Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie drops this week, and in one of the more leftfield moments of the press tour running up to its release, it came out that the film’s two leads – the red-blooded Hollywood royalty that is Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt – bonded in their down-time not by riding Harleys down the 101, or taking in a Lakers game, but by getting in to some pottery.
As reported by The Sun: "Brad’s got his own sculpting studio at his house and Leo loves coming over to use it."
And then they eat sandwiches.
So, are ceramics the most recent refuge of the Woke Bro? We asked Col Hamilton, who started CUP Ceramics – an open-access studio in Hereford – six months ago.
He said: “Leo would be doing something sustainable wouldn’t he? – a ceramic coffee cup that he could take in to Starbucks and make a point of reusing.
“I would say Brad Pitt is a sculptor. I’d imagine him being a sculptor. Maybe porcelain. Fight Club, though – maybe not.”
Col came from East London where at Turning Earth he saw ceramics take off with a legion of “25 to 40-something trendy people” taking to the wheels first in Hoxton and then in Walthamstow. He brought that model – “a gym for potters” where beginners and professionals pay a monthly fee to use the studio space side-by-side – to Hereford, even if the podcasting-and-plant parent* demographic didn’t follow.
The members’ Polaroids are displayed on the studio wall in this gorgeous, airy, peaceful right in the space in the middle of the Foley Trading Estate. There’s a pretty even split between men and women, but there many Brad Pitt’s on the board. Yet.
“Recently we’ve had quite a lot of guys sign up. I would say originally the membership was weighted towards women but recently that has flipped a bit. In terms of younger people though, there’s not many young men at all. That’s my next step.”
Enter the woke bros.
“Even if the Brad Pitt thing’s a joke - there’s certainly themes and patterns and movement in things like men’s mental health that have meant it’s become more okay for guys to be honest, and open and that can only be a good thing.
“And we can take the piss out of it – and course we are going to because we live in that kind of world still, Donald Trump is a President – you would take the piss out of it, of course you would. But it’s good. It's got to be good.”
“People really need that [moment of quiet] at the moment. Getting away from a screen. Using hands. And you can’t get more than that with clay. People are liking that.
So looking forward to welcoming @tkjpots from the @theclayloft to the studio tomorrow night! He will be demoing his throwing skills on his momentum kick wheel and talking to us about his time on @potterythrow WE CAN’T WAIT 😊 #pottery #throwingpottery #kickwheel #thegreatpotterythrowdown #clay #ceramics #communityinterestcompany #guestspeaker #masterclass #hereford #herefordshire #nailsworth #connections
“Then there’s this trend kicking back against throwaway culture that’s making this kind of thing popular. People want to make their own things and know the value of them. The idea of spending a bit more time or money on something and then valuing it or keeping it a bit longer is something getting taken up by younger generations right now.”
Col is himself a younger guy. And he readily admits that he’s not a ceramicist. His background was in education and youthwork and his interest in Turned Earth was as much about the concept, in creating communities, as is was about clay.
There are already 30 Polaroids on that wall, and the studio run regular sessions and taster courses for people looking to get their hands dirty for the first time.
The studio is closed on Mondays to work with Vision Links – a charity for the blind – and local Pupil Referral Units, and the kind of young people that might more out of getting out of the classroom and being in that messy, peaceful environment than anyone.
CUP is populated and staffed in part by HCA students and recent grads, who work shifts in exchange for studio time.
“There’s this idea that in the window after university, where you go and you’ve got the equipment, after that stops productivity is decimated – we’re providing a stepping stone to help that.
“It’s messier, believe me. But it’s worth it.”
All that young blood is great, but part of what makes the Brad and Leo Potter’s Wheel Bromance great (and don’t pretend you’re not picturing that scene in Ghost) is that they aren’t contemporary craft students.
What’s going to be fascinating is at what point ceramics starts drawing in younger guys (and girls) from outside that scene. In Hereford. A city not known for its inherent wokeness.
“I think it’s really hard to keep young people in Hereford to be honest. There’s not even really a decent music scene. It’s dire. It’s difficult. But the plan is to hook up with other organisations, like the Shire, to try and create something that people want to be part of, and stay part of.
“It is clearly changing around us though. More people are moving back. There’s investment coming, there’s things changing. But there needs to be examples. People need to take a leap to open That First Place.
“Starting something in Hereford, it’s brilliant. It’s amazing because it is a blank canvas.
“Coming from somewhere like East London where it’s just saturated, to be able to take those ideas and run with them in a place no one has thought of them, and where no-one thinks it’s going to work – that’s what everyone said – there’s not many places left in the UK with that kind of potential.
“And it seems to be working.”
Whether or not you're a woke bro, you should check out CUP, have a go on one of their taster courses and take home some handmade earthware to sip your latte out of just like Leo does. You can find out about courses/membership here, or just follow them on IG here to stay up to date on what's happening over there.
(images in this article are credited to CUP Ceramics. Apart from the ridiculous 'Ghost' Photoshop at the top. )