Gill and Jon of Sytch Farm Studios have been champions of the Ludlow Food Festival for years now, becoming a Festival favourite both with visitors and exhibitors alike. We caught up with them to find out more about them, their business and their passion for collaboration.
Tell us in a nutshell about Sytch Farm Studios?
Sytch Farm is our home where we both have our studios - Jon has wood and metal working spaces and a painting studio, and I have my pottery, glaze room and kiln room. As we make such a broad range of products, it seemed only right to call ourselves Sytch Farm Studios. We both design, make and produce items for sale, some ordered, some for general sale and some as very bespoke commissions. We’ve both always made/created pieces - the business developed slowly over the first couple of years as we both had ‘day jobs’ - now we are lucky to work from home full time.
When and how did Sytch Farm Studios start?
Hobbies that became jobs. We moved here seven years ago and one of the reasons was to get more studio space. I had a potters wheel but no space for a kiln - I threw pots as a relaxing 'time out' hobby after a hard day teaching art. Jon was limited to good weather if he wanted to make in wood or metal, so the space really helped.
Do you have a favourite product to make?
We both like the variation of the products we make - never having the same day and always the chance to vary things up. Jon’s recently started frame building cycling bikes!
Which celebrity chefs use your pottery?
Tom Kerridge is one of our main chefs but now loads of others too - too many to list - along with a whole load of hardcore home chefs who get the whole idea of having hard made tableware to serve on.
The list is always growing.
With all that you have achieved so far, what has been your greatest achievement?
Being able to support ourselves with what we make - we both had day jobs which we have been able to move away from.
You are well known for collaborating with some fantastic local producers. How important is collaboration to the ethos of Sytch Farm Studios?
To be honest, it's not something we ever plan - there just happen to be so many fantastic makers/producers around this area and everyone is so supportive of each other. If you know you can work together in any way, why not?! It's as much a karma idea - helping people out - and it comes back to us in bucket loads. I love being able to swap products too! But being able to recommend businesses when you know the passion and care people put in - whether its Tom from Paso Primero wine flying out to check his grapes or to Sarah Crowe at Strawberry Fields Farm working through the nights when lambing to make sure all her girls are okay - all of us work long hours, and hard hours too, to get it right. If I get approached by a chef or restaurant I will always give them a list of the producers we know - our latest postcard features us along side Paso Primero, Shropshire Salumi and Appleby Cheese as we all love each other's products. It's more of a 'why would you not?' theory instead of a 'why do you?' And we'll do it in any way that fits.
You are a Ludlow Food Festival favourite, what do you enjoy about the Festival?
Easy - the stall holders, the organisation and the customers. First time stall holders comment on the knowledge of the customers - this is not a free taster show, this is a bit special!
What are you looking forward to most about the Festival this year?
First three days off in a row since March! Been flat out most of the year so I’ll be the stall holder grinning as I get to have the time to talk. I can't wait for the the demos and the Friday evening Fire & Feast - oh, and a bit of shopping too!
When readers find you at the Festival, what can they expect to find?
Right now I’m not too sure as I’m making as much as I can after a large restaurant order - hopefully some old favourites along side a selection of one off pieces.
Tea or coffee?
Proper fresh brewed flat white coffee with breakfast - then tea all day
Wine, beer or gin?
Given a choice, red wine - no wonder Tom and Emma from Paso Primero have become good friends! Being able to quiz Tom on the ins and outs of wine making is fascinating!
Cooking outside or inside?
Both all year round - Jon built a massive wood fired oven in the garden using kiln building ideas and kilns bricks so it gets really hot and stays hot. We’ve also got an amazing Kadai firebowl - sponsors of the Fire Kitchen stage - and that gets a lot of use. We had a dinner party the last weekend of November last year and with the Kadai firebowl and the wood oven everyone, stayed outside till midnight - madness!
And with all of this, we don’t take any of it for granted. We’re only as good as the last pieces we produce. There are lots of great potters and carpenters out there. Having the support of the public is very much appreciated.
Thank you to The Artisan Storyteller for the images of Gill and Jon.