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Article: Nancy's Story....

Nancy's Story....-The Nancy Smillie Shop

Nancy's Story....

I am not sure exactly what a "blog" should look like, but I thought I would use this page on the website to tell my story, the story of how the Shop came about.

The last thing on my mind when I graduated from Glasgow Art School in 1972 specialising  in Ceramics, was opening a shop. My degree show had mainly consisted of large hand built coil pots and abstract panels.


One of these pots was sold to a Japanese Gentleman. I was told that it cost him more to send it to Japan than the pot cost!  I was very delighted.

My degree show almost sold out, and it seemed that perhaps I could make a living from making pots.


The local Wishaw Press made much of the sale to Japan!  Little did I know at the time that I would end up sending lots of pots to Japan.

It is expensive to equip a Pottery studio. I needed a loan but had no prospect of getting one! Armed with a degree, I completed a teaching certificate at Jordanhill. this enabled me to get a loan and gave me a fall back situation incase my plans to make my living making pots didn't work out.

After training as a teacher at Glasgow's Jordanhill college, and a brief period of teaching, I set up Saltoun Pottery in Saltoun lane where many happy days were spent making pots and selling them directly to the public from the Studio Shop.

Happy days in Saltoun Pottery. With Marlyn and Susie, I am on the right.

Making pots to make your living was a lot different from the Art School experience, where you could enjoy clay being prepared for you, kilns fired and generally, a lot of the hard work was taken care of.

I found it much more difficult to get the results I wanted, but after a few years, I really had served my apprenticeship!


My throwing skill had improved and I found it no problem to make a very comfortable living.

I enjoyed the feeling of the pots dancing off my fingers and enjoyed production throwing, but I was still hungry for more knowledge and experimentation. 

There was a fantastic place called Highland Craftpoint, which held excellent specialised classes in Ceramics. You might think that having a degree from Glasgow School of Art would have been enough, but really, that was just the start. The courses there covered all aspects of ceramics, mould making, slip casting and decorative techniques. I was in my element. The pots became more diverse, and I started working with other clays including porcelain.



This was followed by a product development course at the RCA in London. 

What a fantastic experience that was. As a mature student (32) I really appreciate the opportunity - it felt like a finishing school for Artists.

I took nothing for granted - the luxury of prepared clay and fantastic studios and of course the other students - what a fantastic opportunity.  You can see here the ranges of pots I worked on at that time.

These pots sold all over the world, including Japan. 

When the Princes Square shopping Centre opened, I was approached and asked to take a unit in the Square. I was very excited by this ides. I always felt Ceramics, and indeed all Craft was under appreciated and undervalued.

I really wanted to showcase the best of British Craft in the City Centre.  

So I opened the shop in Princes Square.  What can I say - it was a struggle. I had no idea just how many sales I would need to cover the expenses and I discovered that there just was not enough of a market for high end Glass and Ceramics.

Things were looking bad! I was really struggling to pay my rent. Something had to change. My work now was to try and fill the shop with lovely items that our customers wanted to buy and could afford. I still had the best of Glass and Ceramics but now supplemented by more affordable but carefully chosen items.

It was a great success! The Christmas sales were good and The NANCY SMILLIE SHOP was born. I still make pots from time to time, but the main focus of my work had changed. 


 A board of glazed pots - they look completely different when they come out of the kiln


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