I read Electronic Engineering at Southampton University and my first job was working on CT X-ray scanners at EMI’s Research labs. In the early 1980s I co-founded an R&D company with two other likeminded people and we worked on a whole range of medical, commercial and government projects over the years. By the time I retired in 2017, I was CEO of a software company developing artificial intelligence software for CCTV systems.


I first became interested in pottery in 2004 when I visited the Wedgwood factory in Stoke on Trent, where visitors were encouraged to try their hand at throwing a pot on a wheel. I was instantly hooked and when I came home I found an evening pottery course at Esher Green Adult Education Centre, which I have continued with for the past 15 years. 

Since retiring, I have worked almost full time as a potter in my home studio. I have been focusing on various forms of raku recently, which is a rapid smoke firing technique that has been traditionally used in Japan since 16th century for making tea ceremony pottery. Raku started becoming popular in the West in the 1950s and has developed into

Geoff Thiel - ready for SAOS.jpg

several sub-branches such as naked raku, horsehair raku and saggar firing. Raku involves a brutally fast firing cycle, with the pieces being heated to 1000 ⁰C and then back to room temperature in about 40 minutes. This contrasts with a conventional ceramics firing cycle of about 2 days.  The raku clay I use is specially formulated porcelain which can tolerate the heat-shock of the firing.


My technical background has influenced the direction of my ceramics work. I tend to design on a computer and use a computer-controlled cutter for making paper and vinyl stencils used during glazing. I’m also interested in glaze chemistry and I enjoy the challenge of glaze formulation and development.


I make simply shaped pieces comprising 2 or 3 smooth curves blended together. In the case of the bare-clay techniques (horsehair raku, naked raku and saggar firing) there is no glaze and so the surface of the pot has to be prepared as the final finish. This is achieved by firstly applying clay slip and then terra sigillata (a very fine clay slip) with careful burnishing at each stage to give a silky smooth surface.

I have also started doing some teaching helping other potters to improve their throwing technique.