for my artist practice blog
March Meet The Maker - Instagram challenge
Day One eek, had a deadline to hit yesterday so i'm super behind #marchmeetthemaker so here is Day One post for yesterday, an old photo as i utterly hate having my photo taken but my bestie insisted one time and she's hard to say no to! #designermaker #allmyownwork #ceramicjewellery #dontlikethis (the photo bit that is)
Day Two #marchmeetthemaker my favourite range is my houses. they've been around a while now, one of the original ranges I started out with, but they remain a firm favourite. I learnt so much in the making of them; little tricks I still use to this day. originally I intended to illustrate a range of houses but whilst collating images to draw from I realised that the houses were so quirky that actually they would be better left as a photo. the photos were taken on narrow streets and so there is an incredible amount of time spent editing out cars and pavements and lamp posts. they were the first range I cut to follow the outline of the images, which has really helped to enhance future ranges too. over the years a few new houses have tried to get in on the act but now they have been paired back and all apart from one are the original group. I can't ever imagine not having them as a range, they're an old reliable friend #ceramicjewellery #allmyownwork#designermaker #gallerystock #pottery#craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade
Day Three #marchmeetthemaker • Workspace
When we originally moved to this house there was already a standard 6x8 garden shed with two little windows that I took over and managed to turn into a studio with my equally small kiln. Almost 4 years ago I did an Arts Award project called Down Our Street with the RBSA and a primary and secondary school. I managed to save all the pennies from that and bought myself a 14x10 log cabin and later on a larger kiln!
The #desk is set out as ergonomically as possible; my tools straight in front, racks for storing blanks waiting to be glazed to the right, current bag of clay at feet, clay recycling bin to side on floor and current little inspirations on the little raised shelf. On the walls are either my work or other artists/potters that I love to have around me #pottery #craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade #maker #selfemployed #designermaker
Day Four #marchmeetthemaker • Tools
Funnily enough, whilst I have 3 trays of clay tools, the core ones that are always utilised are not many. There are also various bits of pipe, metal rods, buttons, rulers and lace that are sometimes called upon. The only tool forgotten here is a glaze sieve, but for various reasons I have quite a collection so they could almost have a photo of just them!
As my desk is the only surface I have to work on I have a system of working on small boards that can be rotated depending on what needs my attention. When I first started out I used my fingers for a lot of the fiddly work, but now I know what tools can do it more efficiently and neatly. I have 3 brushes just for glazing, which is the simplest way to glaze small pieces of clay, although the one in the middle is solely for mixing the powder with the water. Without these tools I couldn't make what I make #studiolife #artistsstudio #pottery #craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade #maker #selfemployed
Day Five #marchmeetthemaker • Boomerang - stacks of clay ready to be dried just a smudge more by rolling them out and working them with a rubber kidney. I always work in batches as my stuff is so small it wouldn't be worth making one little brooch or set of earrings all the way through the 3 firings on their little lonesome. I work with a stoneware which comes in quite squidgy so I break it up into smaller chunks, let them dry out a tad, then leave them on wooden boards with plastic on top to dry slightly more while I work on something else. They need the wood to draw the moisture out but the plastic slows it down considerably so I don't have to worry about them. When I'm ready to start on them I roll a stack of sheets to the correct thickness, pile them up like pancakes and then begin the cutting out process. Apart from the earrings which are standardised sizes, each brooch is individually cut around the transfer it will later have added to it. Fortunately I quite enjoy the repetitiveness of this stage, filling up each board and tucking away the transfers back in their holders to keep them safe #pottery #craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade #maker #selfemployed #designermaker
Day Six #marchmeetthemaker • Raw Materials
Very simply; clay plus glaze = multitude of endless possibilities
I use a white stoneware for my base which often gets mistaken for a porcelain but is significantly easier to control. As my pieces are wearable it is essential to make sure they stay flat and porcelain likes to curl. A potter friend recently recommended a semi-porcelain which I've just bought and looking forward to seeing if it can improve the overall finish of my work.
