Henry Holland “made himself redundant” in the early days of 2020. The British designer sold his fashion label House of Holland right as the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered stores and threw the industry into disarray. “I was burned out and a bit disillusioned,” Holland tells Broadsheet. “But I was still so passionate and proud of everything I had done. I wanted to walk away before I really tipped over the edge.” He didn’t really have a plan.

During the initial wave of lockdowns in the UK, Holland Instagrammed a picture of his lunch. It was sitting on a plate he and his partner had been gifted for their wedding. Recognising her work, the ceramicist responsible replied. A serendipitous friendship bloomed – and it changed Holland’s course.

He started taking ceramics classes when social distancing rules permitted, but when his teacher had to move back to Turkey, Holland took things into his own hands. “I ordered a bunch of clay and was really just playing around with hand-building,” he says. “I got the bug and started making everything at my kitchen table.”

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Anyone familiar with House of Holland will know the brand as a frenzy of colour and prints. That audacious spirit is innate for Holland. “I was so used to creating patterns in fabrics through weaving or digital prints. But when I tried to add checks or stripes with a glaze, it came out – not how I was expecting it to.”

Determined to produce rich patterns and hues, Holland went down a Youtube rabbit hole and discovered the nerikomi technique from Japan, where the colour is in the clay itself, not the glaze. Coloured clay is stacked and sliced to create mesmeric patterns – a method that inspired Henry Holland Studio’s now-signature swirling designs.

There’s a watery quality to the motifs adorning Holland’s newly released tableware collection, made in collaboration with Australian homewares label Jardan. The green and blue “oceanic” colourway is specifically inspired by time spent around Bondi and Bronte in Sydney’s east. “I’ve been obsessed with Australia since I first visited in about 2010,” he says. This time, Holland was only in Sydney for 48 hours, for the launch of the Jardan collection. After his interview with Broadsheet wrapped, he was heading to do a coast walk.

Although it’s been a success, Holland didn’t intend to start a ceramics brand. But when the meditative hobby became a business opportunity, he ran with it. “My plan was to consult for brands. But I quickly realised that I really missed the process of physically making products.”

Holland and his team (he works with about nine ceramicists) build all the pieces by hand in a studio in Hackney, in London’s East End. Working in ceramics has taught Holland to live at a new pace, he says. And to have lots of patience. “Fashion teaches you to work like a donkey. But with ceramics, it’s much slower and there’s so many parts of the process that can fail.”

Another element that Holland has borrowed from his previous career is a focus on function. “I want the pieces to be used. They’re beautiful and decorative but they’re also functional.”

If you look closely at the shapes in the collection, you’ll realise that they’re all formed from a few core pieces. For example, the Profumo vase is essentially two bowls stacked with two mugs. “I’m not a big planner,” Holland says with a laugh. “I like to create in the moment, building things and trying things out. Sometimes I’m halfway through a piece before I really know what the outcome is going to be”.

Jardan is the exclusive retailer of Henry Holland in Australia.

This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.