Stella Harding completed the Crafts Council's Hothouse Scheme in 2011
Stella Harding is a second-career maker specialising in contemporary basketry. Based in Deptford, south London, her work explores the internal logic of organic matter through the experimental employment of traditional techniques of basketry. Stella studied basketry part-time at City Lit between 2001 – 2007. She has exhibited work extensively across the UK and recently published a book ‘Practical Basketry Techniques’ with A&C Black in 2012. Before taking up basketry, Stella worked as a researcher and lecturer in Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Surrey, Brunel University and London College of Printing.
Why did you apply to take part in Hothouse?
I applied to take part in Hothouse because I wanted to be challenged. I wasn’t a recent graduate so I hadn’t had much contact with many contemporary makers. I was looking to meet other makers, form networks and develop some specific business skills, but more than anything I was looking for intensive immersion in a programme that would help me to develop my practice.
What did the Hothouse experience mean to you?
As well as a basketry artist, I’m also a keen gardener and I worked for a long time in the hot house of a historic stately home in Kent. With this experience in mind – for me Hothouse was about taking people who have potential, nurturing them, and providing the encouragement they need to become the best makers they can be.
How did it feel to be part of such a specialist programme?
I felt privileged that the Crafts Council were making a commitment to us as a cohort. They put us in a bubble and made us feel really good about what we were doing whilst delivering a package of ongoing support that included exploring your business model and thinking through your values. I also found it particularly interesting to gain cross-disciplinary insights whilst working with makers from different disciplines. Ultimately the programme really boosted my confidence, and gave me the validation I needed to feel that what I was doing was right. That’s invaluable because you can carry confidence with you through the hard times when what you need to keep going is self belief.
How has this self-belief aided the development of your practice?
As a result I’m now much more likely to give something a go, make my own opportunities, go and talk to a cosmologist for example. I contacted a cosmologist and to my surprise he emailed me back. Now we are engaged in a conversation about potential collaborations. This experience really helped me to realise that you can always go on developing. Hothouse taught me that it’s ok to just go out and ask for what you want rather than sit and wait for opportunities to come to you. I’ve become a full-time maker since taking part in Hothouse, and that’s a result of the confidence the team gave me.
What are you currently working towards in your practice?
Next I’m taking part in a group show to be held at Maggs Bros. antiquarian book sellers in Berkeley Square. The show is called ‘Maggs Beneath the Covers’, it’s curated by ceramist Penny Green and runs from 20 September – 31 December 2012. It’s a show of extreme and conceptual craft where each artist responds to the books in a different way. I’ll be exploring the space ‘between the lines’ by making a basket woven from lead. In addition to the Maggs Bros. show, I’ve also been accepted to show at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in October 2012 and then later in October I’ll also be teaching a two day ‘master’ class at the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia.
What advice would you give to makers considering applying to future Hothouse programmes?
Do it! It will give you validation that what you are doing is the right thing to do.