Maze Hill Pottery

The Old Ticket Office, Woodlands Park Road, SE10

Once upon a time there was a little railway station. It was a fine railway station, with wide sidings and a dear little ticket office who was his best friend. But one day a wicked old wizard came along and cast an evil spell, his greedy eye on the little station’s land. The little station fought and fought but the wicked old wizard’s magic was too strong.

The brave little station survived but at what cost? He had lost his lovely sidings and the wizard forced him to live with an ugly hovel instead of his beloved ticket office. Only the wave of a fairy godmother’s magic wand and could save the little station’s friend…

Maze Hill Pottery is a wonderful example of the kind of thing we can’t afford to lose in Greenwich – a sweet little Victorian building turned into something that isn’t an estate agent’s office or a KFC rip-off. It’s run by Lisa Hammond, an internationally-acclaimed artist whose stuff is not just beautiful, it’s useful too. Each item is unique and although she does do some interesting ‘art’ pieces, most of her stuff is actually useable. Bowls and pots, cafetieres and casseroles, each is subtley different and has a practical purpose, rather than just an ornamental dust-trap function…

As I was walking past one day in December, I saw a postcard advertising an open studio day – just the sort of thing I can’t resist. Even better, it was going to coincide with a rare kiln-opening. Apparently the thing takes several nail-biting days to cool properly – if she opens the door too quickly, the contents crack. She doesn’t actually know how her latest pots will turn out for some time after she’s fired it all up. And since she only fires up about once a month, a bad batch can represent a real problem.

What seemed like the entire population of Greenwich turned up for the opening – let’s face it, it’s not the sort of thing we often get to see round here – and the tiny studio was utterly packed. As the rack was slowly winched out, the tension on Lisa Hammond’s face was obvious, turning to relief as she realised that it was, after all, a good batch. Pots and plates, vases and jars, all jumbled up next to each other, filling the kiln to the last inch.

What I found delightful was the surprise Lisa Hammond still has every time she opens a kiln. She can’t be sure exactly how anything will look – I didn’t realise just how inexact a science slips and glazes are. And that’s what makes ceramics so exciting. As she examined each piece, it was clear that even things from the same batch will be different – so every item is unique. A good thing in this age of mass-production.

Lisa Hammond exhibits all over the world, and her wares can be purchased from exclusive stores in Tokyo (though of course you could just nip into the workshop if she’s in there.) It’s a terrific place to get presents (it solved the problem of what to get for the Phantom-Webmaster-who-has-everything) but they don’t have to be just pottery. Lisa Hammond finds time to run classes and workshops too which would also make a good ‘virtual’ gift. I’ve never been to a class, but I’m tempted. They look great fun. There’s loads about them and all manner of other interesting things about the place itself on the excellent website. I won’t reinvent the (potter’s) wheel here by repeating what can be found at

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