maker designer

Neil Hardy – Automata

Automata is one of the few crafts that has not originated from a practical need, like pottery or glass. Its purpose has always been to fascinate, intrigue and more recently give a sense of fun and whimsy.  I have tried to make pieces that basically make you feel happy to own, that do not take themselves too seriously, and do not require great aesthetic taste to appreciate. They should have no practical value apart from making you smile. They are like a film cartoon, something that takes skill and considerable time to make but with the sole purpose of amusing you.  I like the idea that something that often takes weeks to design and make for the first time is ultimately something so silly and pointless. With this in mind I like to show all the intricacies of the mechanics, the way in which it is put together and that there are no short cuts using motors, electronics or specialised materials. You turn a handle and things happen. You can see how each movement is created individually but the end result should be slightly magical, unexpected and whimsical.

New ideas come slowly for me and it is a question of sitting down with sheets of paper and just doodling until something comes along.  I have to take time to sit down and really concentrate on finding new ideas. It is probably the hardest thing I have to do and is just plain hard work.  As all my work is with animals, I often look through animal books and videos of their movements to look for ideas. The mechanical side too is as important and has to be considered along side the initial idea, and only when both come together can the work proceed.   Inspiration is important and can come from anywhere. A new work might come from a joke, a particular animal’s look, or an interesting mechanism. It’s important to have the inspiration to start the work. The actual realisation of the piece though takes many hours of sorting out the practical problems of designing the mechanism, finding a simple method to make the piece and making sure it’s fairly foolproof when the handle is turned by others.  

I worked as an architect for many years before stumbling on automata and felt this was something I could do better. I have always made things from an early age and gone through a few crafts before finding automata suited my talents in particular. In the past I have made and sold pottery, stained glass, and water colour painting.  I would really consider myself a maker rather than an artist. My work is as much about how a thing looks as about how it is made. Automata is a complicated craft as and has to actually ‘work’ rather than just look good. I am never too sure about whether any of the things I have done are artistically good, but I do know my automata works! I think that’s why I found this craft suited me best as it is not quite as subjective as many arts.

Most of my work is repeated as it is the only way to keep the costs down. It would be totally unreasonable to try to sell just one of pieces as the time taken to develop each piece is far longer than making a piece that is tried and tested. Having said that I believe repeating pieces does perfect them too. They very slowly evolve, become more precise, work more smoothly, and become less cluttered. My work is better after I have made it a hundred times or so!  I have never really marketed my work that much. Fortunately galleries have come to me through word of mouth generally. If I did not rely on the money to make a living I would like to make larger more complex pieces for museums.  But even so, in a world of high tech machines and gadgets there is still a wonder for the hand made piece. In fact I think the more stuff that is factory mass produced the more desire there is for the hand made.  It does though become relatively more expensive as the mass produced products become cheaper.

My wish would be to produce a few great pieces that were seen as the pinnacle of automata making. Also, there are so many new materials out there now that I have no real knowledge about. Skill in plastics and resin would be interesting I think.  I work from home in the basement to my house with a window looking out my garden. My cat comes and sits on the window ledge sometimes and life seems good.

Carmela Kantorowicz – Ceramics

    Making ceramics is a very challenging disapline.  There is always something new to discover, a new technique, different materials.  There is always a challenge and I never tire of it. This sustains my creativity and drives me as an artist.

I usually start from a technique.  You have to understand the constraints involved and work within those.  From experience you discover what works and what doesn’t, what forms the materials will allow you to make, and what effects you can achieve.    I usually have a picture in mind of the end result, but getting there can often take a lot of time and effort.

It doesn’t happen often that I have a lull in the flow of ideas, I have more ideas than I have time to realise them.  If I’m really stuck, I just make something I have done before and often discover something new in the process, or find a way of improving it. One idea flows from another.

I’ve always enjoyed making things.  From a young age at home we were always knitting, sewing, embroidering, cooking, baking etc.  I enjoyed art and pottery at school, but because I was very academic and went to a grammar school, it didn’t seem the best path for me.  However, now I realise if I had understood myself better I would have been much happier if I had been able to take art and craft more seriously.  It took a long time before I had the opportunity to really learn about ceramics and spend time making.  These days  I’m always thinking about ceramics, but having a family makes it difficult to find as much time as I would like to devote to it.  There are a lot of distractions.  I also never seem to have enough space, and because certain processes need to be done outside, my work is very weather dependent.  In the winter it’s too cold to make very much.  I would love a beautiful big studio with everything I need.

