Local Craftsmanship - Alexis Basso
This week in the spirit of celebrating local craftsmanship we visited Alexis Basso, a Glasgow potter, to find out a little more about his journey to get where he is today.
It’s mid-morning and we arrive at an industrial building in the East End of Glasgow. The giant letter signage of the original company adorns the upper floors of the block which houses Alexis’s studio. We let him know we’ve arrived and he heads down to meet us swinging open the door and ushering us in.
We head upstairs and Alexis allows us in to his modest, but immaculate ceramics studio. Although overcast outside the window is wide open. This is to allow the mighty heat from the kiln to find its way out. We take a minute to absorb everything in the room. Freshly thrown cups from that morning sit on a lower shelf. Plates and bowls at different stages of the process sit evenly spaced on neat shelves on the wall. Alexis explains one collection of items is due to be sent to California while the other is heading to Saudi Arabia. Impressive reach - we could learn a thing or two(!)
Originally from France, Alexis explains he’s lived, worked and studied all over but he came to Glasgow after meeting girlfriend Kim (who is originally from Glasgow), whilst studying in the Czech Republic. After six years in our fair city growing accustomed to our famously poor weather – he now considers it his home. ‘Glasgow is definitely one of these cities with a strong sense of community, this is a place where people care and look out for each other. In the same way, people here have always been very supportive of my work which has allowed me to establish my studio relatively quickly.’
We were surprised to hear Alexis has only been doing pottery since 2018.
‘I haven’t always been a potter. I studied architecture and urbanism at the ENSA Normandie in France. Following my graduation in 2014, I moved to Scotland and settled in Glasgow where I worked as a visualisation artist for a few years. There was a huge gap between what I was doing with my life and who I really was as a person. I felt bored and unfulfilled, so I decided to take a break. I worked in a small coffee shop for a while which gave me plenty of time to think about the next step.’
In the summer of 2018 he joined a pottery workshop at a local studio and made his first pots. Afterwards he decided to get a membership at the studio which gave him the opportunity to learn new techniques and practice every day. Over the following months pottery became an obsession which eventually led Alexis to set up his own studio where we now stand.
‘I make wheel-thrown tableware and decorative pieces. It’s always difficult to talk about your own work but I’d describe my style as understated. I always try to work with restraint, embracing the beauty of simple forms and subtle colours. When I started to make pots, I wanted them to be perfect but I eventually realised that irregularities are simply inevitable when you make an object by hand. You need to acknowledge that everything you do will have a visible impact on the finished piece, the position of your body, the precision of your hands, the quality of your tools, the application of your glaze, the temperature in your kiln. Everything.’
‘With time, you become more acceptant and you learn to appreciate the beauty of imperfection.’
We agree that in fact, these ‘irregularities’ are what sets a product apart and makes it unique. We feel there is a great desire from the discerning individual to move away from mass produced ‘perfect’ factory made items – no matter how utterly ideal they are in terms of functionality – it’s all a bit soulless! In recent times we’ve seen a surge in people who want to shop local where possible and part and parcel of that is buying items with personality and substance direct from the people who made them. You then become part of the journey. Amazon, Supermarkets and Shopping Centres are convenient, but how often do you cherish something you’ve bought from these places?
We learn a little more about the process and hear that ‘an average day’ isn’t really a concept that fits Alexis’s process. He explains that the clay goes through so many different stages before becoming an object and he tends to operate in weeks, not days.
‘The studio is a quiet place where time passes very gently but there’s definitely a rhythm to find. If I rush the process, my piece might crack or warp. If I'm too slow, my piece might simply dry out. With hundreds of pieces going through the studio at once, I need to be organised and disciplined to stay on top of things. The workload can be quite overwhelming at times which often forces me to work long hours or even weekends. Occasionally, things slow down between cycles of making. In these moments, I can’t help but stare at my work and think about the effort that went into each piece.’
We know all about long hours and weekend work! We get the same feeling every time we go over our outerwear articles with a fine toothcomb. A finished product of an almost infinite set of processes and components. From fabric itself, its weight, size increments, colour, cut, fit, shape, buttons, trims, zips, pockets, collars, sleeves and finally after months of planning the first prototype comes through and it’s like the first pancake. It requires a little imagination… but with some late nights, coffee, blood, sweat and tears - you refine it until the end result is perfect!
Alexis chose our lightweight Workers Shirt Jacket and was very pleased with the fit. When asked about his thoughts on our apparel he says the workwear inspired collection makes sense and reflects Glasgow’s industrial history. Even more so because there are still a lot of people with manual jobs in the city. ‘As a potter, I like to wear functional and durable clothes even when I’m not working so I’m excited about Finnieston Clothing.’
In a world that is probably at one of its most hectic times, it's so refreshing to hear Alexis’s story. Hard work and taking a leap of faith takes courage but the rewards of doing something you love for a living are massive – something that resonates with us too. Before we head off we briefly chat about next steps for Finnieston Clothing, ones which centre around our own plans for bricks and mortar. When we nail down a lease you may see some of Alexis’s superb work proudly displayed in our new concept store… time will tell!
We will check in on Alexis again soon and keep you up to date on what’s going on in his studio but in the meantime follow him @alexisbassoceramics on Instagram and enjoy his grid, which is frankly a visual masterpiece. In addition be sure to check out his online shop and gallery at www.alexisbassoceramics.com
Until next time!