Hannah Townsend completed the Crafts Council's Hothouse Scheme in 2016.
Tell us a bit about your work.
I combine ceramics and printmaking to create collections of sensitively realised vessel forms and subtly layered monoprints. The repeatedly worked surfaces of clay and print are inspired by the sea-washed, weatherworn landscape of the British coastline.
Who or what are your inspirations?
I’m inspired by the ever-changing colours, textures, light and shade of the shore; the images and effects of the advancing and receding interface where the sea meets the land. My work is also driven by technique and material as I strive to extend the parameters of what can be achieved by combining slipcast and thrown clay.
Why did you apply to Hothouse in 2016?
I had been approached by the Crafts Council at New Designers 2015 and the Hothouse programme was explained to me. It seemed ideally focussed to meet my needs and would take my practice to the next level. I was delighted to be selected as part of the southern cohort and, to date, the scheme has been everything I had hoped it would be.
What was the most valuable thing you got from the Hothouse programme?
The key benefits for me were twofold. First, the programme helped me to make a longer-term and strategic analysis of my business. It made me (literally) lift my head up from making vessels and my short-term focus on the next deadline or exhibition. It enabled me to look further into the future to and consider my medium and longer term goals and how to drive towards these. I realised that I had neglected key aspects of my business such as marketing, planning and administration. I feel my practice has swum into focus as a result of the scheme and my business has come on in leaps and bounds. Tangible differences in my business as a direct result of Hothouse are a more professional approach to organisation, planning and time management and a willingness to prioritise – even delegate – tasks. The second really important aspect of Hothouse is the opportunity to work and plan with a network of fellow makers from a variety of disciplines who become good friends. Like many craft workers, much of my work takes place in isolation and one gets used to identifying and solving problems single-handed. Being part of the southern cohort has shown me the advantages of teamwork, offering as it does, opportunities for learning, informal mentorship, sharing ideas and mutual support.
In what ways has Hothouse helped your business?
Hothouse brought instant improvement to my business because it offers training and business advice tuned specifically to the craft maker. Trainers and session leaders understood the business needs of the small-scale ceramicist and, of course, fellow members of the programme being craft workers themselves, have experience of the same problems and difficulties. Previously I had tried generalised business and training tools but always struggled to apply them meaningfully to my own practice. Hothouse is already adapted for craft businesses so is very relevant, providing specific advice that can be directly applied. Additionally, the opportunities to practice my presentation skills in a safe environment means that I have become much more confident and precise when talking about my work and this has definitely helped me when discussing my business with judges, customers or journalists.Finally, Hothouse has given me a place to sound out new ideas and air any concerns in a supportive and like-minded forum.
Describe Hothouse in three words?
Supportive, relevant, pragmatic
Who should apply to Hothouse and what would your top tip to them be?
Hothouse is useful for any craft worker, but is most suited to makers who are in the early stages of creating a practice and business – perhaps after setting-up and trading for a year or so. This permits the programme to help focus and fine-tune the business. For me, Hothouse arrived with perfect timing; my ceramic and print work were well evolved so that, as the demands of my business increased, the expert speakers, helpful advice and business tools on offer made for significant improvement in my business.
What are you doing next?
Within the coming months I am focussing on a number of priorities:
I’m preparing for an exhibition at the Snug Gallery in Hebden Bridge which will open in October.
In November, I’m delighted to be staging a unique exhibition with my fellow Hothousers at The Showcase & Gallery, St John’s Square in London. ‘Collective: A Maker’s Exhibition’ will combine pieces from ceramicists, furniture makers, jewellery manufacturers and textile designers – all from the southern cohort of Hothouse.
I’m planning a solo exhibition for the National Centre for Craft and Design, which will take place in 2017. I want to produce an exciting collection of new work for this show.
I’m midway through a commission for the British Ceramic Biennial in 2017. For this I’m hoping to increase the scale of my ceramic and print pieces to create a large installation exhibit. I’m still at the planning stage, but the project is already demanding and exciting.
I’m very happy to be starting a commission that will take me to a new part of the British coastline. Here I will spend several days sketching, painting and collecting seashore finds to use as inspiration for some really special bespoke pieces for a client.