The studio shelves are heaving with new pots for events in July!
Next week I'll be out on the fair field on Tynwald Day amongst excellent foodies, makers, and of course, Vikings. That's Wednesday 5th July, 9am - 5pm!
Allowing just enough time after that to finish some extra pots and fire the kiln, the Celtfest Artisan Craft Fair is returning on Saturday 15th July, 12 - 5pm! This year it's part of The Gathering family day in Peel Cathedral and the neighbouring Corrin Hall, with mini-performances and workshops from Manx and visiting performers and teachers, as well as storytelling! To top it off, there will be PIZZA from Black Dog Oven and ICE CREAM from Stixx - hurray!
I've set myself up with a PayPal card reader, so I will be able to accept card payments for the first time - woohoo!
I was delighted to post a fresh batch of cups, side plates and pourers to the MOSTYN gallery shop last week, to be part of their Fauna showcase, I See A Creature, over the summer!
Based in Llandudno (must practice correct pronunciation...), Mostyn is the leading gallery for contemporary art in Wales. Founded in 1901 by Lady Augusta Mostyn, supposedly it was the first venue in the world specifically designed to exhibit the work of female artists, who were at that time excluded from the wider art scene. ACE!
I find myself at the end of April, highly anticipating 10 days of holiday that begins next Thursday. I've been particularly diligent in my production throughout the last 4 months. My nifty spreadsheet reminds me that I have spent a day throwing pots every week since 4th January. It tends to be a Tuesday, though in odd weeks a Wednesday - even a Monday 2 weeks ago! That totals 17 consecutive weeks. It has become my instinct to throw every week, to keep the production cycle in motion, to fire the kiln a few times a week - often primarily to keep the studio a warm and therefore conducive work environment. I promised myself not to exceed 20 items per week this year. 20 pots makes for a manageable morning of throwing, and depending on which forms I choose, usually makes a kiln load. I do my best work early and before lunch - a habit ingrained whilst living in the sub-tropical climate of the Gold Coast, which drives me crazy in the Manx winter - to the extent that I detest even an hour delay in starting work, as thanks to the time sensitive nature of clay, the pots drying time will be delayed and the blighters could dry out whilst I focus on other time-filling jobs.
The thought of not throwing in a week when I could induces a sense of guilt. I wonder if that's a marvellous success of cementing a productive habit, or a steam-roller to spontaneous creativity.
An unquestionable triumph has been adding a 2kg bowl to my weekly production list, in an effort to step up my throwing skills. This is the 8th week, and whilst the last 3 are yet to be fired (*touches wood*) I'm hugely please with the results. Naturally larger pots have a greater surface area, allowing for exciting decoration possibilities. I've returned to the field-inspired patterns, adding details in yellow and purple to represent gorse and heather. I'm using larger brushes for big sweeps of colour, whilst using some restraint to avoid overloading the pots with embellishment. It feels like a good direction. After my break I'll increase the bowls to 2.5kg, and somewhat shift my focus to other larger forms, firstly vases!
I'm so proud to announce that a selection of my work will be exhibited in the Summer Craft Collection at New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham, Surrey! Founded in the '60s, the gallery has been dedicated to championing the best contemporary art and craft for over 50 years. I'm deeply grateful to Helen Beard, who mentored me for 3 months in 2016, for an introduction to the gallery.
My pots will be in great company with ceramics and jewellery from emerging and established makers - huzzah!
I'm also thrilled to be stocking the gallery shop of The National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford! I've followed this gallery online for AGES and they host awesome, inventive projects and exhibitions, so I was super flattered when they asked me to supply their shop.
In 2016 I was thrilled to be selected for a mentorship programme organised by the Craft Potters Association, in partnership with Adopt a Potter. Paired with a long-time clay hero of mine, Helen Beard, I travelled to London in June with a bag of pots for an initial meeting and critique of my work, then we followed up with several Skype sessions over the following three months.
Helen gave a frank assessment of my pots, making suggestions such as pulling decoration further across the bases, and refining my potters marks. After some experimentation, I have followed up on both of these points and I’m very pleased with the results, especially the new Isle of Man map stamp. This smaller version now presses into the clay instead of printing with black stain.
Later in the year, I sent Helen some photos of my festive designs and she commented on the energy that the gold lustre dots created. I'm reluctant to use lustre outside of the festive season, but an experiment with dark blue underglaze has yielded some very satisfying results! The random patterns bring to mind pollen on the breeze, or insects buzzing through the air.
