The Etsy Blog

Fresh Shop: Nicole Portlock

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Every day, our community grows in unexpected and delightful ways. For our Fresh Shops series, sellers who have been on Etsy for a mere handful of months or are awaiting their first sale introduce themselves. Here’s a warm welcome to all our newbies!

Hi, my name is Nicole Portlock. I was born in the UK and now I’m lucky enough to live in Ireland with my husband. I think that I have always been creative, but I have only recently found the creative process that keeps me inspired.

Nicole’s wall of inspiration images.

While I love throwing porcelain on the wheel, I find the turning process (where I trim and burnish the surface of the pot) to be my favorite part. I can lose an afternoon just burnishing. I’m sure that it’s akin to meditation, because normally it’s whilst finishing a piece that any technical or creative issues that I’m having seem to get solved. I bisque fire my pots in an electric kiln to turn them from clay into ceramic, so the burnished surface is not lost.

My first tentative steps into smoke firing happened while I was still working on my ceramic degree. It was by pure chance — while researching a Roman process called Terra Sigillata, I discovered that there was a group of modern British potters who smoke fired their work. My initial attempts at smoke firing were very tantalizing — I had both successes and failures, but I was able to make work that had a depth of surface, almost archaeological, that I could not achieve with a normal glaze. Since then I have continued to perfect my smoke kiln packing technique and have begun to create my own style of smoke fired surface. I use two galvanised bins as my smoke kilns.

The smoke kiln imparts information about the weather, atmospheric pressures as well as the flame story, which is like a date stamp. Even if I could load my smoke kilns with sawdust or any other combustibles in exactly the same way each time, the weather that day will always be slightly different — so you may get browns instead of greys, or there may be more red/orange flashes. Most studio potters know exactly what will be coming out of the kiln if they are using a normal firing process; I never know. This method is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I’m forced to be patient and wait to see what the kiln has given me.

For me, firing my smoke kiln has always been like every gift-giving holiday rolled into one, and I find myself reverting to a childlike state when I’m making something. I’m unable to smoke fire without the “ants in my pants” syndrome that often drives my hubby up the wall. I’m in and out checking to see if the kiln is still alight, wondering if it’s smoking strongly enough or if it’s burnt down enough to give me a glimpse of what the finished product might look like. It’s like lifting the tape on the corner of a present when no one is looking to see if you can guess what you’ve received. The results always far outstrip anything I could imagine or hope for.

More Fresh Shops

  • somsstudiosupplies

    somsstudiosupplies says:

    Wow!! This is a very interesting article. I love how complex your pieces are. Congrats on the feature!

    3 years ago

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage says:

    Cool technique! Truly one-of-a-kind. Here's to that first sale and much success.

    3 years ago

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection says:

    I love your pieces! Rustic!

    3 years ago

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana says:

    Nice work! Congrats on your feature.

    3 years ago

  • laurenlynnboutique

    laurenlynnboutique says:

    Beautiful pieces, and wonderful seeing techniques that aren't your average ways of firing.

    3 years ago

  • vintagejane

    vintagejane says:

    So unique! Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • CreativescrapsbyNanc

    CreativescrapsbyNanc says:

    I Love your work! I like the suprise that you receive every time! You are truly gifted.

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    ..ants in my pants :D Nice pieces!

    3 years ago

  • DorsetHillBeads

    DorsetHillBeads says:

    your vessels are so unique, rustic and very charming!

    3 years ago

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations says:

    Stunning! The history and mystery inherent in your pots is wonderfully appealing.

    3 years ago

  • CreamNoSugar

    CreamNoSugar says:

    I'm mesmerized!! I want to peak in to the galvanized kilns!!!! Nicole, your work is Beautiful!!!

    3 years ago

  • mamif

    mamif says:

    great products. they really draw me in.