Glaze either comes in a ready made mix or you can mix the recipe yourself. As my jewellery only requires a transparent glaze I use a ready mix. But I have a fantastic glaze recipe book and the raw materials to make my own now, so lots of experimentation ahead #pottery #craft #design #clay #stoneware #glaze #process #maker #selfemployed
Day Seven #marchmeetthemaker • How it's done
The initial ideas for a range always begin with a collection of photos. These are then 'cut out' in Photoshop so that it is only the main object (house/car/boat) is included. Once a range is complete then the transfers are made into A3 sheets before being sent off for printing. The transfers control the size of the pieces so I cut each one out to fit. The brooches/pendants are made to spec each time but a couple of years ago I simplified the earrings/cufflinks/rings as they are so small it was silly to cut them individually each time. The blanks are then left to dry and biscuit fired to 1000*. After this they all go through a glaze firing to 1240*. Finally the transfers are soaked and then slid onto the glazed blanks, using a rubber kidney to remove all air bubbles. The transfer firing goes up super quick but only to 780*. I spent an afternoon last week just cutting out 2 sheets of transfers so add that to three firings and you're looking about a fortnight to be comfortably making them from start to finish. The ceramic processes are quite traditional, the difference is simply the imagery being used.
#pottery #craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade #maker #selfemployed
Day Eight #marchmeetthemaker • Where
Me and the family are based in a small town in Warwickshire that we moved to just over 7 years ago. We're still getting to know the place really, but thoroughly enjoying exploring the countryside all around. My mum grew up about 20 mins from where we are but moved to London to do her teaching degree and that's where I grew up, so quite a change. I still go back to London regularly and will always consider myself a Londoner at heart but for now Warwickshire is home. There certainly seems to be a lot of makers in this little town so there must be something about it, although a castle is always an added bonus #localarea #mystompingground #tree #warwickshire #handmade #maker #selfemployed
Day Nine #marchmeetthemaker • Work in progress
Not a particularly glamorous shot today, but a realistic one none the less. I didn't have a great deal of time this week as prepping for The London Artisan this weekend. I've spent most of January and February drawing so I've only just got back into the flow of making. This year I've set myself a few big challenges and so the making of anything new is only just beginning. As I have a habit of latching onto an initial idea and not pushing it further I'm consciously trying not to push too hard or rush the process. Sometimes it's more about quality at the end of the day #wip #pottery #craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade #maker #selfemployed
Day Ten #marchmeetthemaker • Recommend a maker
There was never a chance of me recommending one so here are 9, but believe me, even that was hard.
Top row L-R @atsarahs I met this lovely lady last year at a trade fair in London. Her quilts are so colourful and inviting, but it's the cathedral cushions that blew my mind; so intricate and beautiful.
@angela_evans_ceramic_tiles First seen at #SussexGuild show last year. I really need to be braver in moving into 3D forms and this maker inspires me to do just that. One day I will have one of these lovely pieces ………(running theme here!!). @rosanna_clare Also met this lovely lady last year. A really friendly and hardworking woman whose leather gems are just gorgeous.
Middle L-R @sheredesign Really intricate but quite cute too, silver pieces are what I was drawn too. Met a few times and always good to bounce thoughts around with. Very lucky to have one of her brooches. @chrissiehirst Finely formed, nature inspired jewellery. Very savvy lady who was a great neighbour at Contemporary Craft Fair last year. @debinapril Two techniques that defeat me regularly and yet Deb makes the combination of skills into such captivating little birds.
