In 1960, Susan Williams-Ellis and her husband, Euan Cooper-Willis purchased a small pottery decorating company in Stoke-on-Trent called A.E.Gray Ltd. Susan had worked with A.E. Gray for some years, sending her designs there to be produced exclusively for the gift shop at the Portmeirion Village in North Wales, which had been created by her father, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925.
Previously Susan had Fine Art training from Chelsea Polytechnic, where her tutors included Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland. In 1961 Susan and Euan purchased a second pottery firm, called Kirkham's Ltd. This was equipped for actual pottery manufacture, whereas Gray's could only decorate. This allowed Susan to start designing shapes rather than surface pattern alone (in the 1960's it was considered quite unusual for a designer to do both). Her first set of shapes were based on some existing cylindrical moulds ('Porous Cells') found at the factory. In 1963 saw the introduction of the "Totem" embossed range produced by Susan Williams-Ellis. Success of this design establishes Portmeirion as an innovative force in ceramic design.
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