Made in London: Chris Keenan

This is the latest in our Made in London series of films about London-based makers by filmmaker William Scothern. This month’s video is about ceramicist Chris Keenan, who began working with clay in his mid-thirties after a 12-year acting career, when he began a two-year apprenticeship with Edmund de Waal. “I bought pots from Edmund to begin with because I wanted to make a connection with something,” he says. “I grew to love using and living with his work and when I learned that he was considering taking on an apprentice I wrote to him to make my interest clear. If I wasn’t going to act anymore I wanted to be taught to make pots by Edmund. I was his first apprentice, I knew nothing – he had to teach me from scratch.” Chris set up his own studio immediately after completing his apprenticeship – that was 1998 and has been making pottery ever since.

His functional work is thrown from Limoges porcelain and glazed with either a glossy, black-brown tenmoku with splashes of black iron oxide or with a vivid, pale blue celadon, before being reduction-fired in a gas kiln. “I’ve always made things and that process from raw materials to finished thing, from start to finish, was something that I found very satisfying.”

Chris’ collection includes cups, beakers, bowls, lidded jars, teapots and vases. “When somebody says to me, ‘I use your mug every day,’ I think that’s pretty special,” he says. “I think a mug is a pretty intimate object, because you put it to your mouth – a very soft part of your body – and you make that choice.” Examples of his work are held in the permanent collections of both London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the Ashmolean in Oxford, England.

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.