Outside the Box: designer Olivia Fiddes on crafting The Cup for our moving-in box

Our first foray into product design is here. Our moving-in box is a curated edit of hand-made objects that we give as a celebratory gift when someone buys a house through our agency.

In our series ‘Outside the Box’, we’re meeting the designers, artisans and craftspeople involved, chatting with them in their studios to look at their creative processes. Here, we meet ceramicist Olivia Fiddes to talk about The Cup, her contribution to the box.

“I don’t have a traditional arts background and didn’t go to art college. In fact, I studied Human Geography at university and then worked for NGOs.

“I worked for two organisations supporting indigenous and tribal peoples’ rights and learned about many cultures from around the world, like Lakota Sioux Native Americans and the Yawanawa from the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

“I began working in ceramics through evening classes after work and then dedicated more and more time to it. Art, design and craft have been a part of my life since I was a child and pursuing something in that field was always in the back of my mind.

“I think coming to it professionally from an unusual route has brought something different to my work. I haven’t been taught traditional rules of what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, so I negotiate things for myself, finding what is right for me while also drawing from outside influences.

“More recently, I have started to sell my work and collaborate with other artists, designers and brands that I connect with, which has been amazing.

“I primarily work in ceramics, making pieces like cups, vases, candelabras and wall hangings, which range from being functional objects to pieces that are sculptural

“I tend to hand-build, which means I don’t use a pottery wheel. Making this way means the finished product is imperfect and, I think, full of character.

“I like pieces to be simple and elegant but also have a playful aspect. I use quite a muted palette, so finished pieces are often white, cream and black, but I’m always interested in experimenting.

“I knew I would be making a stand-alone cup for the moving-in box, so I wanted something that would stand out as a piece on its own when placed on a shelf or table. I added a slightly exaggerated foot to the cup which I think catches the eye and gives it a more sculptural feel.

“The main section of the cup is made by ‘pinching’ and then smoothing out the shape. This technique means each cup is slightly different in shape and one-of-a-kind, which is always nice to know as a user, I think.

“The cup is made from black clay, which is left exposed on the exterior. The inside has a red glaze that has an iridescent quality when combined with the black.

“I liked the combination of rough and smooth, natural and glossy that this gives and I think these contrasts can be seen in a lot of the homes The Modern House represents.

“I hope that the cup I’ve made becomes something that is used every day. I like the idea that it’s something someone would reach for in the morning for their tea or coffee day after day, so that it becomes part of their routine.

“I’ve moved a lot in the past five years so it’s great to feel more settled and at home now. I moved about a year and a half ago, ten minutes down the road from where I was in Camberwell.

“My home is a big assortment of old and new and things I or my boyfriend Sam, an artist, has made. Most of the tableware is made by me, as well as lots of vases, candlesticks and so on.

“I like to have things at home that aren’t found everywhere else. I have a bit of an eBay and second-hand shop obsession too, so am constantly hunting down furniture.

“I’m still finding the right place for some of my most prized possessions: my gran’s green stool that I insisted sitting on for every meal in her house and a little fold-out picnic table of hers that we would use at Christmas. I’ve got a photo of my mum sitting on my gran’s knee with my aunties and uncles all playing cards around that table, so it’s an amazing connection to all those relatives and memories.

“I think things like that are what takes a house from being a home: when it enhances your life and reflects your personality, interests and history.”

Meet more of the makers in the coming weeks by subscribing to our newsletter 

Read more: Outside the Box: shoemaker Sebastian Tarek on crafting The Keyring from leather and copper for our moving-in box

Outside the Box: Faye Toogood on curating The Modern House’s moving-in box