To celebrate National Careers Week we ask makers about their career path.
What I Do
I am a studio potter. My first body of work was a range of hand-thrown functional tableware, from cups and saucers to complete dinner services.
My work was made with a blend of porcelain and stoneware and a rich palette of transparent coloured glazes. It was a coherent body of work with function and craftsmanship as the main focus.
In February 2018 I launched my first solo exhibition, Social Objects at London’s Contemporary Applied Arts gallery. With my new work I am trying to move away from the production potter format of my previous work. Pottery has had a bit of a renaissance over the past few years, however I feel that the true essence of the craft has been diluted by a lifestyle brand approach. I am trying to refocus my audience towards the rich cultural history of this craft.
Jobs in Ceramics
Ceramics as a material has a vast variety of options when it comes to career paths, from industrial design spanning architectural ceramics to domestic wares, to studio craft, from sculpture to studio pottery.
Clay is a very diverse material and the possibilities are close to endless. Depending on the educational path one chooses, ceramic design being the most popular, you will quickly find that there are hundreds of different job opportunities available.
Alumni from my course at Camberwell went on to design tiles and cladding or become visual artists. One even went on to produce full-scale models for Aston Martin from which moulds were taken to produce their famous supercars.
I have always been creative. I began art school as a painter but I soon discovered my passion for working in three dimensions. As my art education progressed I developed a keen interest in pots and ceramic history. It was the belief that I have something relevant to say with my work that made me decide to pursue a career in craft.
What I studied
I took all of the creative GCSEs available at school.
I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an artist so this seemed like the natural choice. I wasn’t particularly academic as a young man however I can see how having more focus on academia would have benefitted me going forward. Saying that, I believe everyone comes into their own at their own rate, and once I finished school, when I was set research and written tasks on subjects that I was interested in, I soon began developing the skills necessary for critical thinking around my craft.
At GCSE I studied: English Literature, English Language, Maths, Triple Science, Art, Graphics, Design Technology and Electronics
I left school at sixteen to go to college where I studied a National Diploma in Art and Design and then progressed to do my foundation course before applying to university. Doing a foundation course is an advantage when applying for most art degrees. It will also allow you the freedom to explore your creative ideas and enable you to make a more informed choice before applying for a degree.
I first experienced working with ceramics on my foundation course. I took to throwing on the pottery wheel very quickly and soon built up the basic skills. I went on to study Ceramics at Camberwell College of Art as one of the last cohort of students before the ceramics course was closed in 2012. During my second and third years at university I undertook work experience with renowned artist and potter Julian Stair.
On graduating I went on to study as an apprentice to Julian Stair with the support of The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST). My QEST Scholarship provided me with a basic level of income for the first two years of my three year apprenticeship. In total I spent six years training before setting up my first independent studio at Cockpit Arts in South East London.
My career path
My career to date has been very rewarding. I work very hard to make the most of every opportunity that I’m fortunate enough to receive. I have no doubt that without the support of QEST, Julian Stair and Cockpit Arts I would not be where I am today.
After learning and honing my craft during my apprenticeship I was awarded a subsidised studio at Cockpit Arts for a year. Establishing a ceramics studio is a costly process, so having the opportunity of a subsidised studio space was a huge help. Two years on, my business is still growing, I have maintained my studio and I am moving my work in a new direction.
I think the most important decision I have made was to do a full-time apprenticeship.
I learnt so much from working in a functioning studio and with an artist I admired and respected. My apprenticeship taught me so much about work and studio life. From packing and shipping work to talking to collectors and understanding who’s who within the field, my apprenticeship gave me a fast track into professional life.
I have also applied for multiple awards and bursaries. Attaining funding to develop your career is almost crucial unless you have financial support. There are a wealth of opportunities available for new makers to receive financial and business support and I would recommend being aware of what’s out there. The Crafts Council advertises current opportunities on their website.
Without any shadow of a doubt finance is biggest struggle facing craftspeople. Starting out you have time, but you don’t have spare money.
I have found it very helpful to exchange my work for services such as photography or graphic design. Also, I have invested as much as possible in my business; not only ceramics equipment, but also books, other tools, and photography equipment in order to be as self-sufficient as possible. If you can do something to a near-on professional level, 90% of the time it is worth doing it yourself.
I only pay for outside services for particularly special or important projects. For example, using a website building site means your website can be easily updated and edited free of charge once you have it up and running.
My advice to others
I would advise someone considering a career in craft to study art at university. Art school develops your ability to think critically and allows you to consider a wide variety of ideas and disciplines, allowing you to be truly free in terms of creative expression.
Seek out an apprenticeship with a craftsperson running a successful studio. An apprenticeship will give you the opportunity to experience all aspects of working in craft, the good and the bad, and to discover if it really is the career you want, without making too much of a financial commitment. An apprenticeship will prepare you for a life working in craft more than any other form of training.