@raewynharrison Very clever maker who uses a combination of techniques to create site specific ceramic forms. Impressive stuff. @dovestpottery Fantastic maker of studio pottery in functional forms in warm tones. Also good for a pottery debate! @clarecrouchman A very recent discovery but the work speaks to me so much in terms of what I am experimenting with myself at the moment
Day eleven #marchmeetthemaker • Post Whilst I appreciate every order, packing them up is not my finest moment! I know the majority of makers have either personalised packaging or boxes, but it's not something I've ever got in to, far too interested in recycling on my part. So there are lots of bags with stuff stuffed in them, that get used one way or another eventually #apotterslife #lifeofajeweller #studiolife #artistsstudio
Day Twelve #marchmeetthemaker • Brand image
There are two ways of looking at this, firstly, an image that sums up your brand, and secondly, what image your brand sums up.
My work is thought-led which in turn triggers recognition of a simple motif of something interesting or lovely. The imagery is of a familiar, tangible entity that evokes a warm longing for simpler pleasures and inviting environments. I designed the #logo based on my best selling design. The blue is the colour I painted my shed/studio and featured as the sole colour on the sculpture I did for my Masters, which explored the notion of how a space can be a sanctuary just as my studio is. Yellow is my go to colour when I'm in a good mood and felling creative. From when the logo was established I have then used the same yellow and blue in my displays to further reinforce the brand image. #designermaker #creativity #brand #brandidentity
Day Thirteen #marchmeetthemaker • Photography
My relationship with photography goes back to when I was 16, just started my A Levels and doing a photography GCSE too. I ended up dropping one A level and upping the GCSE to A level instead. I was really quite fortunate as I was the only one being taught skills I still use today. Of course it was all film based and when you use film you hone your understanding in fine detail. Now, of course, it's much simpler with digital cameras and phones doing the lions share. I use a Canon 350d which is quite old now, but still works great. To be honest I've never fully bought in to the whole style idea that is trendy these days so I take images that I believe show my work to its best #allmyownwork #lifeofajeweller #maker #apotterslife #photography #photoshoot
Day Fourteen #marchmeetthemaker • Creative friends
Whilst these people are all on Instagram it isn't appropriate to give all their names away, but still I wanted to include them.
I do think it's important to have other creative minds around; creativity feeds creativity, finding out about other inspirations, generally bouncing ideas around, is all good for the soul. Each one is at a very different stage of their artistic endeavours and with their own unique skill set and style.
@tinbodkin is simply the best embroiderer you'll ever meet, @pearpotdesigns creates exquisitely finished pieces, and @petal_anderson makes fantastic bags from gorgeous tweed.
The others, well, all super talented but perhaps a tad more private and just as important to me. #friends #creative #creativelives #makercommunity #create #embroidery #ceramics
Day Fifteen #marchmeetthemaker • Work clothes
I will always go for comfort over any aspiration of style when I'm playing with clay. I have a sensible apron but rarely remember to put it on before I get involved with what I'm doing. Sometimes, I end up quite contorted while trying to get something just right and so floaty sleeves and the like are a bad idea. Colour is very important to me and I totally buy in to the notion of how your mood controls your colour choice and vice versa. I haven't worn black in 9 years due to a strong association with mourning after loosing 3 family members within 4 months and so my outfits tend to be quite colourful as a result. Today was my favourite outfit which includes possibly the most unflattering trousers but I just don't care! #mystyle #comfortoverstyle #sensible #designermaker #colours #colourful
Day 16 #marchmeetthemaker• Time to Relax
Without a doubt the one thing I will always return to is gardening. I can be in the foulest of moods or just a bit baffled by a multitude of creative decisions and to dig or sow for hours makes me 'grounded'. Personally, I prefer gardening in cold or damp weather. I don't fair very well in hot weather and so late autumn/winter/early spring are best. My garden is clay and so there is little you can do in the summer apart from watering.
Apart from gardening, anything outdoors with family is always a joy. Either super long walks, starring at rivers with the Boy or enjoying the elements with Tinker #familytime #gardening #simplelife #thegreatoutdoors #natureatitsbest
Day 19 #marchmeetthemaker• Helper
Technically a day late, but all will be explained.
