Mareware     Ceramics

Coastal Cuisines

Coastal Cuisines is a collaborative ceramic art project in Sunderland, exploring the intersection of diverse cultures and local food traditions with a strong emphasis on sustainability. Led by ceramicist Mary Watson participants engaged in immersive experiences, exploring marine ecology, food traditions, and heritage at various coastal locations.

Inspired by Sunderland Lusterware, the project aimed to weave together the relationships between communities and their coastlines across different time periods. The resulting tableware reflects the culmination of these experiences, featuring unique designs that tell the story of the community's journey.

The incorporation of QR codes add an interactive element to the tableware but also serves as a sustainable initiative, reducing the need for additional physical materials. By leveraging technology, the community's story is brought into the fabric of the ceramic work.

Coastal Cuisines serves as a model for combining artistic expression, cultural exploration, and environmental consciousness within a community context. By promoting sustainable practices and telling the story through multimedia elements, the project underscores the interconnectedness of communities, their coastlines, and the importance of eco-conscious approaches in shaping our collective future.

The Coastal Communities community group is made up of members from ICOS (International Community Organisation of Sunderland), FODI (a drop-in service for refugees and asylum seekers), City of Sanctuary, Back on the Map (a community space in Hendon) and Sangini (a wellbeing support group for Bangladeshi women).

Coastal Cuisine, podcast

Myself, project manager Suzy O’Hara, food researcher Suzanne Hocknall and Fanni Ngambi talk about working with the project participants, the community that grew around this work and our journey of discovery! From marine ecologies, coastal heritage to ceramic tableware.

This podcast was created by Lotte Steele.

We want to thank all the wonderful participants who took part in this project and our partners FODI, ICOS, City of Sanctuary, Back on the Map, Sangini, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and Life Kitchen.

Coastal Cuisine was commissioned by SeaScapes Co/Lab, (University of Sunderland) working in collaboration with Foodscapes (Newcastle University), National Trust and National Glass Centre. The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and forms part of SeaScapes: From Tyne to Tees, shores and seas.

Cooking Sessions at Life Kitchen 

Audio and editing curtesy of Lotte Steele 

Project Celebration

Photography curtesy of Colin Davidson 

Families Tableware Production Workshop 

Photography courtesy of Colin Davidson

Trip to Sunderland Marina Wild Oyster Project.

Photography courtesy of Colin Davidson.

A Small Selection of Participant Drawings from Across the Project

Photography cutresy Mary Watson

Drawing Games, 2021

Through a series of drawing workshops with family, friends, and colleagues we  explore the question: what objects from our lives do we value and why? Influenced by archaeological ceramics, drawing games and social histories I have created several ceramic and glass sculptures. These sculptures act as an alternative portraiture, not depicting images of people, but instead helping us consider ourselves through the objects, patterns, and shapes that we surround ourselves with, entwined and abstracted in our memories. This work was exhibited: in the National Glass Centre, 2021; Pineapple Black and Redcar Palace, 2022.




“It seems to come everywhere with me, even when you wouldn’t really need to bring a rucksack. I’ll pop out for a short walk and have my rucksack. I’ll go to the shop to get one item and I’ll have my rucksack.”

Ruth Watson, 28, Reading.



“ I chose to draw a gum shield because I feel it is a great representation of rugby and the joy I feel when playing. I chose to draw this one because it's an item that I've had and replaced many times in the fifteen years that I have played rugby. The gum shield I used as reference is the brand that I have used most consistently and have felt the most comfortable using. For me no alternative has beaten it.”

Jacob MacCormak, 24, Highlands.


“The little silver jug you’re looking at, I’m very fond of it. My husband and I, John, bought it for his parent’s silver wedding. Which must be a long time ago now, I can’t remember the year, and I’ve liked it ever since”

Ruth Watson, 94, Cumbria


“The name of the pot I drew is Sankofa. It reminds me of the first pot I made when I went to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. In my first year we were taught modelling processes in clay, and using pinching methods I made this pot. I was pleased with the finishing I gave to it and have kept it for a long time. The pot became a stepping stone in my ceramics career.”

Anthony, 32, Sunderland




“This is not a sound I grew up with, its one that found me, and it found me through a hat! ... With each piece of informational discovery, this hat was becoming a part of me, Millwall was taking over, and I was loving it!

Ed Moody, 32, Glasgow



“My house keys represent somewhere safe and homely for me and my husband to live in. My car keys enable me to travel to work, the supermarket and now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, go and visit friends and family that I haven’t seen for ages... the last thing on my key ring is the fob from the 2012 Olymics which is a nice reminder of that Olympic summer.”

Suzie Williams, Sunderland




For me, bringing that dish out of my cupboard and filling it with homemade strawberry or raspberry jam and presenting it on the table with afternoon tea... just takes me back and brings me great pleasure.

Karen, 61, Essex

All Participant Drawings












Functional Archive

Sculptural Archive


Time for Tea, 2020
Time for Tea, with Veterans in Crisis, 2020

Time for Tea, Veterins in Crisis, 2020
VICS MAKE, 2021 Make, Veterans in Crisis, 2021