These subtle changes, along with Helen's feedback, have given me more confidence to increase some of my prices, which I did between July and December 2016, and will continue to review. Helen and I also worked through my website (hello!) to improve the visitor experience, by consolidating some pages and removing excess information.
With Helen’s encouragement I applied for the 2017 Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey, for which I was thrilled to be accepted. Unfortunately the Festival dates coincide with a major sports event on the Isle of Man, making travel costs to the UK mainland prohibitive. I have taken confidence from that application process, and have applied for other events later in 2017.
Helen also assisted me in formulating a three year plan for growing my practice and business, to ultimately raise the profile of my work nationally and internationally. It was such a privilege to learn from Helen's experiences. I'm deeply grateful to the organisers for initiating the programme, and to Helen for sparing her precious studio time (her youngest child was only 9 weeks old when I visited, wow!).
Mentorships are incredibly valuable, I can't recommend them enough, whether informal or through a funded scheme. Many thanks to the Isle of Man Arts Council for supporting me with a small travel bursary, which enabled me to visit Helen's London studio.
There's a minor re-brand in progress around here, transitioning from working under my given name - Kathryn - to the diminutive of Katy, which my parents (and, you know, everyone who isn't a doctor) have called me since birth. I started my business in 2010, choosing the trading name of 'Kathryn Mitchell Ceramics'. It seemed to have a better ring than 'Katy', and naturally felt more grown up. It also created a slight separation between me and my art practice, which seemed particularly pertinent at the time as I was very happily employed by a wonderful gallery as an admin assistant, where the director also kindly encouraged me to stock my pots. I wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. I thought I'd grow into the name. Six (nearly seven) years and a hemisphere switch on, that hasn't happened. I don't feel any less of a Katy or more of a Kathryn. My given name is still reserved for tax returns and dentist appointments. I promptly (and politely, almost apologetically) correct anyone who calls me Kathryn. I love the name (well done, parents!), but Katy is the one that sticks.
I've edited most of my online presence to reflect the re-brand, but you're likely to see Kathryn for a little longer on things like stickers and signage 'til I complete the transition.
Whilst I suspect that very few people will even notice the change, for me it's been refreshing and somewhat liberating to use what feels like my 'real' name.
Hello, my name is Katy, and I'm a potter.
You've got Mother's Day written in your diary, right? I don't need to remind you that it's Sunday 26th March. Of course not, you've totally got a plan to treat the excellent Mum-like people in your life.
Should you need an extra thanks-for-being-my-Mum gift, the studio will be open for a Mother's Day Shop on Saturday 25th March, 12 - 5pm. Just in case.
Please note that this is a cash or cheque only event! Ta.
Here's a map to find the studio - I recommend using the Earth view, Google gets confused in Kirk Michael!
Alternatively, order online through my Etsy shop before 4pm on Tuesday 21st March to ensure delivery on the Isle of Man or in the UK before Mother's Day!
2016 was the year of the decal in my studio. Since starting to make pots at college in 2009 I've been eager (can you be eager for 7 years?) to learn a technique to reproduce my designs in some way faster than hand-painting. The first quarter of the year was spent testing, and throughout the following months I was able to replicate most of my designs as decals. I'm thrilled with the results; I often prefer the decal design to the previous hand-painted version! I've been upfront with my customers and galleries about this change, to my knowledge without issue. This post might be unnecessary - you might not be bothered how I decorate my pots and I wouldn't blame you for that - but I spent a long time trawling the internet to figure this technique out and find a good printer, so I'll dedicate this to aspiring decal-users. All three of them, somewhere out there on the internet...Hi!
First, a definition. A decal is a specially prepared paper bearing a picture or design for transfer to wood, metal, glass, etc. In this case, the decals are digitally printed (rather than screen-printed) and suitable for glazed ceramics. Some people prefer to call them transfers.
I draw or paint my designs onto paper, scan them into Photoshop, tidy them up a little and arrange them to fill an A3 document. I can average 70 decals per sheet, depending on the size. That digital document is sent to the printer in Stoke-on-Trent, where it's printed and posted to me within a week.
Each decal is hand-cut out of the sheet, soaked in warm water for 30 seconds to release the backing paper, place on the glazed pot and gently rubbed with a squeegee to remove air or water bubbles. The pots require a third firing, to 840C, to secure the decals.
Whilst the point of developing decals was to have a more efficient decoration method, this technique still requires hours of work. The decals and pots pass through my hands many times. The decal positioning is more nuanced than I expected - I tried to hand over the job to my student helper, but even a few millimetres of angle can change the design significantly. Somewhat guiltily I do often pass on the job of cutting over to my helpers - thank you Katie and Hannah!
