Brother and sister team Josh and Tabby Cole are reimagining Rye Pottery for a new generation, now joining forces with Turner Contemporary on a new capsule collection.

Josh and Tabby Cole are the third generation of their family to run Rye Pottery. Although the pottery had been an important and much-loved part of both their respective childhoods, directed as it was by their late parents Quin and Biddy Cole, both had been initially set on alternative careers – Josh as an actor (credits including ‘The Beach’ with Tilda Swinton), and Tabby as a media journalist and film researcher.

A sudden heart scare for their father led them to step in and help run the family business. This is what it took for them to realise their passion for the pottery and informed their decision to proudly continue in the Cole tradition.  They now jointly run the business and its team of eight, with Hastings-resident Josh as Creative & Design Director and sister Tabby taking the lead in Business & Sales. Whilst being respectful of a company heritage that stretches back to 1793, the siblings have in turn brought a fresh outlook to steer Rye Pottery successfully into the 21st Century, a central part of which includes cleverly revisiting and reinterpreting the Pottery’s extensive archives, tapping into the still insatiable trend for all things ‘Mid-Century Modern’ and forging exciting new creative partnerships.

Now, all of these elements have come into play as Rye Pottery partners with one of the UK’s leading art galleries, Turner Contemporary, just up the coast in Margate. They have worked with Director Clarrie Wallace (until 2022 The Tate’s Senior Curator Modern & Contemporary Art) on a striking design, ‘Breakwater’, which appears across a capsule collection of vases, utensil pots and lamp bases. Initially conceived by his grandfather, Wally Cole MBE, the design has now been completed and brought to life by Josh and is being launched to coincide with the launch of Turner Contemporary’s Spring exhibition, Beyond Form: Linesof Abstraction, 1950-1970.

Two thin black and white patterned vases

Running until 6th May, the exhibition connects the work of over 50 women artists from across the globe with a shared language of radical abstraction, and the Mid-Century Modern aesthetic of the Rye Pottery shapes and abstract style of hand-painted design complement the exhibition perfectly. The surface decoration of the Breakwater collection takes its inspiration from Southern pebbles beaches and their weathered wooden posts, known as groynes.

“We are really honoured to have been given the opportunity to bring this historically and personally significant design to life, having spent many years holding onto the design originally conceived by our grandfather,” says Tabby. “We’re excited to be introducing
Turner Contemporary’s audience to Rye Pottery through the collection and are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership with this incredibly significant cultural institution.”

Rye Pottery is one of just a handful of production potteries worldwide that continues to produce everything by hand, using a 17th-century decorating technique known as Faience, Majolica or Delft. At their East Sussex workshops, each piece undergoes a minimum of twelve hand processes before reaching its finished state and at the heart of this process is the freehand brushwork of the skilled painting team. It has a long history of producing sought-after ceramicware with a traditional approach to craftsmanship and design that is revered and respected worldwide. Whilst upholding past traditions, Josh and Tabby have also committed to forging new alliances and reaching the attention of contemporary customers, and recent creative partnerships have included a collection of lamp-bases developed for Soho House, a project with award-winning London pub group Darwin & Wallace, a dinner service for celebrated English Vineyard Gusbourne, and tiles for a Grand Designs build. Their typically fresh approach to the Coronation of King Chales was to develop Lion and Unicorn bookends which were playfully decorated with tongue-in-cheek

tattoo art, presenting an alternative and more thoughtful look at the nation’s relationship with the Royals, past, present and future. Clarrie Wallis, Director of Turner Contemporary, comments: “Turner Contemporary is excited to partner with Rye Pottery on a new collection inspired by the 1950s and 60s – a golden era in the pottery’s history. This collaboration honours a significant period in the
decorative arts and resonates beautifully with our ‘Beyond Form’ exhibition, which explores the emergence of post-war abstraction and its role in shaping a new period of creative expression.”

The partnership with Rye Pottery further exemplifies the gallery’s commitment to supporting the vibrant community of craftspeople and the creative industries in the Southeast. It represents an opportunity to champion traditional craftsmanship and innovative design, furthering Turner Contemporary’s role in nurturing the rich cultural landscape of the region. “Wally was a very forward looking individual and we think he’d be delighted his original design was seeing the light of day after all these years,” says Josh, “and really proud to see it on the shelves of Turner Contemporary too!” Breakwater is exclusively available from Turner Contemporary – . Prices range from £30 for a pen pot to £495 for a large lamp base.

Rye Pottery can be visited at or 6 Wish Ward, Rye, TN31 7DH

Beyond Form: Lines of Abstraction 1950-1970 runs at the Turner Contemporary until 6 th
May. Entry is free.