Pottery apprentice keeps historic ceramics industry in safe hands

Posted on 16/06/2016

A professional potter who has been crafting clay since she was just eight years old is setting her sights on saving Chesterfield’s historic pottery industry from being consigned to the history books after teaming upon with Skills Made Easy, a unique initiative designed to help small businesses in the Sheffield City Region overcome skills shortages.


JMJ Pottery

Janine Mannion Jones founded JMJ pottery in 1996, where she produces traditional stoneware pottery from her studio in Brampton; an area which has been closely associated with the ceramics industry since the early 1700s. After the industry boomed in the nineteenth century, Derbyshire-produced Bramptonware nearly disappeared, with just a small number of dedicated potters working tirelessly to keep the traditional industry alive.

Keen to ensure the skills and techniques which have taken her a lifetime to master wouldn’t be lost, Janine contacted Skills Made Easy to help with her quest to help a new generation learn the art of becoming a master potter.

Responsible for helping small businesses in the Sheffield City Region to overcome skills shortages, as well as helping small businesses to gain access to apprenticeships, Skills Made Easy helped Janine to develop a unique ceramics apprenticeship, and although demand for the role proved to be high, help was closer to hand than original expected when a student from Janine’s pottery classes expressed an interest in the role.

21 year old Laura Davies approached Janine for work experience within her weekly pottery classes after completing a Level 3 BTEC qualification in Art & Design and feeling undecided in which career route she wanted to take. Laura was already familiar with Skills Made Easy and expressed an interest in a Haberdashery apprenticeship before finding a flair for pottery. Impressed with her work, Janine offered Laura an apprenticeship within her workshop and is now helping the Ashgate apprentice to follow in her footsteps. Laura is working towards a level 3 advanced apprenticeship in ceramics where she is learning the art of clay throwing and glazing whilst also helping to inspire others by helping to run the weekly workshops first sparked her interest in the industry.

Janine Mannion Jones, owner of JMJ Pottery, said:

“Brampton has had a long association with the pottery industry with different skills and techniques being passed down from one generation to the next. In Laura I saw someone who not only had a natural flair, but also shared by passion for all things pottery-related! She is progressing well in her apprenticeship and I’m sure she’s got a bright future ahead of her in the ceramics industry.”

“Working as a potter can be a very physical job. It’s a job which requires strength, creativity and plenty of patience. I’ll be 60 later this year and felt it was important give someone the chance to learn and hopefully build a long term career in the industry I love, but I wasn’t really sure where to start.

“I’d heard about apprenticeships but I wasn’t sure whether my business would be suitable. After scouring the internet for help, I couldn’t find any information about ceramics apprenticeships locally, as so decided to call Skills Made Easy to see if they could help.

“They guided me through the whole process, I was genuinely surprised how simple and straightforward it was. Since Laura started working with me, she is helping to run the workshops I host, and progressing well in her apprenticeship.”

Laura Hayfield, Programme Manager, Skills Made Easy, said:

“There are more than 1500 different job roles within over 170 industries available through apprenticeships and our work with JMJ helps to illustrate how they help businesses to retain and develop new skills within the workplace.

“Ceramics apprenticeships are not particularly common within the Sheffield City Region, but the unique way in which Skills Made Easy works meant we were able to work closely with Janine to ensure the training provided was tailored to meet the unique needs of her business.

“Many employers throughout the Sheffield City Region have said skill shortages in the workplace are major barriers to growth. Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to help school leavers build a career in their chosen vocation whilst working towards a recognised national qualification.  Nationally, Government statistics have suggested employers who recruit apprentices see an increase in productivity, with 96% reporting that apprentices make a valuable contribution to their business”.