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Skilled local craftsman, designer and teacher, Bill Brown has been working full-time in ceramics since graduating from college in 1974. He recently moved back to Shetland following retirement as Head of Ceramic Design at Glasgow School of Art and works from a new purpose built studio and workshop in Voe. We caught up with him to speak about his work and inspirations.

His stunning ceramics can be seen at Bonhoga Gallery until Sunday 9 September.

'Fair Isle Plate'

It's important to me to 'locate' my work, to make things that belong in some way to place, culture or environment. We are lucky enough to have a rich textile tradition and I wanted to find a way of adapting knitted patterns to ceramic forms. This is not entirely straightforward – the patterns have developed over many years to follow the forms of bodies and garments and so don't always adapt comfortably to tableware shapes. The challenge (and the fascination) is in translating patterns into a ceramic 'language' – finding patterns that can be modified to fit happily into plate shapes, for example, and to work well using ceramic colours such as the classic blue and white combination.

Dog Dish

...and it's important that dogs – and indeed cats – are not forgotten.

Egg Plates

These plates are based on guillemot eggs – highly distinctive, large relative to the size of the bird itself, elongated and slightly pointed. Their natural colour is quite varied, but most often a bright, greenish, turquoise blue with a dark speckle. As well as all the symbolic connections of the egg in general these particular eggs seem to be a symbol of the natural world of the North Atlantic - a symbol that we almost seem to have inherited an ability to recognise.

And as luck would have it the outline, colours and surface patterns translate well into ceramics.

Moon Plate

Something as circular, visible and iconic as the moon should be an obvious source of inspiration for a plate, so I'm surprised that I didn't think of it earlier. It was frustratingly difficult to get a sharp, well enough defined photograph to give the necessary definition to the final surface, but the numerous attempts gave plenty of opportunity to see how much the colour of the moon varies and how wide a range of moods slight changes in colour can give.


First made while I was still working in Glasgow, the source and cultural home of Tunnock's teacakes and caramel wafers. If you were asked to design an item of confectionary that would chime perfectly with the Scottish psyche you could hardly do better than come up with the teacake.This piece was inspired by the challenge of straightening out the thin, foil wrapper without tearing it – and who hasn't tried that?

Having eventually succeeded, it seemed a natural progression to scan the wrapper, turn it into a silkscreen print and use it to make this cake stand in celebration of a cultural icon.

Noughts and Crosses...

... is a difficult game to win. The shapes of the flags resemble 'X's and 'O's and the opportunity to use this was too good to miss. It's a variation on a piece I've been making occasionally over the last few years and it seemed highly appropriate for present circumstances.

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