Oli Stanion has always loved connecting with people. Making things has been a way to facilitate that in every aspect of his life.
Having originally studied Fashion Design at Salford University, he did what so many creatives feel the urge to do, and relocated to London. He opened a shop and cafe called The Vintage Emporium. It was a tea room and vintage shop on Bacon Street, just off Brick Lane in Shoreditch. At the time, the neighbourhood felt like the epicentre of an alternative universe. They sold everything from genuine Victorian pieces up to the 1950s. By all accounts, they had a total blast. More than just a cafe space, the location became a creative hub, a place where people gravitated to.
Around this time, Oli began attending various pottery classes around East London and eventually became a member of Turning Earth, an open access pottery studio in Hoxton. Turning Earth is a collaborative, open-to-all space that provides potters of all abilities a nurturing environment to hone their craft. The studio offers everything from beginner classes to professional level workshops and encourages creativity and experimentation with clay. With a mission to make pottery accessible to everyone, Turning Earth also provides all the necessary tools and materials for their members. With a ‘just bring your own clay’ approach, it was the perfect test bed for Oli to pursue his next creative endeavour.
Pottery, he explains, can be a multitude of things. It can be both solitary and social, that requires both discipline and intuition. It wasn’t until Oli moved back to Manchester that he made pottery his living. His approach was to learn as many skills as possible by apprenticing with potters in Manchester, Wales and Melbourne. This series of apprenticeships culminated in Oli opening Moss Studio Store in 2019. He started it up with his sister, who has a background in finance and looks after the business side of things.
His location was an easy choice. Altrincham – a market town located on the outer edges of Greater Manchester and on the cusp of the Cheshire countryside – was where Oli grew up. And it wasn’t just nostalgia that helped him choose the spot. With a thriving independent business scene and a direct link to the city centre, and tons of leafy parks to walk the dogs, it felt like the perfect place to settle, and begin to make again.
He says: “Working with clay is very relaxing, meditative and also great fun so it's a lovely thing to teach. I also like the fact that after everything has been fired and glazed people have a functional object which they can use and enjoy”. If you spend any amount of time in Oli’s shop it’ll be punctuated by people popping in to collect their pieces, rummaging around amongst the piles of clay in different stages of life, to retrieve their now-finished pieces. It’s an unexpected social hub.
Oli teaches pottery classes most of the week, but when he isn’t, he’s still in the shop, talking to customers and working on his own projects. The space is an extension of his personality and his home (which is nearby too). Getting a good start to the day involves getting there as early as possible. “Walk the dogs, feed the dogs, get to the studio” is how he describes it. There’s not always much time for pulling out outfits, though his background in fashion and vintage selling mean that he has a sharp sense of what he wants to wear, and how it sets him up for his day. “I’m not the kind of person who has smart clothes and work clothes, everything is covered in clay”.