Q+A: Julian Sainsbury

Julian Sainsbury, owner and creative director of JOHN JULIAN talks about the inspiration behind his designs.

What is your design style?

I’m attracted to simple, utilitarian styles which are highly functional. I like to make things that we use everyday, which have a soul and a connection with the maker.


And your creative influences?

I am a sponge and look at anything from architectural details to valves in machines. I’m fascinated by how people solve problems both technically and visually. I also look at ceramics: from contemporary potters to early Wedgwood and back to medieval pottery. I love going museums like the V&A and the Ashmolean.


What’s your core design principle?

When I am designing a new product high on my list is functionality, but it must also look good, which is where my sculptor’s eye comes in. I give a lot of thought to proportion and form. I try very hard to be original for the present day whilst sourcing inspiration from the past. I also try to design something that others would struggle to make with modern manufacturing techniques.


Would you consider yourself an artisan maker?

I would say we are artisan manufacturers, if that is not a contradiction. Most of our work is made on one machine called a jollier. It works on the principle that you put a ball of clay into a spinning mould, then bring down an arm with a metal profile that pushes the clay into the mould and creates the internal shape. The following day it is tipped out of the mould and tidied up. Once it’s completely dry, it is glazed and then fired to 1240C°, at which point it vitrifies, making it very strong.


What’s the most ambitious piece you’ve ever created.

In my ceramic career probably my hand thrown pestle & mortar that is made from solid porcelain – many people said it could not be done. It’s now one of our bestsellers.


Abridged version from Salisbury Life.

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