For almost 30 years, Lindy Wiffen at Ceramica Blue has been providing beautiful plates for locals and celebrity chefs alike
Tucked along Blenheim Crescent in the heart of Portobello is Ceramica Blue, a place that’s wall to wall colour, and impossible to walk into without cracking a smile. Starting life almost 30 years ago selling Tuscan pottery, Ceramica Blue has since grown to offer a wonderful array of crockery and dining accessories.
From chunky French stoneware and colourful Spanish terracotta to fine English bone china and traditional creamware, the goods are sought after, not only by local and regular customers; but also by famous chefs and top-notch restaurants around the world. ‘I love the way you can add character to a table with an eclectic mix of things,’ says owner Lindy Wiffen. ‘And life is too short to dust. So everything we sell is both beautiful and functional. Each piece has a point of interest, whether that’s the colour or an unusual shape or pattern.’ There are even plans for a Ceramica Blue range later in the year.
Lindy’s love of colour and pottery was honed during her childhood in Wairarapa in New Zealand, where the nearest shop was twenty miles away. ‘The light there is stronger, so the colours look saturated and I love that boldness,’ she says. ‘But also my mother had a great eye. She had travelled around Europe extensively in the 50s and had bought all these beautiful pieces. She was a city girl who ended up living on a farm in a remote area, so she recreated her travels by using these lovely things every day.’
Lindy provides crockery for Mark Hix, Yotam Ottolenghi and many others
The thirst for travel obviously rubbed off as aged 23 Lindy packed her bags, jacked in a career as a production manager in the film industry and headed for Europe. One of Lindy’s first stops was Florence where she ended up living above a pottery. It was a frequent indulgence and Lindy soon built up a collection of colourful hand-painted pieces. ‘When archaeologists find a shard of pottery from thousands of years ago, they get so excited,’ she says. ‘They’re humble things like bowls but they tell so much about the people who lived there, they’re a snapshot of history.’
After exploring Europe, next on the agenda was London, and Lindy pitched up in Portobello. ‘I only knew two people here but they’d offered to put me up,’ she explains. ‘So I came here and loved it straight away.’
Having settled into the area and found a job and a boyfriend, Lindy often threw large Sunday lunches, where her beautiful collection of crockery and tableware would make an appearance. ‘Friends would always comment and ask where they could buy it,’ she says. ‘Looking back it was very different to what was available here at that time.’
An idea was sparked, and when she spotted a small premises on Clarendon Road, Lindy decided to set up shop. Two years later she moved to Blenheim Crescent, where she remains today. Lindy’s wanderlust has continued and over the years the shop has evolved.
Today, quirky modern dinnerware by British designer, Andrew Tanner, sits comfortably alongside elegant glass carafes from Sweden and retro striped Cornishware. ‘I like things that are well considered, well made and work properly. I’m a bit of a magpie so I’m always scouting for things,’ she says.
Lindy’s taste was also spotted by those who like to host on a large scale and the business took a new turn a few years ago. ‘A gentleman came in and said he’d be interested in me supplying his restaurant,’ she explains. ‘The man turned out to be Gordon Ramsay and since then we have been working with him to source tableware.’
Other chefs and restaurateurs noticed what she was doing too and now Lindy provides crockery for Mark Hix, Yottam Ottolenghi and many others. ‘I have access to different potteries and craftspeople around the world – small manufacturers of glass and cutlery, so I can help restaurateurs to find an individual look that suits them,’ Lindy explains.
So what does Lindy use for entertaining in her own home? ‘It depends what we’re eating, the season or the mood of the day,’ she says.
Much like her mother, casual everyday dining is as much of a reason for Lindy to bring out her favourite cups, bowls or plates as a big celebration. ‘We all need to eat and drink, why not make it as lovely as possible and eat or drink out of something you love?’
10 Blenheim Crescent W11 1NN; ceramicablue.co.uk