Jenny Chan completed the Crafts Council's Hothouse programme in 2019
Can you tell us a bit about your work?
I hand build ceramic female figurative sculptures. My Divas range is inspired by BBC100 Women and Kim Kardashian’s perfect bottom. There are two concepts I wish to explore. Firstly, it is about individuality. I start with a blank face onto which I design each unique feature including the hair and decorations. There is a story to each face and each piece evokes different emotions. Secondly, I also wish to explore the imperfectness of women’s bodies, embracing all skin colours and a positive body image. Through my divas range, I hope to empower and define women and inspire future achievements.
How did you get into craft as a career?
The first time I ever touched clay was in 2014. It was an instant obsession with the material.
Into the third year of my clay journey, due to an issue with my family, I found myself making clay sculptures day and night to relieve anxiety. After joining and volunteering at a local artist group, I realized selling my craft could be a real source of income. I started to sell my work locally. I was very determined to make my craft a career and reconnect with society after being a stay-at-home mum for 16 years.
Who or what are your inspirations?
I cannot say I am influenced by any artists because my world before was never surrounded with art and crafts. Without a proper craft training background, at the beginning of my clay journey, I turned to YouTube and Pinterest for tutorials and inspirations. I always challenged myself to try and copy the pieces that I saw online and liked. I believe this is the way to develop my skills through experience. Along the learning process, I have developed my own style and subjects I am interested in.
I am inspired by the integrity and honesty within people. The emotional struggles, healing and peace experienced by women in their daily lives.
Why did you apply to Hothouse 2019?
Once I started to sell a few pieces locally, I realized I knew how to sculpt clay but didn't have a sustainable business at all. I needed to learn how to sell and I was constantly looking out for learning opportunities.
When I learned about the Hothouse programme through the Craft Council subscription. I immediately did a lot of reading up of the many past Hothouse participants, I wanted to be one of them. I knew this was an opportunity I should not miss. I spent a long time preparing my application but also worried that my lack of craft training would not get me through. I am very glad that I applied and now I am one of them.
What was the most valuable thing you took from the Hothouse programme?
There is not one thing I can say as the definite thing I took from the Hothouse programme. The programme is so well designed as a package, and missing any of the links I think will make it not be so effective. First, they encouraged me to talk about my dream; envision it, and gave me some tools to make it real. They programme my hard drive first, then show me the many useful software I should use. I would not have been bold enough to progress without the support of the Hothouse programme.
In what ways has Hothouse helped your business?
Before Hothouse, I had so many doubts and felt very insecure as a maker. The vast amount of inspiration, knowledge and know-how that is passed on from artists and professionals is so invaluable. They showed me the ropes and challenged me to dream bigger than I thought I would able to. I have doubled my sales just in the first six months since Hothouse and I have secured a work space at the Starter Studio at Yorkshire Artspace. I learned to believe in myself and be able to face the challenges ahead.
Describe Hothouse in three words?
Inspiring, supportive, knowledgeable
Who should apply to Hothouse and what would your top tip to them be?
Any craft maker who produces good quality craft already and wishes to make it a business. It does not matter what business stage you are in; if you have a very strong desire to progress to the next level then you should apply to the programme.
My top tip is to prepare your application. You need to show them you have the drive to take your business to the next level. Be honest and show confidence.
What are you doing next?
I am moving to Sheffield to join the Starter Studio at Yorkshire Artspace. I will have my work space and equipment to make larger pieces and keep on developing my divas range of figurative sculptures. I've also got a a few ceramic fairs scheduled for next 12 months; some competition applications to apply. Lastly, I am also interested in getting involved with some charity that promotes craft therapy for self-development once I move to Sheffield.