Mud Station opened in 2012. When she first moved to Edinburgh Sylwia wanted a small personal studio where she could develop her own practice as a potter, and maybe welcome a couple of students. She already had experience of running a studio in her home city of Szczecin, and of being part of a potter’s network. When she arrived in Scotland, Sylwia had a wheel and a kiln. Occasionally someone would come for a class, or just drop in for a chat and a cup of coffee. Gradually, these irregular meetings caught on, word of mouth started to spread, and the studio got busier, with a wider network of friends and associates. Regular class times were established and people brought their friends. Sylwia’s really good at creating community.
Sylwia met Stephen in 2013. He comes from an educational background with years of experience and an unquenchable belief in art as a healing, integrative practice. He became more involved over time, participating jointly with Sylwia in the day to day running of the studio, and providing lots of coffee and cake. We moved premises – to the shop next door – as it was becoming clear that we needed more space.
With the classes a regular part of our lives, at first we accommodated beginners and developing potters together, which has its benefits, and made for some memorably chaotic nights in, but as numbers increased it became clear that separate sessions for people at different levels was a good idea.
When we were planning the beginner’s classes, we put a lot of thought into it before we started promoting them. We told ourselves, ‘wouldn’t it be great if six people signed up at the same time’, imagining running one single six-class block then having to wait till another six people took enough interest to justify running another one. We had humility on our side but wildly underestimated the amount of interest the classes would generate, and the amount of fun we would have running them. Now we have three classes per week, and we are booked three months in advance with many people rebooking to develop their pottery and enhance their personal growth. We offer a detailed ongoing curriculum of classes for all levels and abilities.
Mud Station has become a community hub – a place of teaching and learning, somewhere for people to meet and retreat, connect with others, laugh, enlarge their spirits and test their ideas, somewhere that seems to exist to make life better for everyone, ‘changing the world one pot at a time’ as our friend John Christie says. It’s a place where people discover, sometimes to their amazement, that they can make something beautiful; a place where families come for some special time together doing something different; a place where established craftspeople can come for new ideas or a fresh take on a project, where groups can come to celebrate or delve deeper into shared sources of inspiration.
We are near the centre of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, in a district burgeoning with artists, crafters, friendly inclusive pubs, gorgeous little cafes and bookshops. We are doing our best to contribute to the atmosphere and culture of the place.
Mud Station is now home to our personal studio, the community education classroom, a reference library, and kiln room. We have five wheels now: three Shimpo and two Alsager. The kilns are electric, two from Nabertherm, and the third was found buried in the centre of a stone circle at an undisclosed location near Inverness. We benefit from a pug mill that lurks in the basement like something off an old Russian submarine. There is also a beloved coffee machine which gets far too much use.
In terms of our own work, we hope we make pots that are a pleasure to live with and good to use, vessels of direct simplicity that communicate the essential character of the clay. They are small batch, related-but-unique: pots which make people happy, are affordable, and designed to last a long time.
Sylwia’s forms are subtle and accurate. Her pots don’t shout for attention, but occupy space with a sort of natural confidence. Her use of line and shape is concise and intelligible. She explores colour and image, layering slips and underglazes with unique transfers and silk screens to create purposeful yet playful designs.
Stephen likes working with a range of clay bodies, often with the addition of grog and local clays, building up textures in layers on the wall of the vessel, like contour lines or geological strata. He uses glaze carefully to enhance what is already there. The connection with the earth is not just metaphorical, but direct, and sensory.
Overall we are motivated by a sense that communal art practices are a necessary part of life, not a luxury. Pots are cultural antibodies. Making something yourself, putting some of your life into a piece of clay and transforming it through fire, has a magical, healing resonance that we all need.