Alexis Basso is a potter based in the North West Highlands of Scotland. He creates stunning tableware and everyday items that are beautiful and functional in the same way.
His work shows an appreciation for natural materials, minimalism and simplicity. Conscious about his process, Alexis uses stoneware clay from the United Kingdom and reuses materials as much as possible for his creations.
Minimal lines, neutral tones and delicate finishes elevate practical pieces into decorative ones. Continue reading and discover what is behind Alexis Basso Ceramics
My name is Alexis Basso, I am a potter based in the North West Highlands of Scotland.
I have not always been a potter. I did many things and lived in many places before becoming one.
I grew up in France and studied architecture and urbanism at the ENSA Normandie. While studying abroad as part of an exchange program, I met my girlfriend Kim, who was from Scotland. Following my graduation, I moved to Scotland and worked as an architectural illustrator for a few years.
At some point, I realised that I could not work in an office environment any longer. I felt bored and unfulfilled, it was clear that something had to change so I took a long break. During this time, I travelled across Europe and spent a few months in Denmark where I developed an interest in pottery.
When I came back to Scotland, I went to a pottery workshop out of curiosity and made my first pots. Following the workshop, I decided to join a local pottery studio and practised regularly. Over time, pottery became an obsession which eventually led me to set up my own studio. Today, I work as a potter full time and I am very happy to be able to do so.
It took quite a bit of time and dedication to turn what was just a hobby into a small business.
When I came back from Denmark, I worked in cafés for a while and pottery was just a hobby for me. As time went on, I realised that I wanted a change in my life and the only way out of it was pottery.
From that point, I was in the studio almost every day, practising and learning new techniques. I was constantly reading books, watching online tutorials, asking questions to other potters and so on. At the time, I was working at a shared studio and it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot from other artists. It was a very supportive environment and it really helped me grow as a potter.
Eventually, I reached a point where I needed my own space so I moved to a small studio and invested in equipment. I started to share my work on social media, I went to local markets and left flyers in cafés. Things gradually picked up. After few months, I took a leap of faith and decided to work full time as a potter.
Besides all the hours I have invested in pottery, being based in Glasgow has also made a difference. Here, there is a strong sense of community and people have always been supportive of my work which has made things a little bit easier.
Making a living as a potter is not easy. I feel very lucky to do something I like every day and I am truly grateful for the support I have received until now.
I am mainly self-taught.
As I mentioned previously, I started with a weekend workshop where I learnt the basics. Following the workshop, I joined a local pottery studio which gave me the opportunity to practice regularly. I also learnt a lot from books, blogs, social media and other online resources but there is no better way to learn than trial and error.
It is difficult to explain but I never really look for inspiration, it is already here.
Of course, there are things I like, but they have nothing to do with what I make. What really influences my work are the things I experience every day. It is everything and nothing: discussions, travels, places, objects…
I think my work simply reflects who I am as a person.
Although I enjoy making tableware and utilitarian pieces, the process can be quite tedious at times.
I usually make series of similar pieces from specific amounts of clay and I have to respect certain sizes. In contrast, my jars and bottles are quite liberating to make. I make each piece with a different amount of clay and I do not follow any particular rule which gives me a lot of freedom.
That said, I do not think any piece is more satisfying or difficult to make than another. When you spend a lot of time making the same pieces and repeating the same movements, things naturally become easier. After a while, you develop a precise routine, your hands learn exactly what to do, you do not even think about the process anymore. You just make it.
It’s like riding a bike. At first, you may find it satisfying or difficult but eventually you just use the bike without even thinking about it.
I cannot be too precious about my work. I mainly make tableware and pieces that are meant to be used daily.
Pieces slowly deteriorate over time, they get scratched, they chip or they simply break. Nothing dramatic, it is just what happens when objects are used. There are pieces around the house that I kept for a reason or another but none that I would consider particularly special.
I can only work in a quiet environment.
Unfortunately, my new studio is not quite finished yet. There is not much I can tell you about it now except that it is far from everything and everyone.
The design process is relatively long, it can take days or even weeks to make a piece.
I usually start my day early with a simple coffee. When I arrive at the studio, I take a moment to look around and determine what needs to be done during the day. Most of the time, I work on the potter’s wheel where I throw new pieces or turn pieces that were thrown the day before. When I am done, I leave freshly made pieces on a shelf for a few days and get on with other tasks. Once pieces are completely dry, I place them in the kiln for a bisque firing to 1000°C. After the bisque firing, I hand dip each piece in glaze and place them in the kiln again for a glaze firing to 1280°C. Two days later, the kiln is usually cool enough to open and I can take the finished pieces out.
The studio has its own rhythm and most tasks need to be done at certain times. Once I start making pots, I only have a limited amount of time to get them finished before they dry out. There are normally hundreds of pieces going through the studio simultaneously and it forces me to work long hours or weekends.
In addition to studio tasks, I also need to answer emails, post content on social media, photograph pieces and update the website. At the end of each day, I am tired but very happy as well.
When I first started, I used to draw ideas in a notebook for hours but I quickly realised that clay and paper are two very different things. What works on paper may not always work with clay.
Now, I tend to start directly on the potter’s wheel because it is a more efficient way to develop ideas for me. I make small series of samples that I then take through the whole process to see what works and what does not.
When I am happy with a piece that comes out of the kiln, I just make more. Otherwise, I start the whole process over again.
Well, I think there are some misconceptions about the craft.
One of them is that pottery is earth-friendly. Even though most potters work relatively slowly and only produce small quantities of pieces, it is important to acknowledge that pottery has an environmental impact.
For thousands of years, potters have removed raw materials from the earth and consumed other natural resources to fire their work while releasing toxic chemicals in the process. It is also worth saying that clay takes a very long time to be generated and it is possible that we are using more than what is being produced by the planet. In addition, raw materials usually come in plastic containers which are rarely recyclable and eventually end up in landfills.
I am not trying to dissuade anyone from working with clay or buying ceramics, but I think it is important to be conscious and honest about these things.
It really depends on the context, what you are making and what you are trying to achieve.
If you work on utilitarian pieces like plates or cups, the function should be the main focus. If you work on sculptural pieces, form becomes more important.
As a potter, I always try to find a balance between form and function.
Like many crafts, pottery is time-consuming.
There is always something to do in the studio, pots to throw, clay to recycle, glazes to make, packages to send out and so on. It never stops.
However, I think work is not everything and it is important to make time for other things.
When things slow down, I usually pack up some clothes and go for a hike in the mountains where I often end up staying overnight. At home, I also have a vegetable garden and two cats which keeps me surprisingly busy. Lately, I have been reading about fishing and I might give it a try soon.
At the moment, there is not much going on in the studio.
Kim and I have recently moved to a small village in the North West Highlands of Scotland. Being up here is relatively new, I am still in the process of setting up a new studio and there is a lot of work to do in the house, so most projects have been put on hold for a few months.
The past two years have been a whirlwind so this is a great opportunity to slow down and take a moment to rest.
I always try to keep things simple.