Shop Etsy

Fresh Shop: Nicole Portlock

Nov 1, 2011

by nicoleportlock

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

Smoke Fired Small Vessel which was exhibited at Culture of Clay 2014
Smoke Fired Small Vessel which was exhibited at Culture of Clay 2014
nicoleportlock
$80.52 USD
Small smoke fired porcelain vessel made in Ireland
Small smoke fired porcelain vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$57.51 USD
Small Experimental Smoke Fired Vessel made in Ireland
Small Experimental Smoke Fired Vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$80.52 USD
Small Smoke Fired Vessel made in Ireland
Small Smoke Fired Vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$57.51 USD
Large pear shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
Large pear shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$402.58 USD
Large apple shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
Large apple shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$402.58 USD
Experimental Zentangle Inspired Smoke Fired Porcelain Vessel
Experimental Zentangle Inspired Smoke Fired Porcelain Vessel
nicoleportlock
$80.52 USD
Smoke Fired Small Ceramic Vessel
Smoke Fired Small Ceramic Vessel
nicoleportlock
$57.51 USD
Experimental Smoke Fired Porcelain Vessel
Experimental Smoke Fired Porcelain Vessel
nicoleportlock
$69.01 USD
Smoke fired miniature egg shaped porcelain vessel
Smoke fired miniature egg shaped porcelain vessel
nicoleportlock
$28.76 USD
Miniature smoke fired porcelain vessel made in Ireland
Miniature smoke fired porcelain vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$28.76 USD
Smoke fired porcelain vessel, medium sized made in Ireland
Smoke fired porcelain vessel, medium sized made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$138.03 USD
Large olive shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
Large olive shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$287.55 USD
Large onion shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
Large onion shaped smoke fired vessel made in Ireland
nicoleportlock
$287.55 USD

91 comments

  • somsstudiosupplies

    somsstudiosupplies said 4 years ago

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

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage said 4 years ago

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

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 4 years ago

    I love your pieces! Rustic!

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana said 4 years ago

    Nice work! Congrats on your feature.

  • laurenlynnboutique

    laurenlynnboutique said 4 years ago

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

  • vintagejane

    vintagejane said 4 years ago

    So unique! Thanks for sharing!

  • CreativescrapsbyNanc

    CreativescrapsbyNanc said 4 years ago

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

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 4 years ago

    ..ants in my pants :D Nice pieces!

  • DorsetHillBeads

    DorsetHillBeads said 4 years ago

    your vessels are so unique, rustic and very charming!

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations said 4 years ago

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

  • CreamNoSugar

    CreamNoSugar said 4 years ago

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

  • mamif

    mamif said 4 years ago

    great products. they really draw me in.

  • melaniepaulson

    melaniepaulson said 4 years ago

    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.

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 4 years ago

    I love it! Your pieces are gorgeous!

  • izuly

    izuly said 4 years ago

    Absolutely Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your technique.

  • PolClary

    PolClary said 4 years ago

    Amazing. I'd never heard of this before.

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 4 years ago

    Love your work! Beautiful!!!! =)

  • volkerwandering

    volkerwandering said 4 years ago

    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!

  • EstherandHarper

    EstherandHarper said 4 years ago

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

  • elinart

    elinart said 4 years ago

    Fab! :)

  • EcoChicHandKnits

    EcoChicHandKnits said 4 years ago

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

  • NoFrump

    NoFrump said 4 years ago

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

  • erinelizabeth

    erinelizabeth said 4 years ago

    That is very cool! Wonderful work.

  • PumpkinTreeLane

    PumpkinTreeLane said 4 years ago

    Beautiful work!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 4 years ago

    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.

  • ReAdore

    ReAdore said 4 years ago

    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! :)

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak said 4 years ago

    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.

  • jbeaudet

    jbeaudet said 4 years ago

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

  • AnnealedHeart

    AnnealedHeart said 4 years ago

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

  • RCStudios

    RCStudios said 4 years ago

    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!

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry said 4 years ago

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

  • RossLab

    RossLab said 4 years ago

    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 ;)

  • 1wood

    1wood said 4 years ago

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

  • jamiespinello

    jamiespinello said 4 years ago

    Congrats Nicole! Interesting work!

  • arjunajewelry

    arjunajewelry said 4 years ago

    Very interesting! Congrats and beautiful work!

