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I see pottery as an art form, just as I believe printed textiles are an art form. You could say it is a craft, but so much money to make a printed textile that you are going to cut and wear, or a wallpaper that you are going to put on the wall, as a sculpture or a painting. I think they are equally important. I’m proud to say I’m a textile designer; I do not want to say that I do textile design, but I’m really a painter – it’s not the same.
I started collecting pottery 40 or 50 years ago because I could not afford to collect paintings. I would go to the Royal College of Art show at the end of the year and discover these amazing things ceramic artists from the right when they started. The two I have collected are Carol McNicoll and Kate Malone. Peter Blake appointed Carol’s Alice in Wonderland tea service, and Kate is now a very big star in the collectors world, but I think I was probably one of her earliest collectors. When Carol was in her last year at the Royal College, I dedicated a whole meal service to her.
I still buy straight from them. I have Carol’s dinner service – at least 60 parts – and I have the tea services, another dinner and a whole “stuffed” dinner. It is not actually filled: there is a headboard, which surrounds like a large quilt with an edge, and then side plates, which are formed in the form of pillows. I use it for special occasions. I had a love tea party and used Carol’s fabulous teapots another one with a rose and a chain on it, and one with three spouts. I also have the most beautiful jugs of Kate that she covers with strange shells and lumps and lumps.
I got to see them all in my house. Below I have a library with a collection of teapots on the shelves. There is also a yellow shelving unit with cut-out shelves based on the Islamic tradition for cut-out shelves with different things in them. You can see them in Fatehpur Sikri, a deserted city on the way to Agra, between Delhi and Jaipur. So the plates are hanging there, and Kate’s vases just look beautiful around my penthouse. But I use my collection, so things are unfortunately broken down and the potters need a lot of understanding. I call crying when I break something.
I also have delicious Portuguese ceramic-small soup dishes that look like cabbage, a tart in the shape of a large cabbage, and a cabbage salad bowl that I bought at a store in San Diego.
I get a lot of fun collecting weird stuff. In the middle of my dining table I have a collection of stones and pebbles. Wherever I go, I collect a stone or a pebble and put it in the middle of the table, then I add a little baby vase. Entertainment is for me my vacation from work. So it’s great if I can turn my table into something else.
If I have a beautiful vase with flowers, I can draw the flowers, and maybe it can be a textile design. There is nothing like a pot or a fantastic piece of porcelain on your table or on the screen. It’s a talking point, and it’s making life interesting.
The Fashion and Textile Museum, founded by Zandra Rhodes, reopens on October 1, 2021 with the exhibition Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture. Tickets now available at ftmlondon.org