    3 years ago

  • melaniepaulson

    melaniepaulson says:

    Those are amazing! They remind me of the eerie smoke filled forest that's left after a forest fire. Bringing me back to my wildland fire days! Thanks for sharing something so beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss says:

    I love it! Your pieces are gorgeous!

    3 years ago

  • izuly

    izuly says:

    Absolutely Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your technique.

    3 years ago

  • PolClary

    PolClary says:

    Amazing. I'd never heard of this before.

    3 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Love your work! Beautiful!!!! =)

    3 years ago

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering says:

    What a unique way creating, pottery with a smoke kiln! I didn't know you could do that. This sounds like a fun process, thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • EstherandHarper

    EstherandHarper says:

    Love the raw and organic quality of these. What a unique process!

    3 years ago

  • elinart

    elinart says:

    Fab! :)

    3 years ago

  • EcoChicHandKnits

    EcoChicHandKnits says:

    Such amazing pieces! Congratulations on the feature! P.S. i love your inspiration wall!

    3 years ago

  • NoFrump

    NoFrump says:

    what an awesome process! smoke firing...taking note. :)

    3 years ago

  • erinelizabeth

    erinelizabeth says:

    That is very cool! Wonderful work.

    3 years ago

  • PumpkinTreeLane

    PumpkinTreeLane says:

    Beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Ah I know that excited feeling of opening the kiln well, you never know quite what you'll find inside. Your work is beautiful I love the different colours the smoke leaves behind.

    3 years ago

  • ReAdore

    ReAdore says:

    Love the concept of letting the weather and elements add their signature to your work, with very organic and relatable results. Inspiring to me! Thanks for sharing! :)

    3 years ago

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak says:

    I love the way you describe your process in your item description and how you explain, giving will to smoke, that it decides how the piece comes out.

    3 years ago

  • jbeaudet

    jbeaudet says:

    I love the raw, earthy feeling you get with your technique. Very nice work!

    3 years ago

  • AnnealedHeart

    AnnealedHeart says:

    Lovely work :) I love the serendipity factor of your process... it must be so exciting to see what emerges from the kiln!

    3 years ago

  • RCStudios

    RCStudios says:

    Very lovely, I'm glad they featured you because I would never have thought to look for your pieces otherwise. With Christmas soon approaching, unique gift ideas are always welcome!

    3 years ago

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry says:

    Beautiful Vessels!!!! Very Exciting Process! Congratulations on being Featured!!!

    3 years ago

  • RossLab

    RossLab says:

    To use smoke kilns in Ireland must be difficult. With that changing weather I am sure you get so many different results for the same piece. I am a potter too and I commend your dedication! Very beautiful pieces. PS Up Cork ;)

    3 years ago

  • 1wood

    1wood says:

    Beautiful work, I like the organic look of your pieces!

    3 years ago

  • jamiespinello

    jamiespinello says:

    Congrats Nicole! Interesting work!

    3 years ago

  • arjunajewelry

    arjunajewelry says:

    Very interesting! Congrats and beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • UrbanCountryPhoto

    UrbanCountryPhoto says:

    I love the art of pottery. I find it amazing that those who are gifted can create wonderful pieces like you displayed above.

    3 years ago

  • rdsutherland311

    rdsutherland311 says:

    Wonderful Blog. I just love the featured items!

    3 years ago

  • Colettesboutique

    Colettesboutique says:

    Congratulations on being featured. I just love your pottery pieces. Beautiful and unique.

    3 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    Wouldn't be surprised if you have a sale before the day is out. Really wonderful work. Best of luck to you.

    3 years ago

  • FaerieLightsStudio

    FaerieLightsStudio says:

    Beautiful! I can just imagine you hovering around the smokers, dying to open them up. Will definitely tell my pottery-loving friends about this shop.

    3 years ago

  • auntjanecan

    auntjanecan says:

    Wonderful work and process!

