All good things come to those who plate!

Sixth Form College students recently collaborated with the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) project ‘Stoke Makes Plates’ to design individual plates inspired by their experiences of the last two years. The plates were exhibited at the British Ceramics Biennial Festival 2021 in September. 

Over 150 Stoke-on-Trent residents took part in the plate-making workshops hosted by Stoke Makes Plates. During the workshops, participants explored Stoke-on-Trent’s past, present and future, connecting them with the heritage of Stoke-on-Trent’s high street. Each participant designed their plate based on their experiences of the last two years, creating a conversation through clay.  

The materials used to make the plates are associated with Stoke-on-Trent’s high street to form connections with its heritage. The plate designs were turned into an online pattern book which held details of each individual and their design inspiration. 

Sixth Form College students who volunteered to be part of the project were informed of this opportunity through Teacher of PE, Esther Brennan. Esther got to know about the project when she became a participant in one of the existing community groups during lockdown to design her plate. Esther had such a positive experience “I was able to communicate with new friends and mutually support others and find a creative outlet for expression. Working with clay is very relaxing, lifted my mood, and helped me to organise my thoughts. 

Esther thought this would be a fantastic experience for Sixth Form College students to get involved with and pick up some practical skills and learn about their heritage. Esther said, “The skills learnt during the project will be useful for students to discuss in applications and interviews for employment and university, and a fantastic way to meet others and concentrate on something practical; and to relax and create a piece of art. 

A total of 18 students from the college volunteered to be part of the project. Jo Mills and Zeba Imam from BCB held workshops at the college to share their expertise and knowledge. Second-year student, Barbie Santiago commented “I had no prior knowledge of plate making and I was intrigued to learn and experience something new. I learned the fragility of making a plate, having a first-hand take on it and learning the method of underglaze and carving in pottery. The inspiration for my design was lines that flow well together and I enjoy the view of the sky through day and night.” 

Exploring a new medium to create a piece of art whilst exploring Stoke-on-Trent’s heritage also caught the attention of second-year student Leah McEwen. Leah’s design was based on her interest in astronomy and astrology where she weaved her star sign into the design as well as her love for frogs. Leah said “I was able to learn new skills; I had never used terracotta or the engraving technique before to make my design. This is an activity I would recommend to other students as it is something new to try out and learn new skills even if you think you are not overly creative.” 

Once the plates were completed, they were fired at BCB’s studio at Spode and exhibited in the Stoke Makes Plates exhibition at the British Ceramics Biennial 2021 during September. After the exhibition, students were able to take their plate home and a commemorative plate with quotes of students involved will be displayed at the college. The exhibition included over 250 plates with work from community partners, commissioned artists, and local ceramics manufacturers. 

For more information about Stoke Makes Plates and the British Ceramics Biennial visit