This year is the year me and my school friends all turn 40 so yesterday I went to London to celebrate with my best friend. Whilst I do not have an employed helper there are two people that genuinely help me juggle the highs and lows of being creative. One of these people is my best friend. I had done a couple of trade shows on my own 6/7 years ago and was explaining this to my friend who said she'd come with me the next time. Little did I know that from then on she would come to all the big trade shows and markets with me. Tolly gives up her time, and comes with such energy and enthusiasm that is just infectious. An excellent problem solver, she has stepped into my art world with sheer panache. Just a great person to have in this artistic journey.
The other notable helper is my daughter. She constantly asks what I'm doing and greets every drawing I do with wonder (even if they're really not that great). I love sharing with her all the different materials and techniques, which in turn takes me back to the basics and grounds me in what I'm trying to create. Plus, she is simply the best person at pairing earrings and packing them in their little boxes, a task which I have little patience for yet she makes into a happy event. #familytime #gallerystock #pottery #craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade #maker #selfemployed #designermaker
Day 21 #marchmeetthemaker• Inspiration
I've had great discussions with a painter friend of mine before about what inspires us. He always went straight to the human figure, whereas I'm drawn to nature. I love the texture and colours of course but I like how parts join together and how nature is much smarter at solving problems than us. When I draw from nature I tend to either work as if I'm looking through a magnifying glass or, more long distant views and such.
Oh, and of course going to exhibitions, always inspiring #natureatitsbest #naturalform #texture #colour
Day 24 #marchmeetthemaker• Milestone
This was quite difficult to narrow down to one. I could easily have picked when I did my masters a couple of years ago. It allowed me the opportunity to work on very large scale pieces in completely different materials. Equally, I could have picked when I had my daughter as it made me realise I wasn't making and designing, which in turn didn't make me happy. Alternatively, I could have said in my last job I was too stressed and over stretched to have proper making time, so when I was offered redundancy I snapped it up. But the reality is, where I am would not have occurred if we hadn't moved house. We had been trying to find somewhere for ages when The Boy stumbled upon our little town. The house wasn't quite what we were looking for, but the garden won us over, and in it was a 6x8 shed that became my little studio, and that's where the story begins …………. #space #shed #craft #design #clay #stoneware #handmade #maker #selfemployed #designermaker
Day 26 #marchmeetthemaker• Why I do this
If you asked any artist why they do what they do there will be a point where they refer to a need to be creative. To each individual this will encompass a multitude of layers that is relevant to them. For me, I definitely have to keep my hands busy in one way or another, painting, drawing, rolling out clay, cutting paper, sewing. A great aspect for me is to always be learning. That feeds my creativity 10 fold. It can be just playing with a new material, a little evening class, or a full qualification, if it's getting the old grey matter ticking over then I'm in my element. I find I am mentally and physically better when I'm making art. Over the years I have tried my hand at a wide range of materials and techniques, it just happens to be clay that I am currently drawn too. Who knows where this crazy creative journey will take me next, but I can't wait to find out #happydays #allmyownwork #designermaker #inspiration
Day 27 #marchmeetthemaker• Goals
Since June last year I have been focussing solely on my practice as a whole. By having the space to review and reflect I now realise where I want to go with what I'm doing. I'm currently drawn much more towards studio ceramics, using glazes more intricately to build up layers, and moving on to 3D forms utilising slab building. The materials in this photo represent the beginning of the making process. I've spent a few months just working in my sketchbook so now it comes to the experimenting stage. There's two new clays, one semi-porcelain and one black. The majority of my previous ceramics has involved transfers, but these too will take on a new role. After a few test tiles I've realised I can't get the tiny fine detail I'm after so by using the transfers this allows me to still have that as an element. I've bought a new make of underglaze too, but they're not quite vibrant enough, so may try another brand (any suggestions?). Equally, my attempts with the underglaze pencils still needs work. In essence my goals are to move my practice forward and aim to be actively involved in using ceramics to their full potential. There's still a great deal of testing to go through, but I'm intent on not rushing the process; to meticulously record each element and to acknowledge it's possibilities. It's very much in the transitional stage right now but I couldn't be happier with how it's going #apotterslife #craft #design #learningbydoing #inspiration #happydays #buildinguptosomethingnew
Day 1&2 #creativebusinessmakers • Inspirational Book • Inspirational Quote
I do have quite a varied collection of books ranging from ones about language, architecture, clay processes, theory and fiction that only get to remain in my home if I find them interesting, enthralling or inspiratonal. One of the most inspirational is 'Happiness by Design' by Paul Dolan. I discovered it whilst I was writingy my research for MA, where I was looking at how spaces make us feel. I presumed it was just about the environment we live in but it goes much more into how we act and react, and how that makes a difference. If you're interested in paring back your life then it's definitely worth a read.