    3 years ago

  • TheInspiredTrader

    TheInspiredTrader says:

    Beautiful creations! Anticipation combined with the primal love of fire is a powerful combination! Who wouldn't want to share the process with you! The results are outstanding!

    3 years ago

  • rosemreyes

    rosemreyes says:

    Creative shop. Lovely feature!

    3 years ago

  • seasidecloth

    seasidecloth says:

    These are really beautiful in such an organic way.

    3 years ago

  • ballandchain

    ballandchain says:

    Gorgeous work! I did raku in undergrad, and it was just like xmas every time we opened the kiln. :)

    3 years ago

  • BRHDesigns

    BRHDesigns says:

    Nice; I love how organic your items are!

    3 years ago

  • willowstreetworkshop

    willowstreetworkshop says:

    Thanks for sharing your story and your earthy pottery. :-)

    3 years ago

  • TheVintageApartment

    TheVintageApartment says:

    I love it when the word "whilst" is used (one of my favourite words!), so I was hooked early on in this article :) Nicole, you create unique, somewhat whimsical pieces! It's cool to find out about an old-school technique being kept alive in modern art practices.

    3 years ago

  • PeaceStitchStudio

    PeaceStitchStudio says:

    Cool pieces-- I love the way they look aged and antique! Fascinating process and interview. Thanks, Nicole.

    3 years ago

  • ACupOfSparkle

    ACupOfSparkle says:

    Amazing work. Good luck with everything...

    3 years ago

  • LoveButtons

    LoveButtons says:

    What a fascinating technique - the results are remarkable - each one unique.

    3 years ago

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie says:

    Beautiful interview. My husband and I throw pots together on Saturdays. There is nothing like the feel of porcelain clay on the wheel. Smoke firing is soooo cool.

    3 years ago

  • jenkra

    jenkra says:

    Amazing-LOVE the work!!

    3 years ago

  • patchworkdelights

    patchworkdelights says:

    Fantastic, beautiful work!

    3 years ago

  • Cance

    Cance says:

    i recently started a pottery class - throwing on a wheel. i'm constantly amazed by the process. learning about the different techniques is inspiring. thanks for sharing, nicole! your work is beautiful.

    3 years ago

  • violintide

    violintide says:

    Amazing pieces! Congrats on being featured!

    3 years ago

  • NocturneHandcrafts

    NocturneHandcrafts says:

    Amazing! Congrats! :)

    3 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    I love the natural organic look of smoke fired pottery, it really does resemble something ancient... in a good way! LOL

    3 years ago

  • bbakes420

    bbakes420 says:

    definitely a fresh shop with a fabulous and unique method of art :)

    3 years ago

  • robertcoffin

    robertcoffin says:

    Congrats

    3 years ago

  • YourVintageHouse

    YourVintageHouse says:

    Those are extremely cool! I love one of a kind pieces.

    3 years ago

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 says:

    Very beautiful work you do! Love the pieces, congratulations!!

    3 years ago

  • lulisplanet

    lulisplanet says:

    An amazing technique to give the final touche to a wonderful pieces. Congratulations

    3 years ago

  • LouluMac

    LouluMac says:

    I love the smoky effect that is created with your technique! So beautiful; keep up the great work!

    3 years ago

  • prettypeardesigns

    prettypeardesigns says:

    My concentration in college was pottery and I absolutely loved the not knowing aspect of pottery. There is such an element of surprise and letting go of control. There is such excitment and thrill seeing a fired pot for the first time!

    3 years ago

  • smooshfacedcat

    smooshfacedcat says:

    I love all of the clay news on Etsy's blog these days! Nicole's pots are beautiful, tender and elegant. Love it lady!

    3 years ago

  • audreytolove

    audreytolove says:

    Beautiful pots! I love most of them!

    3 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:

    How lovely!

    3 years ago

  • QuirkMuseum

    QuirkMuseum says:

    Nice pottery and feature too. I haven't worked in clay in a while, but I'm felling inspired - maybe after the holidays. GoodLuck.

