The Super Sparrow is a ceramics brand that was launched by designer-maker Lilly Mandarano in 2017. Lilly builds and glazes all pieces by hand, meaning that every product is unique.

Working from her studio in Deptford, Lilly’s ceramics are inspired by simple shapes and colours from nature; resulting in products that look organic and invite you to pick them up.

What course did you study at UAL?

BA (Hons) Fine Art. Although, I was told by one of the tutors on my Foundation Diploma at Wimbledon School of Art that I should choose product design as that came very naturally to me – I got there in the end in a lovely roundabout way!

What’s your fondest memory from your time at UAL?

I most enjoyed the freedom to take ideas wherever the research took me. I had a couple tutors who really understood my ideas and writing. They helped to push my practice into places I hadn’t expected it to go.

How did your company come about?

I was working on exploring clay as a way of replacing the digital forms I was making in my animations. This developed into designing small functional objects and this practice took on a life of its own. Before long I was being stocked in a couple shops and things developed from there!

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by primal geometric forms (circles predominantly) and also ideas of repetition and the individuality found within repetitive forms made naturally. I have always collected small stones which feel cosy in my hands and show the effects the elements, natural ebb and flow has had on them. In this way I like my work to show some ‘maker’s mark’ to tell part of the story of each piece coming into being.

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?

I wanted a subtle, pared down palette that was sophisticated and complimentary. Some colours are like the ocean, some like the night sky and others reflect the simplicity of the materials.

What purchase have you currently got your eye on?

In terms of my business, I’m looking at buying a wheel when I move to my new studio. In terms of my personal life, I want a new bathroom! Too big an ask?

Where is your most inspiring place in London?

There isn’t much in London that can beat walking southwards over Waterloo Bridge at night. I get butterflies in my stomach and feel totally invigorated. The lights, the air of possibility and the movement towards home, as I live in South London.

What advice would you give current students hoping to start their own business?

Be a sponge; absorb ideas from the world around you and make them your own. Then, make work you’re proud of. Also make sure you reconsider things if they’re not working. My business is still in progress and evolving all the time.

What’s next for your brand?

I’m very keen to bring out a new collection this year. Possibly a very counter-intuitive colour scheme in the summer. I’d also like to begin planning an idea I’ve had to run courses at my new studio.

Anything to add?

One of the best things about running your own business is the flexibility it gives you, but this can also lead to having too much choice. Don’t be afraid to talk through options and ideas with other people but remember to trust your gut and do what feels right for your business. It is your creation.

See products by The Super Sparrow.

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