I'm currently reading 'The Man who made things out of Trees' by Robert Penn. It's literally a book about wood. The best quote in it so far is
"Creativity is the mastery of skill through prolonged practice"
which is just incredibly synchronised to where I feel I am with my practice currently.
Day 3 #creativebusinessmakers • Inspirational Photo
This is a test tile sample of underglaze colours that is on display at the V&A museum in London. The V&A is my favourite museum of all time, and I get so much out of visiting it, in particular the ceramic galleries which are immense and utterly wonderful. I've been going there for over 30 years, but I remember it most vividly as part of my art foundation diploma. It really taught me how to capture details from a wide variety of objects and to turn them in to inspiration for my designs. It's such a vast place I'm sure I haven't seen all of it despite multiple visits. My test tile collection is something I'm revisiting at the moment so I'm drawn to this photo once again
Day 4 #creativebusinessmakers • Favourite Season
Winter, winter, winter is the best. Not popular with most people I know, but I don't mind the cold, or the short days. I love getting all cosy and having a proper fire. When I was a child we used to get great snowfall out where my cousins and grandparents lived in Worcestershire. Not so much in London where I grew up. This photo was taken in our local park on 6th April 2008 so sometimes the seasons do get quite muddled. Spring and Autumn are really quite special too, but I've got no time for Summer what with sunburn and hayfever!
Day 5 #creativebusinessmakers • Favourite Flower
My favourite flowers are anemones, clearly these are not they; I simply couldn't get a photo of them today. However, I am proud of these little snake head fritillaries that I have been growing for the past few years. Initially you only get a couple of 'heads' but this year they've really taken off. They grow naturally in the wild in moist areas in amongst grass so you have to hunt them out. I love the way they bow their heads, and the mottled petals are just gorgeous
Day 6 #creativebusinessmakers • Business Tip
Everything has a beginning and everything has an end.
Realise that something could be the start of a new idea and carefully, gently nurture it. Equally, acknowledge that an idea, or product, may have run its course. You may not be the one that gets to decide when something is over, but you need to listen to your customers, and move onto a new idea. Ideas can have the most random starting points, like my obsession with dead trees leading to a 4ft cube wooden sculpture; go with it, see where it takes you, don't rush it, and don't be quick to dismiss it if it's not obvious where it's headed
Day 10 #creativebusinessmakers • Photo props
I do all my own photos for my promotional work; I know they are quite busy in terms of styling these days, but I want to have a coherence when they're displayed on my website. I have done some on plain white background, but those are normally for applications to fairs when it's more appropriate to simply show the work alone. Most of my photos feature either book covers or book pages as I like the flatness of their surface, helps to show off the shine of the glaze. In recent years I've made it more connected to the theme of the work, like using a bike manual for the transport range. This then lead to using paint tins and palettes when it came to photograph the Paint range, which was really quite fun and a bit more of a challenge
Day 11 #creativebusinessmakers • Mentor
My mentor was a great friend of mine that I originally worked with when we were both teachers. With an incredibly dry sense of humour, and a fascinating work history Bob Eason was an exceptional potter and designer who was very patient with all my experimenting. Bob always had a solution to every little thing that needed tweaking or fixing. An expert on the pottery wheel he tried to teach me but time was never enough. Now I still find myself asking him questions even though he's not here anymore. My home and studio have selected pieces that show a huge array of his talent, which I will always love. I felt privileged to put together a show of his work shortly after his death, and truly value all he did impart but I still miss him terribly, as does my good friend Rebekah
Day 13 #creativebusinessmakers • Goals
It's not long since I last mentioned goals, so I thought I'd give a little update.
