The Anarchist Potter Celebrating Imperfection

Luke Morgan creates non-conformist pots that celebrate the beauty of our broken parts

If Kurt Cobain was a plate, he would have been turned, glazed, fired…and smashed, by Luke Morgan.

Queer Cumbria are already making space on our shelves for a slice of ceramic action from the Cumbrian potter using the art of kintsugi to make some chaotic pots where romance meets grunge in exactly the right ratio.

Luke Morgan is a queer potter, sculptor, chef and craft artist from the Eden Valley in Cumbria.

During the 2020 lockdown, Luke taught himself to wheel-throw and hand-build ceramics in the back yard of his Penrith home using books and online tutorials. He then moved to London in 2022 to be closer to his partner; and since, from his studio in Lewisham, has been developing his practice alongside working as head chef of a nearby café.

Inspired partly by the Japanese mending tradition of kintsugi, his current work involves the destruction and savage restoration of found objects and ceramics, hoping to explore his own queer identity and the philosophy of beauty and brutalisation, as objects which were once useful or decorative become chaotic and impractical.

We wanted to ask Luke a bit more about his work so we fired over a few questions:

Luke! I love your pots!

Thank you so much!

There’s something a bit anarchistic about them? Would you say that’s a fair observation and does it ring true to you as an artist?

Oh yeah, there is absolutely anarchy in there for sure. Both in myself and in my work as a reflection of that.

Kintsugi is about both imperfection and beauty, is that fair to say? Sort of celebrating nonconformity? 

Yes, my understanding of kintsugi is that when something is broken and then repaired, that it should be celebrated – thus the crack or fracture becomes part of the object’s history.

Do you think this concept speaks to us as queer people?

I do yes, I really like the idea that the essence of the practice can be reinterpreted through a different lens to discuss the queer experience. To celebrate and embellish ourselves, our wounds and our identity, rather than hide them away.

What is it about pottery that appeals to you over other art forms?

It was something I had wanted to try for a long time but never found the time or money to give it a go. So when lockdown came along, I decided to buy a bag of clay and few tools and just start having a go. And although it wasn’t my initial intention, I found that having a new skill to work at was invaluable to my mental health at the time – something which is definitely still true of my artistic practice today. 

I suppose what attracted me to ceramics in the first place was the challenge. It’s quite a volatile process which can go wrong at any moment – and while throwing a nice looking pot is a great feeling, I try not to get too attached because it could always break, crumble, explode in the kiln or collapse while drying. It can be a frustrating process of trial and error, but ending up with a piece you’re proud of after all that is really rewarding.

So when I moved to London and found myself without access to a kiln for a time, I began to take that risk of volatility I was used to and channel it into a new practice. A feeling that however broken something is it can be repaired and take on new beauty and meaning.

Could you explain where you get your inspiration from?

It comes and goes in waves I suppose. It’s sometimes visual and often emotional. 

How was it working as an artist in Cumbria?

I’ve always been creative in many forms, but exploring myself as an artist in this way is relatively new to me since making the move to London.

Do you think you would be able to work in the same way in Cumbria as you do in London?

I think in a lot of ways yes. There are of course benefits to working as an artist in London, as I’m sure there are with Cumbria. I largely worked solo on my creative endeavours when I was in Cumbria, but in London I’m in a very large shared studio space where I work with a wide range of other artists and craftspeople, which inevitably provides a lot of support and inspiration.

Cumbria will always be my home, and if (or rather when) I move back I’m excited to explore what it means to be a queer artist in that landscape in contrast to city life.

How could Cumbria be improved to better support young artists?

I’ve recently seen now affordable shared studios can be so helpful for creative young people. I rent a space through SET in Lewisham in southeast London – they’re an organisation who take ex-retail spaces and repurpose them as artists’ studios available for a pretty reasonable monthly fee. So what was once a disused Mothercare unit is now a hive of creativity. The organisation also run a social club and bar in Peckham, membership of which is included in everyone’s studio rental. 

Although I understand that this sort of thing would perhaps be more difficult to organise in such a sparsely populated part of the country as Cumbria, I know that both my hometown of Penrith and nearby Carlisle have plenty of empty retail and industrial units that could easily be used for such a purpose… Just sayin’.

If your pots could sit in the home of one person whose would it be and why? (My answer to this is always Princess Diana).

I would love to continue learning to make functional-ware (mugs, bowls, etc.) and have one of them make Keith Brymer Jones from the great pottery throw down cry.

What’s your favourite song to throw a pot to and why?

You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive, of course.

Any tips for future queer potters?

Don’t be afraid to make something bad. Start small and just keep on learning. I’m still relatively new myself and find online resources super helpful for the functional pottery stuff.

Any parting words to the powers that be?

F**k the Tories.

Instagram: @mrlukenthat

Words Stevie Westgarth

Images Luke Morgan and Stuart Armstrong