surface and delicate edges, is one of my favourites and like many of my pieces it’s inspired by the sea. I also have a collaboration with the jewellery designer Monica Vinader, which is launching in January next year. Monica and I share a similar aesthetic and both enjoy using design and craft as a form of therapy.

Who knows what the next wave of inspiration will be, but I’m thankful to clay for the healing and making everything happen. It’s been a long, unexpected journey, but it has taken me somewhere I never imagined, and no matter what the future holds, I’m learning and trusting the process as I go along.

The Florence St George Conch collection is available now from florencestgeorge.com

As told to Radhika Sanghani

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