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Birkenstocks are a design classic…Working in the pottery studio they are the perfect footwear as they are practical, comfortable and easy to put on or take off.

Growing up in the North West London suburb of Finchley, Keith’s first love was dancing and his sights were set firmly on a place at the Royal Ballet School. At his regular school, Keith suffered from anxiety, the result of his undiagnosed dyslexia and the consequent bullying that came with it. An epiphany came in the form of a supportive teacher and an unremarkable ball of terracotta clay. Keith looked at the soft clay placed in front of him and discovered to his joy his problems disappeared. “It felt as though I was holding my own imagination in my hands,” he says. The owl figure he moulded from that clay elicited a rare moment of encouragement from his teacher. That praise would stay with him for many years to come and herald the start of a lifelong companionship with clay.

Young and Enthusiastic

On leaving school, as well as enjoying a role singing in a punk band, Keith pursued his pottery dreams by placing an ad in the ‘Ceramic Review’. The ad read, “Young, enthusiastic 18-year-old seeks apprenticeship in a Pottery” and it quickly found him a job at a pottery studio located on the other side of London. Despite the lengthy commute, ten hour shifts and demanding bosses, Keith remained committed to his craft and eventually he became an accomplished production ‘thrower’. So when the studio relocated to Scotland some years later Keith had gained enough knowledge and confidence to start up his own studio. Although he worried about keeping a new business afloat, his natural affinity for making pots ensured the orders poured in straight away. Now living much nearer to his workplace than previously, Keith would still rise incredibly early each morning to make the thousands of items commissioned by a growing list of prestigious clients.

Patience is the Ingredient Reliant on pottery as both a form of income as well as therapy, Keith launched his own signature range. Informed by his dyslexia, the pots featured a mix of different words in a typewritten font that were chosen more for their pleasing shape than their meaning. At his first ever trade fair Keith’s order book received £35,000 worth of business, the ‘Word’ range was an instant hit and continues to be a bestseller around the world. “The most important ingredient is patience,” he explains. “You also have to really feel the clay. As a craftsperson you need to have a close understanding of and relationship with your chosen material.” Keith is a man who is in touch with his feelings as well as his raw materials. This combination of heart, soul and skill brought Keith’s unique personality to a wider audience.

Roling in the Clay

His pottery credentials now established, Keith’s TV career was started by an appearance in a YouTube video. The online clip saw him dressed up as Adele singing along to his own pottery-inspired version of one of her biggest hits, which he titled ‘Rolling in the Clay’ (sic). The eye-catching performance was spotted by a producer who asked Keith to be a judge on The Great Pottery Throw Down, a brand new BBC show. The big man’s warmth and expertise, coupled with regular emotional outpourings, proved a winning feelgood formula.

Shining Passion

Keith’s passion and sensitivity shines through all his successful business ventures and television appearances. This provides the texture, too, of his recently published biography Boy in a China Shop. Despite all the acclaim he remains grounded, thanks to the safe haven of his studio. "My partner often says, ‘Hey Keith, you’re getting a bit funny. Go downstairs and work with some clay’. It calms me,” he says. “It's the one place and activity where I can really think clearly.”

As a craftsperson you need to have a close understanding and relationship with your chosen material.