  • UrbanCountryPhoto

    UrbanCountryPhoto said 4 years ago

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

  • rdsutherland311

    rdsutherland311 said 4 years ago

    Wonderful Blog. I just love the featured items!

  • Colettesboutique

    Colettesboutique said 4 years ago

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

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 4 years ago

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

  • FaerieLightsStudio

    FaerieLightsStudio said 4 years ago

    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.

  • auntjanecan

    auntjanecan said 4 years ago

    Wonderful work and process!

  • TheInspiredTrader

    TheInspiredTrader said 4 years ago

    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!

  • rosemreyes

    rosemreyes said 4 years ago

    Creative shop. Lovely feature!

  • seasidecloth

    seasidecloth said 4 years ago

    These are really beautiful in such an organic way.

  • ballandchain

    ballandchain said 4 years ago

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

  • BRHDesigns

    BRHDesigns said 4 years ago

    Nice; I love how organic your items are!

  • willowstreetworkshop

    willowstreetworkshop said 4 years ago

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

  • TheVintageApartment

    TheVintageApartment said 4 years ago

    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.

  • PeaceStitchStudio

    PeaceStitchStudio said 4 years ago

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

  • ACupOfSparkle

    ACupOfSparkle said 4 years ago

    Amazing work. Good luck with everything...

  • LoveButtons

    LoveButtons said 4 years ago

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

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie said 4 years ago

    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.

  • jenkra

    jenkra said 4 years ago

    Amazing-LOVE the work!!

  • patchworkdelights

    patchworkdelights said 4 years ago

    Fantastic, beautiful work!

  • Cance

    Cance said 4 years ago

    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.

  • violintide

    violintide said 4 years ago

    Amazing pieces! Congrats on being featured!

  • NocturneHandcrafts

    NocturneHandcrafts said 4 years ago

    Amazing! Congrats! :)

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 4 years ago

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

  • bbakes420

    bbakes420 said 4 years ago

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

  • robertcoffin

    robertcoffin said 4 years ago

    Congrats

  • YourVintageHouse

    YourVintageHouse said 4 years ago

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

  • kathyjohnson3

    kathyjohnson3 said 4 years ago

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

  • lulisplanet

    lulisplanet said 4 years ago

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

  • LouluMac

    LouluMac said 4 years ago

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

  • prettypeardesigns

    prettypeardesigns said 4 years ago

    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!

  • smooshfacedcat

    smooshfacedcat said 4 years ago

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

  • audreytolove

    audreytolove said 4 years ago

    Beautiful pots! I love most of them!

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 4 years ago

    How lovely!

  • QuirkMuseum

    QuirkMuseum said 4 years ago

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

  • redhardwick

    redhardwick said 4 years ago

    Beautiful creations! Much continued success and happiness! :)

  • LilLizaJane

    LilLizaJane said 4 years ago

    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!

  • nicoleportlock

    nicoleportlock said 4 years ago

    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!

  • CrankyDogStudio

    CrankyDogStudio said 4 years ago

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

  • nilcampos

    nilcampos said 4 years ago

    S beautiful...

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers said 4 years ago

    Love your work! :)

  • Bananamoo

    Bananamoo said 4 years ago

    awesome work

  • AquaMoose

    AquaMoose said 4 years ago

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

  • sjegan

    sjegan said 4 years ago

    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 :)

  • katembaker

    katembaker said 4 years ago

    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!

  • cathycullis

    cathycullis said 4 years ago

    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.

  • chloebristow

    chloebristow said 4 years ago

    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, :)

  • rnadrali

    rnadrali said 4 years ago

    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???

  • chaoticlucidity

    chaoticlucidity said 4 years ago

    amazing!

  • pinkpurr

    pinkpurr said 4 years ago

    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!

  • Visuaria

    Visuaria said 4 years ago

    The kilns are almost works of art in themselves!

  • diaxeirosjg

    diaxeirosjg said 4 years ago

    love your work!

  • LynnRaeDesigns

    LynnRaeDesigns said 4 years ago

    Your artworks are absolutely beautiful and so creative!

  • dianeschifkovitz

    dianeschifkovitz said 4 years ago

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

  • lucytwoshoes

    lucytwoshoes said 4 years ago

    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.

  • yqsl66

    Ada Ada from idajewelry66 said 4 years ago

    I Love your work!thanks for sharing!

  • DeepSilence

    Sonja Bikić from DeepSilence said 4 years ago

    nice

Sign in to add your own