With preparations well underway before the 2017 Made in Kings Heath Open Studio Christmas Art Trail opens its doors, all the artists have been busy making and are now finishing off work ready for the event. I took some time out to interview KT Robbins, who will be hosting one of the studio fairs, to find out more about what inspires her ceramics.
What do you create Katie? I make a range of nature-inspired porcelain vessels, vases, accessories, planters and wall art.
Where do you make your work? I am lucky to work from a purpose built light-filled studio adjacent to my home. It enjoys views over my garden and it is filled with inspiration, including lots of artwork from artist trades as well as plants and interesting natural finds. I also have an artist pass for the MAC which offers a variety of art and ceramic courses.
What is your inspiration? My inspiration sources vary, but often tend to come back to the sea in some form or other, from sea-urchins and sea-foam, to microscopic sea organisms. I love the colours associated with the coast, from grey rock, blue skies and pinky/white sea-shells. I’m also inspired by my love of plants and have developed a range of hanging planters to show off their beauty using an updated version of traditional macrame.
How do you go about creating your work?. I use a process of slip-casting for the majority of my work, which means that I use a mould to create a basic shape. Slip is poured into the mould and left to form a skin; it is then poured out. Once the porcelain has hardened the outer layers of the mould are removed leaving the shape behind. I will then ‘tidy it’, by removing the seam lines and then cut into and embellish it with surface decoration. It can be a lengthy process producing the first basic shape – some of which have taken over 20 hours work for large pieces.
Which aspect(s) of your work do you enjoy most? I love watching the designs take shape. What starts as an idea is gradually bought to life. Certain aspects could be considered laborious, but they are so absorbing that they take on an almost meditative quality. I love spending time in my studio for that reason – it’s a complete form of escapism.
Who inspires you? In terms of my forms I tend to take my inspiration from nature, but I’m also sure I’ve been influenced by my first teacher who specialises in porcelain, Sue Dyer. In terms of colours in glazes, I have been influenced by fellow students at the MAC whose work I admire. I also use the glaze recipe book from Linda Bloomfield whose colour combinations I particularly like.
Have you always been a ceramacist? I’ve come to the world of art fairly late in life. At university I studied French and Politics, and have lived in Brussels and Madrid for extended periods. I worked in marketing and public promotions for ten years focusing a on home interior companies, which is where I developed an understanding of strong brand aesthetic.
How did you get started? I’d always been interested in clay since my school days, and did several projects for my Art AS level, since then I have done lots of evening classes. After I had children I enrolled on a porcelain course and really developed my skills in working with clay there. I submitted a piece into an open exhibition which sold and this gave me the impetus to think that I could make on a more professional basis. So I’ve been selling my work for around three years now.
Where do you exhibit/ sell your work? I’m a member of a local organisation, Midland Potters which has lots of local exhibitions. I do local art and Christmas markets, but my most successful outlet tends to be selling through my Etsy on-line shop, or directly from my popular instagram account @ceramicmagpie.
What are you working on at the moment?I’ve been working on making more planters as I like making little plant homes – but have been trying to create them in a more unique style with intricate knotwork and combining my porcelain beads.
I’ve continued making functional slip-cast items and have been having fun marbling with clay in new colours like black and green. This year, I’ve spent some time on throwing a couple of new shapes, and really honing my skills in these areas, and also experimenting with two tone colour finishes, as well as carving into the clay.
I tested some black clay recently and everyone seems to love it. So, I’ve been making lots of black porcelain stars to order!
What’s coming up in the short-term? I’ve made a conscious decision not to over-stretch myself with lots of fairs so I have only two after the Open Studios. The first is with Birmingham Originals Etsy team on the 2nd December with their Winter Makers Market on the 2nd December(https://www.facebook.com/events/271403753253200/); and the following one is with Harborne Handmade Christmas Market on Sunday 10th December at Moor Pool Hall. (https://www.facebook.com/events/1927768367507928/). All details are on my website. http://www.ktrobbinsceramics.com