With just seven days to go before 2016 Made in Kings Heath Open Studio Christmas Fair preparations are well underway. All the artists have been busy making and are now finishing off work ready for the event next weekend. 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? The answer to this is lots of things! This year I have gone in a couple of different directions, as I’m still at an experimenting stage. I’ve been making quite a few planters – this is probably what has been most popular and I send these all over the world including American and New Zealand – although ironically they are not so popular in Birmingham!
I’ve started a range of marbled work – which is really fun to make, as the patterns you can achieve are so unexpected and beautiful; each one is a natural beauty. I’ve been learning to throw (in porcelain) which is a particularly difficult medium. It’s a love/hate relationship, but one which can be so rewarding. It’s something that I want to focus on for 2017.
I’ve also been asked to run a few workshops this year, which has been quite a compliment. It’s always fun to meet people who are interested in your medium and nice to be able to pass on some of my knowledge and to see how rewarding people find it working with clay.
What’s coming up in the short-term? I’m involved in a pop-up shop in London, at West Elm, in conjunction with 91 Magazine, who have featured me in their second print issue. I’m also doing a couple of workshops there too, on the 19th and 20th November. Details are on my website and http://91magazine.co.uk/west-elm-pop-up/#west-elm-pop-up-shop
I also have some Christmas markets happening, on December 4th is at the MAC and December 5th is with the Birmingham Originals Etsy team, at the Municipal Bank in Birmingham city centre. All details are on my website. http://www.ktrobbinsceramics.com