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!