The newer underglaze tests went very well, really lovely to work with and the colours came out strongly which is what I was after. I then tried four ready made glaze colours (I will be moving on to mixing my own but as this is still a testing phase I wanted some basic colours to play with) but they really didn't go to plan. I clearly underestimated the consistency required (using old colours with no ratios for mixing up) so I'll have to be meticulous in recording the proportions in order to get them to work. Ideally I wouldn't be spending much time on them as they aren't in the long term plan, but now I've started I need to get them right. The designs are coming along nicely too, which I'm very excited about. Next is to be brave and try the two new clays I've bought - one black and one semi-porcelain, as looking for a proper white base to work with 🤞
Day 19 #creativebusinessmakers • Blog
I have a wordpress blog that has been running since 2012 when I did a course called The Artist Teacher Scheme which resulted in an exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall. I then moved onto my MA and continually posted research, sketchbook notes, ideas and final pieces. I do use it to show my business too, but really it is an umbrella site for my entire practice. Currently it is working very well as a recording of my 40 exhibitions in a year challenge
Day 18 #creativebusinessmakers • Favourite pastime
This little patch of garden has been hard work. When we moved in over seven years ago the garden had been landscaped to just be bricked areas, gravel, small lawn and a few shrubs that had just been left and had grown so huge it was just all entangled. The only way to solve it was to cut everything back and see what was left. This area was one of the gravel sections underneath a massive fir tree, that sheds needles all year round, so it just didn't work. After a lot of effort to remove the gravel I found the ground was so compacted and full of roots that I ended up drilling with an SDS drill just to lift the soil! It still needs work
Day 21 #creativebusinessmakers • Three things most people don't know about me
- I am obsessed with dead trees, since 2012 officially! I love the structure of trees and they seem even more majestic when they're stripped back. It astounds me how long they stay standing even when they've turned pale and look so dry.
- I am very sentimental, it's all my dads fault; he's just the same. Not photos, but objects, things that trigger a memory by recalling an event that involved them. The china set belonged to my great aunt. The biscuit tin was my grandparents who had a biscuit with their cup of tea in bed every morning.
- I love anything to do with cubes and even managed to base a huge chunk of my MA around them!
Day 20 #creativebusinessmakers • Craft I'd like to try
Playing catch up here. I was given a small enamelling kiln, copper blanks, 10 jars of powder and a book by a friends mum a few years ago. For a while I was curious but now I do feel the need to have a go. However, I don't know how to check the kiln is ok. I have got the book out now so will do my homework and see what I can find out. I've no doubt it's far more complicated then I'm prepared for but still I'd like to try.
Day 23 #creativebusinessmakers • Favourite place
It has to be the Sussex coastline. Originally we started going there when my dad bought a little fisherman's cottage in Hastings old town. We'd drive down after school on a Friday and come back Sunday evening. Long walks over the cliffs and fab independent shops mean I've always enjoyed Hastings. Now I take my family down to visit as much as possible and Dad retired down there so it's just lovely. I love Dungeness, it's so atmospheric and has the intriguing home of Derek Jarman with an amazing garden full of sculptures and sea hardy plants. Dads holiday cottage is now in Winchelsea Beach, one of the old railway carriages that dot the coast, converted just after WW2 when housing stock was limited. The beach is always quiet; a great little secret escape.