Join us in conversation with ceramic artist and jeweller Erika Albrecht of Erika Albrecht Ceramics, as she tells us more about her passion for bringing back the beauty of the traditional techniques, in a time of mass-production and machine work.
How did your brand begin?
My education in ceramics begin in Herend Porcelain Manufactury in 1989, where I completed the porcelain painting diploma in 1992 - 3 years of theory and practice devoted to traditional painting techniques. After 5 years of experience working in the factory, hand painting exclusive, high-end porcelain tableware I decided to move on, get some new adventures, and learn new techniques. Next step Germany, as a glass painter.
Years later in the UK, I started to work with Sue Binns, then Kate Malone and Valeria Nascimento, where I learned to work with clay, actually making ceramic pieces. Decoration of porcelain is a complex, difficult and very intense process with fine brushes. It's totally different to making the actual body. But based on hand skills I was able to get good training in the making process in clay, which I took to the next level in 2015. That's when I started to make my own pieces from bone china and later on black porcelain. The finest and most difficult material in the ceramic world - sensitive and strong.
Values are really important to us at JewelStreet. What are your core brand values?
Individuality, originality. My pieces are well made but imperfectly shaped. The decoration (either hand painted or crystalline glazed) is similar, but never the same. They are high-quality pieces with characters.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs?
Nature, and fantasy. Even in fantasy designs, it's important to me to have the delicate balance of nature: harmony between shapes, and colours. My pieces could be irregular, but the movements are still natural. I go with the natural development of the materials I am using.
How are your products made?
Mostly slip cast. The jewellery is hand cut from small, thinly rolled sheets. Fired at least 2 or 3 times; body, glaze, and on glaze colours, as they are all different stages, and different temperatures are required for the task.
It is the nature of ceramics that things are not always working out for the best. Sometimes you just don't know why: same process, same materials, same firing cycle and the result is still different...
Are there any specific manufacturing/crafting techniques you use?
Probably my skills as a professionally trained porcelain painter makes a difference to other professionals. These traditional skills are not widely taught anymore. They are kind of dying out skills in 2022. Stoke on Trent factories used to have hand painting section, as did several European places, like Sevres in France. But right now it's just Herend in Hungary and Meissen in Germany that does hand-painted pieces.
Are there any celebrities you would love to see wearing your designs?
I read in the newspaper in London a few years ago that Elton John's passion is fine porcelain tableware. He become for that reason, part owner of Thomas Goode & Co. I would love to create a dinner set for him!
Can you recall a particular moment with a client that will stay with you forever? Could be a funny horror story or a fond memory.
We had an Open Studio event at Kate Malone's studio 5-6 years ago. Her open studios always attracted a wide range of people, from students to high-end buyers. In her Open Studios, she always gave us studio assistants an opportunity to have a place as a selling opportunity. I was talking to this couple for about 20 minutes, explaining how I make and hand paint my pieces. I even displayed a bunch of my painting brushes on my stand.
But after the 20 min talk, the guy turned to one of my pieces and stated; "But this one is ceramic transfer isn't it?" I turned to him and asked, "WHY??" (I spent over 20 minutes explaining how the traditional hand painting method works.) I was absolutely devastated and annoyed. And he said; "Because it is so perfect!"
What music do you play in the studio whilst you’re working?
When I am making my pieces it's lively, energetic dance music, pouring the liquid porcelain into moulds, sieving and starting again... Evening and mellow music to get me in the mood for painting, where I can relax... Magic Radio mostly!
If you could travel to one place in the world right now, where would it be and why?
China. Where all this began. They dig porcelain out of the ground as it grow there naturally. They have a huge traditional history of porcelain, and skills passed down naturally from generation to generation.
How do your brand values align with those of JewelStreet?
It is a handmade, small business, which is based on unique skills, materials and vision. The production will be always carried out in the United Kingdom by the artist and require special knowledge of material and decoration techniques.
Unique, special, high-quality, different, contemporary but based on traditional techniques, values, and execution.
Thank you very much for talking with us Erika!