Henry Holland: Nobody Cares How Good You Used To Be

We visited the designer-turned-ceramicist at his studio to mark the new exhibition of his one-of-one and limited-edition pieces at Paul Smith Albemarle Street.

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Anyone who came of age during the noughties will tell you that it was a particularly exciting time for British fashion – not least for Henry Holland, who has been a fixture on the scene since those days. Back then, he catapulted to fame with his clever catchphrases and ‘Fashion Groupie’ tees, quickly following them up with his debut collection and line House of Holland in 2008.

While fashion was frenetic, the world of pottery turned out to be slower and steadier and… yes, frustrating at times. When we spoke a few weeks ago, he was in the middle of honing the pieces in the ‘Nobody Cares How Good You Used To Be’ exhibition which is now open to coincide with London Craft Week at Paul Smith Albemarle Street – and not everything was going exactly to plan. In his pursuit to emulate the Paul Smith Signature Stripe for this limited-edition selection of products, it’s the first time he’s attempted to use so many different coloured clays – seven to be precise – and each is hand-dyed with a different drying time. The result, when it works, is breathtakingly dynamic, the swirling bands coming together in a vortex of colour. But when it doesn’t? Cracks start to appear.

After a painstaking amount trial and error, he’s now perfected the process and the pieces speak for themselves. Each is made using his signature take on the Japanese nerikomi technique – something he admits he stumbled upon on YouTube (“I’d love to say I spent hours in the library, but no, I was just sat in my kitchen”). It involves the slow method of stacking, folding and rolling differently brightly coloured clays into slabs which are then cut and hand-moulded into different forms rather than ‘thrown’ at a wheel.

I remember years ago, when I first met Paul, he showed me how they create stripes with the cotton wraps and windings, and I was blown away by it.

“They’re a bit wobbly. That’s part of the joy of them, they’re quite tactile. It's about maintaining that connection to the product, which is something that I knew I wanted, having come from a place where my production was in seven different countries around the world,” Henry says on the subject of the finished pieces. “We make everything in one room and there's just something really nice about that. It’s the complete antithesis to my previous life.”

Henry Holland’s ‘Nobody Cares How Good You Used To Be’ is open from 12 May – 2 July 2023 at Paul Smith No. 9 Albemarle Street.

Click here to take a virtual tour of the exhibition.

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Please note, the Henry Holland exhibition pieces online will ship after the exhibition closes on 2 July 2023 and some pieces are made to order. 

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Published: 12.05.23

Words: Molly Isabella Smith
Photos: Ozzi Sanderson