Caroline Seaton at Amberley Pottery

Caroline Seaton in the Amberley Pottery

This week I am in the company of Caroline Seaton at her Amberley Pottery.
I ask Caroline about her life as a potter at Amberley. She replies “I am incredibly grateful for the fact that I love making pots. I lost my husband and then when my mother died I became an elderly orphan. This [place] has been my reason for getting up each day. I still after all these years like the materials. I get tremendous pleasure and excitement unpacking the kiln. It’s out of your control you’ve done what you can but sometimes you get a tremendous surprise, or sometimes not.

I’m so grateful for the fact that I come round here. I don’t ever get bored so I’m very thankful for that.” Caroline has been at the Amberley Pottery for some 40 years, and potted from home before that.

I comment on how I have always admired Caroline’s resilience and grace because whatever life throws at her she’s always put her apron, dusted off her pots and pressed on. Caroline smiles and replies “Well what else would you do?” I agree.

She continues “Since my husband and my mother died the pottery has managed to just fill in all the empty spaces for me without it being a conscious decision so I am grateful and I say a prayer every day to say how thankful I am.”
I suggest that she is called to be a potter and that there would be no peace without making pots and she agrees.

I ask Caroline what inspires her and how she would describe herself. She answers, “I’m a practical potter. I love the materials, the physical side of it, I like working with the clay it opens my mind. So I don’t sit down and draw a design or make out a recipe for a glaze, it’ll come to me while I’m working. The glazes are inspired by the customers and reflect what they like. I don’t make beautiful pottery I make lumpy bumpy country pottery for people to use. It’s tough but if it gets broken I hope you enjoyed using it while you had it.” I interrupt Caroline to say that those handmade qualities are precisely the reasons that I think her pottery is beautiful.

Caroline explains how she has a deep sense of unexpected blessings in her life – unasked for opportunities which have been offered to her and which she has said yes to. “Yes, I have this feeling that you can’t actually organise your life. I think things happen and you either decide to go along with it or you don’t, you make a choice. I’m happy in my own company, a solitary person yet perfectly sociable. I don’t need a radio.”

As we talk visitors and locals process in to chat, choose and buy Caroline’s pottery.

The famous Amberley blue glaze and blue and white expressed in decorative and useful pottery.

Caroline Seaton’s life at the Amberley Pottery provides a constant, a point of stability at the heart of our community. The beauty of her handmade decorative and domestic pottery connects us to this outward facing, generous, practical potter whose work enriches our daily lives by its use.

The Amberley Pottery is open on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11.00am to 3.00pm. To find out more visit

“Rupert’s got his bow-tie on it’ll be alright now!”

Rupert Toovey with trademark bowtie on appointment in the downland village of Amberley, West Sussex amongst the hollyhocks, lavender and rambling roses bordering an abundant English country garden

My week has taken me from Amberley at the foot of the Sussex Downs to the villages and hamlets above Lewes, to Ferring, Shoreham Beach, Horsham and even Kensington – invited to value and share extraordinary collections with families and collectors. Each reflected the stories of their custodians, layered across generations and speaking of their lives and passions in that beautiful, eclectic English Country and Town House way.

Last week, for the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak I donned my bowtie. I breezed into Toovey’s between appointments to find my friend and colleague William Rowsell valuing some beautiful Persian rugs. As he greeted me he remarked to our clients “Oh Rupert’s got his bow tie on it’ll all be alright now!” I have to own that I felt rather pleased. As you know I have a weakness for navy blue bowties with white spots – they’re joyful things. I have just managed to acquire three new ones – well Boris has asked us to shop for the nation – and I can now quarantine each of them for 72 hours as part of my health and safety policy for visiting people.

It’s funny how quickly we adapt to a new routine. As I arrive at people’s homes I ring the door bell and then, feeling rather like a naughty schoolboy, I run 2 metres back from the door turning to greet them. Well it’s important to see a smile and exchange a greeting safely before putting on a face mask and gloves.

Once inside we perform a Covid dance as we seek to honour one another with social distancing and old fashioned good manners. We move around enjoying each other’s company and the treasures, the windows flung open to the breeze in the stunning early summer weather we’ve been enjoying. The blue skies and scudding clouds send my heart racing every day. Is it my imagination or are our skies bluer and more beautiful without the air pollution?

Amberley with its abundant cottage gardens filled with Hollyhocks, English Hidcote lavender and scented rambling roses provides a hope filled view as we move gently out of lockdown.

Our towns, villages and countryside have never looked more beautiful and even the bustling, leafy grandeur of Kensington has been slowed by Covid.

I am delighted to report that we have successfully reopened Toovey’s auction rooms to the public. Providing valuations and viewing for sales by appointment has proven really popular whilst keeping people safe, as has our home visit valuation service.

By the time you read this our first post Covid-19 auction of Chinese and Asian Ceramics and Works of Art, with an online catalogue, will have taken place. It has attracted strong interest from around the UK and the world. I’ll let you know how we get on!