For four decades, designers and decorators have sought out Roy Hamilton’s studios in search of one-of-a-kind yet timeless ceramics. In the mid 1960’s, having moved to New York City from London to run the American offices of Liberty of London, he signed up for pottery classes at the midtown YMCA. Soon he had set up a weekend potting studio in the garage of his house in East Hampton. Out there Hamilton would throw a classic shape on the wheel, then really focus on the decorative treatment.
“At first, it was a hobby, so I was under no pressure” he recalls. “I could just play and experiment.” Soon, however, visiting designer friends were snapping up his creations for their clients. After a sold-out show at the Elaine Benson Gallery in Bridgehampton in 1975, Hamilton’s hobby became a career and his unique pieces began showing up in chic interiors across the country.
Instead of traditional glazing, Hamilton applies colored slip, a watered-down form of clay that has been tinted with mineral oxides such as cobalt and iron, to create his signature pale-hued bodies. Hamilton then covers this ground with his distinctive decoration. To apply his soft-edged geometric patterns, Hamilton uses a technique called slip-trailing in which the slip is piped on to the vessel with a small rubber syringe. The first of these designs – tattersall, basketweave and herringbone – evolved out of his experience with textile construction. He also created a “linen” finish by transferring the slip to the body using a mesh fabric.
In 1978 Hamilton moved to California and set up his studio there. As well as slip-trailing, he also devised a way of creating pattern with a hot-wax resist method derived from Batik printing of cloth.
Hamilton has produced designs for leading manufacturers and retailers and been honored by the Rhode Island School of Design. He has also spent ten years as home furnishings Design Consultant to Marks and Spencer in the U.K. In 2008 he moved back to New York City to partner with Christopher Spitzmiller and has now set up his own studio, where he painstakingly hand-creates his vases and lamp bases, large scale bowls, display chargers and cachepots. “I am very much limited in what I can produce each week”, says Hamilton. “Sometimes six pieces, sometimes ten”.
But no matter the number, each is a unique piece of craftsmanship.