Saving grace: Ceramicist Kathleen Hills reveals her salvaged treasures


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The Independent Online

The ceramicist Kathleen Hills has been living in her Victorian home in Charlton, south London, for 10 years now. She bought the house with her partner, and still loves what first attracted them to it – there's lots of light, and lots of room for all the different things they need a home to be.

"The house works hard for us – I work in the cellar and I have an office upstairs," she explains, adding that her 17-year-old son also presides over his own space. "He somehow managed to get the biggest room in the house, with a flat-screen TV and a sofa, and he won't budge!"

The design and decoration of their home is a joint effort between Hills and her partner. "He's a graphic designer, so we have typographic prints up that are his and all the knick-knacks are mine. We just keep adding to it, some new bits and some vintage bits – it layers up, really, whenever we find something."

Her own work can be spied throughout the house, although being surrounded by her designs in the studio in the cellar, she doesn't want to overdo it: "I don't really have it all around the house; it would get a bit much for me, and for everyone else."

Hills' ceramic pieces – clusters of lights, crockery, vases and lampshades – are usually made of a pure white porcelain, offering a clean, cool aesthetic. She admits to being particularly fond of the cluster lights, which were one of her first pieces and a popular success.

But when it comes to her own home, Hills also likes to go in quite a different direction: " I like to collect colourful plastics and brighter objects, so we have paler walls, then focus on the bright objects. [In my own work] I'm not really a fan of coloured glazes – for me it's more about the form than the colour. I like the whiteness, all my ceramics are white, but we have a lot of coloured plastic at home."

The unusual floors are a case in point. In the bedroom, where own might expect stripped boards, Hills has laid down vintage lino in a hectic red-and-blue pattern. The lino, which hails from the 1930s, was salvaged from her old neighbour's house; Hills had always loved it, and when it was being ripped out, she saved it from the skip to give it a new lease of life.

Bestowing a fresh purpose on an old or unwanted object seems natural to Hills; the "jewellery box" above the fireplace in her bedroom, on which she hangs her chunky plastic necklaces, is also made of salvaged material: "It's the inside of a chair that I've chopped up and sprayed and I just hang things on it," she explains. "It started life as a bit of an experimental project and it ended up as a jewellery box."

Hills' work takes her to various design shows, and some of her decorations come from swapping her own pieces for items made by fellow ceramicists. Those brightly coloured, quirky hand-shaped coat hooks came in an exchange with Thelermont Hupton five years ago. "There's a series of these hands and some are rude... I chose the friendly ones as it's right where you come in the house, and they're a bit more welcoming."

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