Life Behind the Squares: Ceramic Magpie

June you absolute beauty! I am so excited for this month, for the change that will come at the end of it and for the abundance of flowers and foliage that will fill our hedgerows, gardens and roadside verges. Normally I am at my most creative during these comings month but with house renovations and changes a foot in my day job (blog post on these two things to follow), I know I'm going to struggle this year.

My create in spring entry

That's why I think Katie of Ceramic Magpie's new hashtag "createinspring" is genius. For those of you don't know it (and how the hell not? its got over 8000 posts now), Katie started it to encourage us Instagrammers to showcase how we are working with nature as the seasons pass us by. I was lucky enough to be the guest judge for May and there were some brilliant entries for me to swoon over. Before I reveal the winner, lets read more about the wonderful Ceramicist Katie Robbins. 

Katie at work

1. I have been following you on Instagram since I first joined 18 months ago and have loved watching how your work has evolved. Would you ever say you are done or does your style continue to evolve?

Ooh this question really made me think and I had to scroll back to see. When I first started my account I wanted it to be a reflection of who I was and the things that inspired me, so mixed with my images you'd often find a picture of the sea or forest. Since the inclusion of IG stories I now keep those shots out of my gallery. I have always tried to show my maker journey so include a mix of work-in-progress shots, my work-space, packaging shots as well as finished items. Initially my gallery used to use plain white backgrounds for flat-lays, but I now use warmer wooden tones for more of my flat-lays, and I tried to experiment with more depth of field shots, to really show off the product. I think I still probably use a lot of blooms and plants as props.

Porcelain bowls


2. I know that you used to work in a corporate marketing role, what made you take the leap and what one piece of advice would you give to anyone (like me) thinking of taking the plunge?

I didn't so much leap, rather than edged in slowly. I gave up my marketing role after having children and experimented with quite a few different art mediums and spent time sewing as well as doing more pottery classes. I think if you are thinking of changing your course completely then put your toe in the water first. See what kind of reaction your product gets on platforms like Instagram and then if you think there is a market for what you make then it's time to get serious about your making.

3. where do you draw your inspiration from? the digital world or the real world? 

I'm very much drawn to the natural world for colour inspiration. I love to think of sun-rises (pink and blues), as well as colours drawn directly from plants  -delicate pink petals floating on lush green leaves, or landscape - green moss against the open grey slate mines in South West Wales for example. My palette is fairly limited and comes back to the same blues, greens, pinks and greys.

Hanging Planters of my dreams

4. I feel so lucky to have won a competition through your Instagram page and beautiful hashtag wipsandblooms. Whilst wipsandblooms may no longer be running, I am excited by your latest challenge which relates to the seasons and creativity - can you tell us more about it and how you can up with the idea?

It has made me very happy to watch your account bloom Bex! My latest challenge, #createinspring is about matching your creativity to the season; it wants you to show off what you are making and show how the season is influencing this or how you style your image. You don't actually need to be a maker for this challenge as it could be about you arrange your flowers, twigs, coffee etc? The tag will evolve as the seasons change so you'll also see #createinsummer/autumn/winter when the time comes. I'm not totally sure if summer has officially started but it feels right to go forward with #createinsummer now.

5. What does a typical day look to you and how much of it is involved in creating your beautiful pottery?

This is such a good question as no two days ever feel the same for me. Today, I feel 'unproductive' as I only threw about 5 mini bowls - but I've answered interview questions for you (and a feature for the Mollie Makes April issue); I've also tried to take some photography - but not sure the props were quite right. Other days can involve turning (which is where you remove excess clay from the bottom of a pot, giving it a neat finish), or packaging and sending out product. I think I probably spend too much time on photography if I'm honest, but I derive a lot of pleasure from making an aesthetic image which shows off my work. So out of a typical week, I probably spend at least a day on admin rather than making.

Beautiful studio space

6. If you had an extra hour in every day, how would you spend it?

Probably practising my guitar, my new hobby. I was listening to @meandorla's podcast about the meditation app and it made me realise that I should have more down time; and I quite like the repetitive nature of plucking strings, and losing yourself in producing music - its very therapeutic.

7. I have been really inspired by the community that I have built since starting Botanical Tales - where and how did you build your community?

Well, like you I've had to find my community. I've met fellow makers through Etsy and the Paperdolls Handmade Market, I've joined in with Twitter chats; gone to events like Blogtacular and creative retreats where I've met like-minded people or current Instagram friends; and chatted to people on Instagram on my posts or via DM. Ironically some of the people I'm closest to on the app are the people I've never met.

Last months prize

8. I believe having a champion is so important in your life, that one person who continues to cheer you on from the sidelines no matter what. Do you have a champion and what do they mean to you?

I'm lucky to have several champions who I can count on. The first is my partner, who has supported making my dream of pottery become a viable proposition. He's always there in the background, like when we had terrible snow prior to Christmas he drove me to a local market and helped unload all my work, or if I have a problem with my kiln - he really goes the extra mile to support me. Then I have my creative best friend, @IzaKorsak who has helped me by taking beautiful portrait photography, designing my logo, and initially did all my website photography too.

Thank you Katie, for the revealing and honest interview and inviting me to be part of your new creative project! I am so pleased to announce my favourite four of this month:

The chosen Four

There were so many entries to choose from but these four caught my eye because of the beautiful light that was captured as well as the gorgeous use of different textures. From top left to bottom left, clockwise the wonderful creatives are Debbie, Tracey, Ann and Vaani. And the entry selected for this month is Tracey Hunter's, the light and the lilacs for me capture May just perfectly! 

I did want to give a special mention to someone close to my heart, Rachel, who basically learnt a new craft in order to be able to enter the competition. Scented candles using the left over granules from her morning cuppa, I love the idea! Intrigued as to how they will smell!

Coffee and candles

What a beautiful selection of images from some truly talented entrants!