“I am a spiritual person and I think this new craft found me,” says Henry Holland as he discusses his recent transition from the fashion world to handmade ceramics. After 15 years at the helm of renowned British fashion label House of Holland, Holland stepped away in March 2020 and embarked on a much-needed hiatus from the fast-paced fashion industry which he had become accustomed to. Turning to pottery classes as a creative outlet, he took the time to pause and reflect before exploring what his next venture would be.
However, with the onset of Covid-19 meaning he could no longer attend pottery classes at a local Hackney studio, he began to explore different techniques online before discovering his own interpretation of the Nerikomi technique: a Japanese process that involves stacking coloured clay and slicing through the cross-section to reveal a distinct pattern. “After my lessons stopped, I ordered a selection of coloured clays, began watching YouTube tutorials and that’s how I came across the technique,” he recalls. “I felt it reflected my own handwriting. It incorporated colour and pattern but with the clay itself rather than glazes.”
After experimenting further and posting snaps of his creations on Instagram, Holland quickly realised the desire and demand for his work, with many asking where they could buy the pieces themselves. “This was the moment I began to think about establishing a studio and making my hobby a profession,” he reveals. After producing sample designs, Holland began to take orders in February 2021 before launching the studio online officially in April. Since April, the studio has gone from strength to strength, even landing its first retail collaboration with Liberty which began in June. “The way things have evolved,” he continues, “it is meant to be. I want to be selective with the partners I work with, and Liberty were my dream stockists.”
Holland is getting used to the change of pace since pivoting into this new sector as a designer. With fashion being more reactive, and interiors being slightly more relaxed mainly due to the manufacturing processes and techniques involved, he is enjoying this newfound creative freedom. “It gives you more time to stand back and breathe,” he says. “I have time to think about how I can translate my aesthetic and what options exist with different materials and product types. This brings constant inspiration, and it helps me to continually think about what’s ahead. In fashion, we have become preconditioned to work like donkeys in order to keep up with the expected speed and output. I don’t want to go back to that.”
In fashion, we have become preconditioned to work like donkeys in order to keep up with the expected speed and output. I don’t want to go back to that – Henry Holland
When speaking of his design aesthetic, Holland is also excited about the new colour combinations he is creating. “I can only get hold of so many colours, which is a blessing,” he laughs. “They are more earthy colours and tones, but each collection has newness with the combinations and shades I choose.” Noticing a change in his style and colour choices, Holland continues, “My creative aesthetic has definitely evolved and matured as I’ve got older. With House of Holland, I would have gone colour heavy, but now I love working with a more subdued and restrictive colour palette.”
The studio, which now employs a small team alongside Holland, produces each piece by hand, taking control of every part of the creative process. Having this control, without being at the mercy of external suppliers and manufacturers, has also removed the pressure on the designer to ensure correct standards and timelines are adhered to. “I don’t wake up worrying in the middle of the night anymore,” he says. “I have a small team and it’s a nice place to be. I’m very protective of how it feels right now.”
Aiming to produce just one new collection each year, this is also giving him the space to explore other creative ventures and collaborations. Kicking off these projects is an exciting partnership with rug manufacturers Floor Story, resulting in a collection designed by Holland, officially launching in September. For this collection, Holland has taken inspiration from the rave culture of the 80s and 90s. “I’ve referenced these times in my fashion collections before,” he says. “Then we started to think about how they could be infused into the aesthetic of the organic pattern that I have been creating with my ceramic collections and combine the two elements.” Holland’s love for colour is evident in these upcoming designs with his new ceramic work also heavily influencing these creations. Hoping to create a cohesive aesthetic which viewers will associate with the studio, Holland has also enjoyed the choice textiles has offered with a brighter and more diverse colour selection.
Looking ahead, after what has been a busy year so far, Holland feels hugely optimistic. “Ceramics is always going to be central to the studio as it is something I am passionate about,” he says. “My plan, however, is to look at different accessories and decorative elements over the coming years. And, through different collaborations, I hope to translate my signature aesthetic in a variety of ways and keep people guessing on what’s coming next.”
I hope to translate my signature aesthetic in a variety of ways and keep people guessing on what’s coming next – Henry Holland
Simultaneously, Holland is extremely mindful of the impact of the studio, especially after slowing down the production rate after moving over from the fashion world. The studio is keen to keep waste to a minimum, offering only small batches of products on a ‘pre-order’ basis and overseeing everything in-house, from manufacture to packaging and delivery. “We are not looking to react to trends like the big interiors brands,” he says. “For me, it’s about creating statement pieces that express my creative vision at that time. I hope people will connect with this and want my designs in their homes for a long time.”
This conscious mindset is refreshing to see, especially as we become increasingly aware of the impact of manufacturing processes in recent years. And, while Holland is enjoying this new venture, the studio has already built up a committed following and community, eager to follow the renowned designer’s transition from one creative field to another.
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