how it all started
For me, making and creating is something I’ve always done. As a child my Saturday’s usually featured a disco dancing class in the morning (leotards and leg warmers included) followed by long afternoons of what I called “doing stuff” on the kitchen table with friends or, more often my mum. Stamping, embossing, quilling, salt-dough, pergamano; you name it we probably did it. It was my absolute favourite thing to do and I’m lucky that mum loved it as much as I did, and would happily buy the bits and pieces to do it together. Our “doing box” was a hobby craft treasure trove!
So this is where a little bit of the family tree comes in, which looking back now I feel is quite important. My Grandpa was half danish, and his danish aunty, my mums great aunty Olga was like a Grandmother to her. A quirky, strong willed, creative and intelligent woman who was no push over and loved to create, make and share. Mum thought she was magic and loved her dearly. A loving big influence on her life, and revered in our family home along with Danish style and tradition, this was definitely a nurturing influence on my creative side from a young age.
Naturally art played a big part in my education. When I realised during my Art Foundation you can do degrees in Craft and applied art I moved to Cornwall to study Contemporary Craft at Falmouth University (this was in 2005 when degrees were relatively cheaper) Here I took workshops in everything craft; glass, jewellery, ceramics, wood working. By the end of the degree I specialised in plaster mould making for kiln formed glass, barely touching clay at this point. In the indulgence of an art degree I really got to unpick my inspirations and facination of line, repetition and light, something I’ve always been drawn to.
Falmouth University 2009, Degree Show final exhibition, kiln formed glass and wood.
After graduating in 2009 I felt pretty lost and disillusioned with what I’d been studying, now not having the amazing studio to work in or an obvious career path to take so I decided that whatever it took to make money from being in a studio environment working with my hands I’d give it a go. So I moved back home to Mersea Island where I managed to persuade my Grandpa to let me convert his old workshop into a studio. He used to call it the boat house as it used to have a boat in it, but it really was just a garage with no running water or natural light but it was fantastic. I saved up for a kiln initially thinking I’d continue working in glass, but instead started exploring clay since it was cheaper and I could use my plaster mould making skills to slip cast and have small batch productions, teaching myself along the way with a little bit of help from a ceramics supply shop not too far away.
I developed a range of work inspired by the sea. I was thinking locally and reasoned that people who live by the sea often like to decorate their homes in the same way. I designed and made wall mounted fish and dishes cast from oyster shells (Mersea Island is famous for it’s oysters) which I started to show at local markets, and eventually in bigger national shows. The style wasn’t at all like the designs I made at university or the products I make now, but it really helped me to start a business from my hands. It was the first time I sold anything I’d made and allowed me to figure out the practical stuff such as pricing, selling to trade, supplying shops, styling my work and photography and building a website. I stopped making the fish a few years back when creatively I craved to make the work that I do now, but this beginning was super instrumental in the development of my business and I learned a lot from it.
A couple of years into my self-taught endeavour making fish in my Grandpas workshop, I started to feel limited by the resources around me and the technical knowledge I didn’t have. I longed to be in that environment where you can learn so much just by watching and talking. I searched for residences and assistantships in Europe, which is where, quiet poetically I came across Guldagergaard International Ceramics Research Centre in Denmark. The centre offered an assistantship for up to 3 months where you could work for 20 hours a week and in payment you received a studio and a bed, exactly what I was looking for. A wonderfully magic coincidence is that the residency centre was in the same small town that my Grandpa’s father and aunty Olga were from. It felt almost like it was meant to be.
Feeling extremely under qualified I applied, and was amazed when I was offered a 3 month assistantship starting in October 2011. This was an incredible opportunity and pivotal in my ceramic career. What I learnt in 3 months would have taken me a year in my own studio. The networking and people I met from all over the world with the common interest of ceramics in this tiny town in Denmark was so wonderful too. I returned to my boat house shed in 2012 determined, refreshed and filled with new ideas and the technical know-how to make what I wanted.
Returning to my fascination with line, repetition and use of light, I explored colour and the natural translucency of porcelain, developing techniques to produce my first lampshade ‘Birdcage shade”. I also made designs for tableware using the same laser cut techniques I developed at university, making 2D spirograph-like drawings into 3D bowls and cups. I exhibited these at some national shows and got a nice bit of press for the Birdcage shades and felt like I was starting a brand I was really proud of, where more interior designers, design shops and exciting clients were getting in touch.
But again after a few years I began to feel limited by my resources and the little boat house studio, and felt a little jaded by the enormous effort and cost of exhibiting at shows by yourself. I had done a couple of shows that hadn’t been so good but cost a lot of money and was beginning to get itchy feet. When I left Guldagergaard I really felt that I would be back there again some day. So in October 2014 it felt like the right time to get in touch with the director to see if there were any winter opportunities. To my delight I was invited to trial for a job as studio technician in the new year which felt like the perfect opportunity at the right time. So in January 2015 I packed up the studio and a suitcase and moved to Denmark indefinitely.
Working as studio technician at Guldagergaard for 3.5 years offered a huge advantage in my ceramic practice. Having the security of a job whilst still having access to a brilliantly equipped studio allowed me to really develop my work and master my craft without the pressure of selling. It also gave me perspective of the direction my work was going in.
I was responsible for running the studio, but also had the opportunity to teach my own workshops in plaster model and mould making. Having worked with plaster for over 10 years, I have learnt a lot of tips and tricks and it was great to be able to share that in my classes! Because of the international network of artists that came to stay as artist in residence at Guldagergaard, I was also extremely lucky to be invited to other centres internationally to teach plaster workshops, such as the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute in China and Santa Fe Clay in the USA, something I never thought I would get a chance to do.
I lived and worked in a little ceramics bubble in Denmark which was so wonderful, but eventually I began to miss the UK and felt it was time to come back full to my own ceramic practice and give my more of my attention. So in June 2018 I packed up a van full of ceramics, plaster moulds, plants and bicycles and drove back to the UK where I am currently based back home on Mersea Island, where I have developed my most recent collection.