Meet the Artisan: Sage Ceramics by Yvonne Kirk

Meet the Artisan: Sage Ceramics by Yvonne Kirk

Meet Yvonne Kirk, founder of Sage Ceramics and learn about her creative process and the evolution of her brand.

It is with great pleasure that we introduce Sage Ceramics by Yvonne Kirk to our Resident Artisan community. Nestled beneath the picturesque South Downs in Storrington, Sage Ceramics produces small batch handmade pottery. 

During a captivating conversation with Yvonne, we were afforded a glimpse into the creation of her ceramics brand, as well as the thoughtful and intricate creative process behind the products that she creates. 

The Creation of Sage Ceramics 

Since 2013, Sage Ceramics has been Yvonne's channel for expressing her passion for creating her signature pieces that blend practicality with style. Yvonne has always been drawn to the unique charm of handmade items. Her philosophy is simple: to craft pieces that are as beautiful to behold as they are functional, meant to be displayed and used rather than hidden away.

This philosophy didn't emerge overnight but evolved naturally as Yvonne explored her creative process. Initially concerned about finding her unique style, she discovered that her most authentic work came when she stopped overthinking and let her designs flow in the moment. 

Yvonne's ceramic journey was significantly shaped by her time in Western Australia, where she spent a year immersed in a course called "A Year in Clay". Returning home in 2007 with a deep desire to continue her work in ceramics, she found a space at Amberly Chalkpits Museum's pottery studio, where she could further hone her skills. It was here, negotiating time away from her day job and dedicating weekends to pottery, that Yvonne's ceramic skills further evolved and her style was defined. 

The purchase of an ancient pottery wheel from Brighton and the transformation of her dining room into a studio marked the beginning of Sage Ceramics as more than just a hobby. With her first kiln installed, Yvonne started producing ceramics with such volume that selling her creations became a natural step forward. 

The Creative Process

Yvonne has honed and refined her creative process over the years resulting in her signature style. Each piece begins with the careful weighing of clay. The clay is then shaped into a ball on the wheel, using plenty of water for smoothness, and thrown to form the base shape. Once cut from the bat, the piece is left to dry to ‘leather hard’, at which point handles or additional elements are attached.

Yvonne uses the bisque firing method where the kiln ramps up gradually to 1000 degrees Celsius over 10 hours, followed by a cooling period. Decoration comes next, whether through glazing or painting, depending on the piece being earthenware or stoneware. Earthenware items, adorned with motifs like chickens and flowers, undergo a quicker firing up to 1100 degrees. Stoneware, on the other hand, requires a dip in glaze and a second, slower firing up to 1210 degrees, including a careful temperature increase and a soak at peak temperature.

Yvonne's dual electric kilns in her studio are pivotal to this process, which varies in length with the seasons. In summer, a piece can be ready for bisque firing in just a day, whereas in winter, it may take up to three weeks. Despite these seasonal adjustments, Yvonne's output remains consistent throughout the year, though she admits being a little more reluctant to get out to her studio more in the winter when it is cold and dark, which many artists can likely relate to. Yvonne’s refined approach, from weighing clay to the final firing, results in the distinctive style of Sage Ceramics, where each piece beautifully reflects both practically and style in one. 

The Inspiration behind the Designs

Rather than following a predetermined design inspiration path, Yvonne finds her muse in the world around her, absorbing shapes, forms, images, and styles often subconsciously. Yvonne sketches her designs and captures her inspiration in her favourite handmade leather-bound notebook. 

When it comes to stoneware, the glaze takes the lead in the creative process. Yvonne was pleasantly surprised by the way glazes interact with underglazes, producing stunning effects that are drippy, melty, and marbled. This part of the process has encouraged her to experiment further, using the glaze not just as a finish but as a medium akin to paint. The technique of dipping ceramics into a glaze bucket covered with paper, then removing the paper and dipping again, allows Yvonne to explore depth and texture, creating pieces that are tactile and visually interesting.

Ceramic olive set

Olive set by Sage Ceramics, £32

The Creation of the Sage Ceramics Brand

The name "Sage" traces back to Yvonne's school days, inspired by a cartoon featuring two owls, one of whom was named Sage. This name, shared playfully as a nickname with her best friend, eventually became more than just a nickname— being reborn as a key element in her ceramic brand. The distinctive owl logo of Sage Ceramics also finds its roots in this nostalgic memory, symbolizing wisdom, creativity, and the deep bond of friendship. The choice of the sage color for her creations was a serendipitous accident, one that beautifully complements the natural patina of her pieces. 

Sustainability at Sage Ceramics 

Sustainability is a core principle at Sage Ceramics. By reclaiming clay, Yvonne ensures that no material is wasted in her process. Powering her studio with Eon electricity derived from renewable sources further underscores her dedication to reducing the environmental footprint of her operations. Additionally, Yvonne sources her clay from a local British supplier, with the raw material coming directly from Cornwall. 

Challenges and Milestones Building Sage Ceramics 

Navigating the world of ceramics has brought its share of challenges and triumphs for Yvonne. Among the most significant challenges was mastering the art of creating pots that were not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical, avoiding pieces that were too heavy. This required developing a sense of patience, learning to breathe and relax into the process without rushing—embracing the journey as much as the outcome. 

Sage Ceramics has also celebrated numerous milestones that highlight Yvonne's talent and the brand's growing recognition. A standout moment was becoming a part of the Association of Sussex Artists and winning an award in her first year.Commissions from local businesses, including mugs for a hairdresser's salon, a butcher desiring mugs adorned with cows and sheep, and handleless mugs for a local farm shop, have validated the local Sussex communities appreciation of her work. 

A significant triumph was joining Artisan in the Barn, a move that brought her creations into a retail setting, providing greater exposure and connecting her work with a wider audience. The pinnacle of recognition came when House and Garden magazine approached her for a feature in three issues, alongside other potters she admires. 

Sage Ceramic’s Signature Pieces

​​A selection of Sage Ceramic’s most popular pieces are available to buy on Resident Artisan, shop now.

Hand made espresso mugs

Espresso mugs by Sage Ceramics, £20 each


Garlic grater/ dressing bowl

Garlic Grater/ Dressing Bowl by Sage Ceramics, £25