    3 years ago

  • redhardwick

    redhardwick says:

    Beautiful creations! Much continued success and happiness! :)

    3 years ago

  • LilLizaJane

    LilLizaJane says:

    This is inspiring. I currently work in glass - lampwork beads - but I am becoming strangely drawn to clay and the feeling of the cold damp malleable material in my hands. Hmmm. I feel a Christmas wish-list coming on!

    3 years ago

  • nicoleportlock

    nicoleportlock says:

    I would like to give a really big thank you to Michelle and the Etsy Team! And to everyone for their really kind and wonderful comments. I've also had some really lovely convo's too, so if you have any questions drop me a line. Again, many thanks guys for all your encouragement... it really does mean a lot to me!

    3 years ago

  • CrankyDogStudio

    CrankyDogStudio says:

    Gorgeous vessels! Very unique, raw and contemporary. Thanks for the inspiration.

    3 years ago

  • nilcampos

    nilcampos says:

    S beautiful...

    3 years ago

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers says:

    Love your work! :)

    3 years ago

  • Bananamoo

    Bananamoo says:

    awesome work

    3 years ago

  • AquaMoose

    AquaMoose says:

    Pottery is a nerve wracking proses, you never know what you will get. That makes it a very exciting medium <3

    3 years ago

  • sjegan

    sjegan says:

    I love the smoke firing, I do a pottery class and we tried it last summer got some really fab stuff out! I've done your journey in reverse, I'm Irish living in the UK, based in Cardiff which is a great city, but I miss white pudding and proper crisps! Best of luck with the business and with the move, a great story to read :)

    3 years ago

  • katembaker

    katembaker says:

    Fascinating - thanks for sharing. Making as meditation - I'm sure a lot of us identified with that! You really should use the 'date stamp' angle in marketing - how special to have an item born on the same day as your baby, or made on the day of your wedding, for instance. Very best wishes!

    3 years ago

  • cathycullis

    cathycullis says:

    I love to collect ceramics and an attracted to vessels that showcase experimental and elemental techniques. Beautiful smoke-fired vessels, with gorgeous shapes. I look forward to seeing more.

    3 years ago

  • chloebristow

    chloebristow says:

    I did an armature pottery course and I loved every minute of it. I have never heard of this technique nor seen work like yours before. They are beautiful. I love this post. I hope one day I wont be a student and have some extra money to spend on your work, :)

    3 years ago

  • rnadrali

    rnadrali says:

    Hey thats nice.. we made a kiln in the garden out of grass and mud to wood fire but the fire is seperate to the kiln chamber ... now im going to try filling the whole thing with wood! ha! but can you do this with glazed things???

    3 years ago

  • chaoticlucidity

    chaoticlucidity says:

    amazing!

    3 years ago

  • pinkpurr

    pinkpurr says:

    How often can you say you walk hand in hand with mother nature to create such exquisite works of art! I think these would look phenomenal worn as as a pendant with a long leather cord or attached with copper wire wrapping some how to create loop/grip for a long chain. I'd want to show it off to everybody. Really beautiful! Congrats!

    3 years ago

  • Visuaria

    Visuaria says:

    The kilns are almost works of art in themselves!

    3 years ago

  • diaxeirosjg

    diaxeirosjg says:

    love your work!

    3 years ago

  • LynnRaeDesigns

    LynnRaeDesigns says:

    Your artworks are absolutely beautiful and so creative!

    3 years ago

  • dianeschifkovitz

    dianeschifkovitz says:

    great work! I always wanted to learn, but now I work with Gourds.

    3 years ago

  • lucytwoshoes

    lucytwoshoes says:

    I love your pieces - they are so beautiful and unique! I can't wait to see what else you create. Best wishes for much success.

    3 years ago

  • yqsl66

    Ada Ada from idajewelry66 says:

    I Love your work!thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • DeepSilence