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.