I’m another crafter who likes to listen to audio books while they work – the only problem is that time passes too quickly then! If I had a little more time and a little fewer hobbies already, I would definitely have a try at pottery – it looks like so much fun. Stephanie’s is also a little more quirky than the generic bowls and plates you might find at a craft shop. I talk to her about what it’s like to run a craft business….
Please tell me an overview of your business – what do you do?
How did you start?
I took up pottery at Secondary school in the 70’s in that golden era when nobody really checked up on what you were doing. By driving the Home Ec and needlework teachers to despair with my ineptitude I managed to wangle double pottery lessons instead. The teacher was really cool and enthusiastic – he taught us the basic techniques then just let us get on with it.
How has your business grown and what are your plans for the future?
Nearly 3 years ago I decided to give up my job as a GP secretary (typing those referrals all day just makes you keep checking yourself for symptoms all the time), live on bread and water and really push to sell my pottery which I’d kept up on and off since taking it back up when my youngest son started school. A few trial open days at home were encouraging and I started off doing craft and garden shows. This will be my first time at the Fairy Festival and will be my last show this year, then I’ll be open for the Hampshire Open Studios the following week for 10 days.
I’m thinking of giving myself a break from the big shows next year. It’s physically very demanding when you have heavy stock, gazebo and display boxes etc to lug around, and usually wipes me out for a week after. Also you’re never quite sure how much of everything you’ll need, so I feel I have to have a lot on the go which can mean I end up mass producing (boring) and also end up with a big storage problem. I feel I need some fresh challenges to stop my pottery from becoming stale so have joined a lot of art societies to give myself the opportunity to exhibit more. The Fairy Festival has made a nice change because it’s really stretched my imagination, and I hope people will like the new work I’ll be bringing along.
What is your favourite thing about your work?
My favourite thing? Being down the bottom of the garden in my caravan studio with no phone signal. I listen to the birds or put some music on. Lately I’ve discovered audio books from the library and work away with somebody reading me a story. It just takes you away to a completely different world and I think we all need some time in the day when we can just switch off. Sometimes I don’t even think about what I’m making until it’s finished, then I step back and think – wow! did I just do that? ( does that sound a bit big-headed 😃)
What inspires you?
What inspires me? – I always dread that question! People always say they’re ‘inspired by nature’ and of course I am. Often I’ll come back from a morning dog walk with a bunch of grasses, leaves and seed heads to press into clay. I love to create texture on a piece then watch the little rivers of coloured oxides
flow into that texture and highlight it. On the other hand I was also inspired this week by the design on my shower curtain! I definitely find that the more I do, the more ideas come flooding in from all directions. I also get a real kick out of making people smile so a lot of my pottery is a bit quirky and humorous.
Do you have a favourite artist, crafter or businessperson you admire, and why?
I admire a lot of artists but suppose I’m predictable in that my favourite is the potter, Grayson Perry. His work is interesting and always tells a story (which mind doesn’t – therefore I consider myself a craftsperson rather than an artist and blame my parents for giving me a normal childhood!) Not only that though he is interest-ED in other people and their lives and stories which I find refreshing. Also he seems very down to earth and doesn’t speak arty B-S-!
Any stories to tell? Funny moments?
The very first garden show I did I’d brought the cheapest gazebo I could find and had a phone call in the middle of the night after setting up to say that it was on the other side of the field. There was also the time I forgot to take something off it’s wooden board before putting it into the kiln – luckily the thick smoke alerted me to my error before it got past the smouldering stage!
Do it – do it! Thank goodness since BBC’s the Great Throw Down more pottery classes have sprung up – although I gather they quickly get booked up and another series will be on our screens soon. I wish I could offer classes myself and share the love but in a 7 x 14ft caravan it’s difficult.
Any advice for anyone wanting to start a hand-crafted business generally?
Doing craft and garden shows has brought me in contact with some lovely people who are always happy to share advice and tips. Sadly though I keep hearing the same story – business was booming up until about three years ago and I wonder whether this is the effect of the recession of simply whether there are just too many talented people out there and more shows happening. What I will say is try to stay original and don’t expect to get rich! Also never undervalue your work. If somebody really loves and wants something they will be willing to pay a fair price for it.
Where can we find you in person? Future craft fairs or markets?
I will be taking part in the Hampshire Open Studios again this year. Saturday 20th – Bank Holiday Monday 29th August, 10am-5pm every day. Free brochures will be available from me at the Fairy Festival or can usually be found in libraries and information centres. Poundsgate Pottery is no. 8 in the brochure. Other future events are published on the Poundsgate Pottery website where you can sign up for my newsletter too, and on Facebook.
Where can we find you online? (shop & social media)