Hello and Welcome to Jes Hooper’s Monthly Maker: THE place to discover artistic innovators and creative entrepreneurs! Every first Monday of the month I’ll be introducing a new artist to my website blog to share their craft, inspirations, and aspirations. Why? To showcase the talented small business’ who are paving the way to success in our creative communities.
This month is the second installment of Monthly Maker and I’ve been chatting with Julia Smith from Julia Smith Ceramics all about her love of clay, the thought process behind building a innovative home studio, and what she has in the pipeline for 2017.
I immediately fell in love with Julia’s Ceramics, her use of glass-like glazes and earthy tones brings a richness to her work unlike any other. I also truly admire her unique illustrations which she applies sparingly to give a subtle yet wholesome meaning to each piece; I hope you all enjoy her work as much as I do.
What first inspired you to create ceramics over other artforms?
I was attracted to the raw material and was interested in the changes clay goes through from a soft wet malleable substance to dry and brittle then stone like after firing. The alchemy of the glazes intrigued me too, seeing dry powdery pastel coatings transformed to shiny colourful glassy surfaces when fired in the kiln, it seemed like magic to me.
My studio looks out over the Moray Firth and the changing weather, light on the water, wildlife, horizon, mountains across the water, pebbles and driftwood on the beach all have influenced my work since I moved here 6 years ago. My garden, bike rides, forests and winter walks also give me ideas.
I studied ceramic design at Glasgow School of Art and graduated in 1996. I feel self taught as most things I learn through trial and error in the studio.
My parents were very creative when me and my siblings were growing up, possibly for economic reasons. My Dad built both the houses we lived in, designed and built his own racing car and my Mum would buy furniture from the auction rooms and fix it up to sell on and make wonderful costumes for fancy dress parties. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to go to art school and this wasn’t discouraged thankfully.
What is your favourite and least favourite aspects of your creative process?
My favourite part of my creative process is when I discover a new glaze or combination of glazes that I really like. I usually have to do a lot of experimenting before I find a keeper so it is satisfying when it works. My least favourite aspect is paper-work and cleaning out the waste trap below my sink.
I have lived here for 6 years and each year I have added or renovated a new space for my ceramics and now I finally have enough space (I’m not allowed any more). I work at home and have a main studio in the garden where I do all the clay work, a small hut for storing and recycling clay, a kiln room in the garage, a glaze studio and office/ packing room in the house and a small wood workshop outside for building displays and maintenance jobs.
For my main studio space I wanted natural light, running water and lots of shelving to move work around through the stages of making. I have a small kiln in my studio which keeps me warm through the winter and dries pots out ready for firing.
It is such a big part of my life, when I am not making I am thinking about what I am going to make. The highlight for me is having fantastic customers who allow me to do this everyday.
I have had insightful and helpful business support from The Design Trust (http://www.thedesigntrust.co.
uk) and have been lucky to have access to mentoring and training through Emergents (http://www.emergents.co.uk) in the Highlands. I have learned a lot about marketing, social media, working out pricing and thinking about long term plans with their help and they also helped me feel more confident about my work.
I am getting work ready for an exhibition at the Craft & Design Centre in Leeds, ‘Branching Out”, which opens in the spring then I am off to Iceland in March for the DesignMarch festival. There are a group of makers going from the Highlands and we will be meeting up with Icelandic makers to create collaborative pieces for an exhibition in Iceland next year. In April I will be running my first block of evening classes in the new studio so looking forward to that. I have just been applying for shows for later in the year so will wait to hear back, I will add information to my website as news come in.
A huge thank you to Julia for taking part in my MONTHLY MAKER blog project. As someone who has not worked with clay before (and someone who is obsessed with tactile art forms) I found Julia’s approach to ceramics and her appreciation for the medium really inspiring. I can’t wait to see what her new trip to Iceland will bring to her works!
You can find Julia online here:
Next month on MONTHLY MAKER I speak to Paul Johnston of PJWoodcraft. Paul specialises in wood turning (another artform that I am desperate to try in the near future!).
We speak all about our shared love for raw timber and working from logs to reveal the hidden mysteries inside! Make sure to check back on Monday 3rd April to read more.