Hackney shops may come and go, but potter Caroline Bousfield is here to stay

Caroline Bousfield in her studio. Credit: Kaitlin Ramby.

If you walk around Victoria long enough, you’ll hear mention of Caroline Bousfield. Whether it’s about her pottery studio, her hand-crafted furniture services, her membership with numerous Hackney traders groups, her chairmanship of several local events, or her gardening initiatives at the roundabout on Lauriston Road. She’s a figure in the community who is pretty hard to miss.

As you approach the door of her studio, you can hear the hum of her pottery wheel turning. Her hand are covered in her latest creation.

“I’ve been here in the workshop since 1975,” Caroline Bousfield, 69, explains as she washes away the remnants of clay from her hands.

There’s a bit of clay dust here and there, but it’s comfortable and warm, the type of place that might be nice to escape to if you were in need of a quiet retreat.

Bousfield studied three-dimensional design and earned her postgraduate art teacher certificate from Goldsmiths College before purchasing her studio in Victoria with her husband, who worked as a designer for Ford Motor Company for many years.

When the couple bought the studio in 1975 it took them seven months to prepare for its opening. “We bought it in March and it needed a lot of work done to it and I was able to open at the end of October. Actually, here’s a photo of us taken that day,” showing me a black and white laminated photo of her and her husband in front of the studio.

“I knitted that sweater for him,” she beams proudly, “that’s us standing there in front of [the shop], and me being pregnant at the time with our first daughter Lucy.”

Bousfield has two daughters, both of whom grew up running around in the studio.

“One of my daughters loves making things. She’s always making costumes and baking and is very busy. She is quite creative.”

“When [the girls] started to go to nursery school I shared the space with other potters for about 12 or 15 years. It was good for me because of course if there was someone working here then the shop was open too. So it worked out very well, some of them lodged with us as well.”

“I’ve been here the longest in terms of proprietor. I probably am the oldest too. When I first came there were quite a few empty shops. Then new people started to come and open up we started a little association so that we could talk about common things and support each other.”

“I’ve made my life here, and I probably don’t approach it quite properly as a business to be quite truthful. It’s been hard work but its been therapy… doing what I love.”

Bousfield has been creative from a young age.

“I always wanted to make things from when I was a child, whatever it was,” she adds.  

“I enjoy both wood and clay. With wood things can be much bigger… you do have to concentrate much harder because of the measurements. Clay is much more spontaneous, if you take too much of something, you just take some off and carry on.”

She is also is someone who is deeply-rooted in her community and has dedicated so much of her time to helping it grow and prosper. She bumps into local councillor Katie Hanson on Sunday, “because we sing in the choir together” and organised the Lauriston Road Christmas market for several years.

From our chat, one thing seems to be clear: the community here wouldn’t be nearly the same without Caroline Bousfield’s presence over the years.

“I do the gardening on the roundabout too. I’ve since got a little group of people together at various times who’ve said ‘I’ll come help you’. It’s an asset for community value to have half a dozen people do something nice”