AFTER building up a collection of stock for three or four months, potters Jono Smart and partner Emily Stephen prepare for their quarterly online shop. “We can’t keep up with demand,” Jono admits. “Once we open our shop on the website, all the pottery we have spent months creating can sell out in 30 minutes.”

This feat is less surprising after visiting Jono’s Instagram page. With 121,000 followers it’s clear the pair have a strong online presence matched with a loyal customer base.

“Instagram has changed the craft world,” says Jono. “I share a lot about my life on Instagram and we have clients who have been collecting our work for seven years who stay in touch with us and ask about our family. There’s a real sense of community.”

The National:

Jono and Emily, both 40, were living and working in Glasgow until three years ago when the pair decided to relocate to Kirriemuir in Angus.

After purchasing an old farmhouse, the couple set to work renovating the site, including a dilapidated outbuilding for their new studio space.

Within the whitewashed studio, a mere 10 steps from their home, Emily and Jono work symbiotically to create batches of homeware pottery.

The National:

“The studio is split into two parts,” Jono explains. “I deal with the throwing and turning aspects of the clay and getting it to the Bisque stage [clay which has been fired once].”

Emily, originally from St Andrews, then handles the glazing aspects of the pottery. This includes waxing the work, mixing the glazes, dipping and cleaning the pots, loading and unloading pots and then sanding all of the bases. The former architect is also a talented woodworker and creates wooden bowls using a lathe in the studio.

The crafters work consistently each week, both having a fairly structured routine in place. After dropping their young child at nursery, Jono is back in the studio for 8.30am. The first hour in the morning is spent wedging the clay, which is similar to kneading dough except instead of getting air in you’re trying to ensure all the air is removed making is more plastic and mouldable.

The National:

“Monday and Tuesdays consist of throwing on the wheel, they then tend to dry out on Wednesday and then I’m turning them with sharp tools on the Thursday,” Jono describes. “Friday afternoon I’ll add the handles. Emily is always working two weeks behind me – it usually takes two weeks for the pots to dry out enough to get through the kilns once. In the winter it can sometimes be four weeks, and in the summer, it can be a week, it just depends on how warm the studio is.”

The studio is home to two pottery wheels and three kilns – one large one for glaze firing, and two smaller ones to remove all moisture.

A range of mugs, bowls, vases, and kitchenware sets are churned out weekly by the pair.

“Some people like to describe our pieces as ultra minimal while others say it’s more rustic, but we tend to call it minimal forms with characterful surfaces,” says Jono.

“Our pieces are primarily made to be functional. We make very simple, humble, functional tableware.

The National:

“We’re potters rather than ceramic artists. We don’t create huge one-off pieces to sit on a mantlepiece or an art gallery.

“We’re trying to make products that sit around the table for daily use.”

Before taking his first pottery class aged 22, the Londoner was a garden designer. He admits his and Emily’s design backgrounds have played a fundamental role in how the pair approach each new piece.

The National:

“It’s a very collaborative relationship. We design everything together. Due to our design skills, we approach things in a functional way, such as how items feel to hold, the weight, and the volume of the pieces. The aesthetics tend to follow from there.”

The pair can produce between 100-150 products per week.

“Making pots is incredible calming, it’s the most gentle and thoughtful process,” Jono reflects.

“It’s the only thing I’ve ever learned from beginning to end. I know this process so well.”

Jono admits he is grateful to work on his passion full-time, but that there will always be challenges the couple will face.

The National:

“Running a business as a couple is always going to be a challenge and it’s something we thought long and hard about before taking it on,” he says. “It’s a good business, it’s never going to make us a fortune, but it’s about finding the right balance to make enough to live as a family without getting too stressed or overworked.”

Having just completed their latest shop (the next one is due before Christmas), the pair had initial concerns about demand depleting due to economic uncertainties. And yet, around 15 thousand people worldwide still flocked to their website to nab some of the homemade pottery.

“Our last shop took two hours to sell out,” Jono recalls “It’s still amazing to see three months of work sell so quicky, it’s been an incredible thing for us to do over the last seven years.”