Painting is my favourite part of the making process - always has been - but if I'm repeating the same illustration on 40 (or 60, or 80) pots I'm naturally going to get bored and frustrated. I would hate to start dreading the best part of the making process, so the decals help me to prevent that. Background colours are still hand-painted by me directly onto the clay, but most illustrations are now decals.
The decals have also allowed me to take on more branded work, like mugs for Flo the Coffee Van and Mother T's, and cups for Roots Beverage Co.
Props to my printer Digital Ceramics in Stoke and Mariko Paterson of Forage Studios in Canada - she's a brilliant (and hilarious) source of decal knowledge.
P.S. tech stuff: I'm using Magenta set decals over Sneyd Ceramics clear stoneware gloss glaze, fired to 840C with a 15 min soak. Currently 100C/h, but I'm probably being a wuss and should make it a faster firing. Okay, bye.
You are very warmly invited to join PineWood Studio Furniture and myself for our annual festive shindig at the end of November! Christmas shopping whilst drinking mulled wine. Awesome, yeah?
With the help of my assistant (read: minion (Hi Katie!)), I packed up half of my studio and drove it across the Island, to ensconce myself in the Douglas Market Hall as MakeMarket Potter-in-Residence for a week. Like many ambitious ideas, it sounded awesome seven months earlier and then as 'moving' day approached, I seriously questioned my sanity. Why did I offer to do it? What possessed me to think that relocating my workspace for five days at the time of year when I should be making for the Food Festival, and drawing up serious Christmas stock plans, was an inspired idea?! Thankfully the residency worked out beautifully enough to placate that whiny voice in my head.
I'd never thrown in public before, let alone tried talking to someone (coherently) whilst throwing. Anxiety reigned before starting work on the first morning - heightened by the presence of two videographers, ready to document me messing up, of course - but thankfully eased as I began throwing. Though I consider throwing to be my weakest skill in the making process (ironic huh), focussing on the task and not screwing up proved that I'm far more able than I gave myself credit for. A steady flow of visitors kept me happily occupied throughout the five days whilst I threw, trimmed and decorated 40 pots. You'll be pleased to know that I can officially talk and throw proficiently at the same time!
Lovely things happened. Small children were totally enthralled by my throwing. It was magic to them. On Saturday morning I spotted a bloke with a camera walk to the Hall doorway, kneel down, take a photo then walk away. Two days later an email from Chris Jackson landed in my inbox with this photo attached:
Running a full-time business is notorious for stifling creativity, and naturally I want to avoid that. Residencies give creatives the opportunity to temporarily work in a location other than their own studios, which often allows for more intense periods of work and can be an escape from repetitive tasks.
The Market Hall is a very public building; not only does it house a cafe and a butcher, there are also very popular public toilets! Regardless of specific events, the Hall has regular footfall. As I made and decorated pots, dozens of people walked past. Some were intrigued; they might slow down or stop to take a closer look. Some wanted to talk, not necessarily about pots. Lots said 'oh I did that in school years ago!' or 'I'd love to have a go at that'. Plenty of people ignored me. Or asked where to find the toilets...!
That social interaction was a significant challenge for me. I work alone, and I LOVE that. Solitude is a happy place for me. But I'm aware that, like too much of anything, it can be limiting. Somewhat perversely, I've discovered that working outside of my comfort zone sparks great stuff in my head. I'm certainly not alone in that experience and it's by no means an original concept, but I still don't much like it.
I have a whole new appreciation for the UCM art students and staff who work in the building during term time. Creating and exhibiting artwork, particularly as a student, in a public place is a vulnerable experience. I can't think of a better way to learn how to embrace that discomfort, and learn how to use it one's advantage. Working in the Market Hall for five days undoubtedly boosted my confidence, and I sincerely hope that the students benefit similarly in their years of study.
I'd like to extend HUGE thanks to Helen Fox of University College Isle of Man, Kate + Sam from Revel, Suzy from Coburg Communications, and Louisa the intern for all of their help, promotion and encouragement (plus massive kudos to them all for pulling MakeMarket together!).
More thanks to my assistant Katie for helping with the relocation, the tech boys for the fab video (they had only good intentions and I'm sure would have deleted the footage had I actually messed up), Deb Turk for popping in on THREE days to take a stack of beautiful photos, and to ALL the lovely visitors - you were SO enthusiastic! And many of you brought food and coffee, kudos.
Creative Industries have a bright future on this Island.