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Chris Beardshaw Urns for the RNLI Chelsea Flower Show Garden 2022

We were delighted to be asked by Chris Beardshaw to create two bespoke urns for the RNLI garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2022. Everything we do here at Whichford is a team effort and the journey of these magnificent pots has taken the skill and craft of our whole team starting with Brian and Steve in the clay room all the way to John, our delivery driver who transported them to the show ground… here are some of the highlights of the making process!

Designing the Urns 

The design of the two urns nods to the 18th century roots of the RNLI whilst signalling the continual modern technological advances which they make. The final motif is based on an Eryngium maritimum, which is a sea holly native to the UK. It is repeated three times around the pot. Sections of the motif are hand carved by Jim to create the originals which are then used to create Plaster of Paris moulds for our decorators to use. The Eryngium maritimum design is made up of five individual moulds.

Mould Casting 

Each original clay carving has to be cast, this is technically quite a feat with moulds this large and Joe and Jim worked hard building up clay walls to pour the plaster in before it sets and make sure the angle they set at is just right for the wall of the pot. Once the plaster has set successfully, the moulds are scraped back and cleaned up ready for the decorators. 

Throwing the Urns 

Adam took Chris and Jim’s design and carefully calculated the weight and sizes of each element of the Urn before throwing them in three meticulous sections, which are stiffened with a flame before being joined to reach the final desired height. 

Forming The Flare 

The distinct, elegant flare of the Urn represents the wake of a lifeboat as it speeds through the water. Adam really put the material to the test as he curved the rim out as far as it is feasible to take the clay. 

Decorating Urns 

Once the clay has hardened Sas and Rachel line up the moulds to form the decorative motif, the stem was stylised to adopt the form of the hull of a RNLI Severn Class lifeboat and so getting the moulds to join in exactly the right place was time consuming and intricate work. The decoration is made up of over twenty individual moulds which have been beaten out from inside of the pot before being revealed. The moulds were less deep than usual as Chris wanted to create light delicate relief that strengthened, rather than took away from, the simplicity of the form. 

Throwing the Plinths 

The two Urns sit on top of both a pedestal and a straight-sided base plinth as a Gothic urn would have. Each plinth was made in three sections and formed out to create as straight a line as possible, which when throwing large earthernware pieces is extremely skilful. The chunky rim and footring give weight to the final form and then a central band of imprinted coral patterning. 

Once all three elements of both urns have been thoroughly dried and been through the dehumidifer programme Joe painstakingly applied layers of light slip misting to each element to gently highlight the details whilst give the texture of weathering. And then of course, we loaded them into a six day firing programme…

The urns in situ on Chris Beardshaw’s Gold Medal winning The RNLI Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2022.