Gift givers looking for something unique, precious yet also functional, might like to consider commissioning a piece or two from British artist/designer Ali Miller. Trained in fine art and sculpture and inspired by her personal history, Miller creates intricate collages which she transfers onto a range of homewares, including a quirkily nostalgic line of china teacups, teapots, plates and cake stands.
It’s these ceramic pieces that are beginning to cause a stir among lovers of all things bespoke, with clients asking her to personalise an existing design by adding names and special dates – she is doing a brisk trade in pieces commemorating weddings and anniversaries (for example, Home Sweet Home UK Map teapot, with names and date added, second picture; from £90).
She has also recently added to her range, with new designs based around the children’s classic Alice in Wonderland. “I was fascinated by the book as a child,” Miller says, “so the theme fitted my aesthetic” (first picture – teacup and saucer, £29.50, plate, £27.50, teapot, £65, jug, £26, and sugar pot, £32; third picture, vase, £300).
Her aesthetic is of the utmost importance. Miller may enjoy working to commission but she is an artist, not merely a decorator of crockery. “I won’t do pictures of people’s houses,” she says.
Each item begins with a piece of original artwork, put together on her living-room table using images taken from the books, magazines, wallpaper and photographs that filled her childhood home. Once the collage is complete, she scans it into a computer and (along with the client, if requested) begins to select small details which are printed onto transfers and then applied to the tableware. Miller sources the china for bespoke pieces from markets, charity shops and her, or her client’s, family cupboards. (Her core range is manufactured in Stoke-on-Trent.)
“I work with intimate personal memory,” Miller says, “and the idea is to make products that have had a life before and will go on to have a new life with a new owner.”