I think that it’s always difficult from a commercial and financial point of view for artists, but I believe they do what they do because it fulfils a need in them to create and to express themselves.   I enjoy doing commissions  as long as they fit in with the existing body of work.  A lot of people ask for things not understanding the limits of the way I work.  It is very hard to repeat pieces exactly, especially with raku, as the final outcome is mostly out of your control.   I find selling and marketing detracts from the time spent making.  I like to make things that I find interesting and enjoy myself.  If I try only to please other people, I find it doesn’t work for me.  I do my best work making pieces I love and if other people love them too that’s great.   I find it quite hard to promote myself and my work.  It might not appear so, but I’m quite shy and don’t like a lot of attention.

I would like my work to speak for itself.

Alexandra Joelle – Jewellery Designer


I just love to create and seeing each piece come together is the most satisfying thing in the world.

I always design through experimentation, I couldn’t think of anything worse than being sat in-front of my sketchbook all day trying to come up with ideas from the back of my head that will never appear. So instead I start with the circle and have a play with cutting them into sections folding and then see what frame works I come up with.

If I have a lull in the flow of ideas I might start by making something I’ve made before, most of the time whilst I am absorbed in making a ring or something simple, I come up with a new flow of ideas.   I am constantly searching for inspiration; I always have my sketchbook in my bag in case I think of something on the go.  It basically takes over your life and never comes out of your head.  If I am stuck on how to make something I usually start dreaming about it.  Which is actually usually when I come out with some of my best ideas, so I keep a spare sketchbook right next to my bed!   My work is inspired by the idea of creating tension. All my pieces are built to create simplistic frame works to make the tension with the thread. I am also inspired by using different materials in my work I love working with thread maybe this goes back to my love of fashion design when I was younger. 

I’ve always loved making and drawing things from a young age, when I was little I would spend hours drawing fashion design’s, which for a long time is what I wanted to do.  But being in a family of Jeweller’s and being brought up in those surrounding’s my passions lead me into working with metal.

Although it isn’t reflected in my work I have a real love of history, eventually I would like to look into the past and take more inspiration from there. I also work in an auctioneer’s part time so I get to see a lot of old quirky Jewellery which can be really exciting!

My work environment is very important; I find it very therapeutic to sit with my headphones in without any distractions fiddling away with my pieces, I go into my own little world. I still do like to have people around me; I think being in a workshop on my own could get boring quickly its nice to have other people around to bounce ideas of each other. That’s what’s nice about university, you have a lot of people to bounce your ideas around, and it can be very inspirational.

 My heart’s desire is probably to have my own shop that’s full with my own designs, and to be able to employ and train others, as I think opportunities to train in the industry are very difficult to come by. I was lucky that I have my father to carry on training me, and others don’t always have the opportunity.  At the moment I am just taking everything as it comes, I am getting a good response to my work, so I hope to carry on and continue in developing my work. Having my own workshop would be lovely too! But I am lucky to have a family in the industry so I already have one set up in the corner of my fathers shop; this has saved me a lot of money.

I love working to commission, all of my work is repeatable and very versatile; all of pieces are available in many different colours on request, with combinations of either ribbon or chain.   If money was no object I think any artist could say they would do things differently, materials are very expensive as any Jeweller can tell you. I think the biggest difference is I would want to use gold, as it is personally my favourite material, so any commission pieces are most welcome!   As I am just starting out as an artist, money is in short supply, so marketing is something that I am only just starting to look at and will be pursued more as I go on.  

If I was going to learn another skill it probably would be to work more in textiles, I did textiles in my A ‘levels and have always had a passion for it, so more of a combination with textiles and metalwork, which my work does reflect already, I am looking into weaving and castings at the minute. But this is all a work in progress.


Jeremy White – Ceramics

I hate clutter, but my life is lived in a permanent state of clutter and untidiness from which my studio does not escape.   I try to keep it habitable, but somehow I seem to work better in chaos, although I take care to ensure that the finished piece of work is not sloppy.   My Studio is a small space (a Summerhouse in any other life) in the garden.   I look out onto trees and plants and I know that behind me is a stream, meadow, canal, fields and the Chilterns.   All of these feed my imagination and Creativity.

Inspiration is the nub of an idea, either a photograph, or preferably a landscape view ‘en plein air’, which will later germinate into a physical creation.  I also ‘need’ to work, either to tease out a pot from a vague idea.  The need to produce in a physical, tangible form, an idea which is rolling around in my mind sustains me as an artist and the need to make a living drives me, they feed off each other.  If it wasn’t in clay, it would need to be by some other process.  When  I need to develop new work,  I don’t often sit down and think “lets have a new idea”.   It is a process of osmosis where one piece or style of work leads onto or suggests a development to another stage.

Once I have an idea, I will sometimes make very rough  (and very poor) sketches, usually on scraps of paper which I later have to rescue from the recycle bin.  When working on the wheel new shapes, will develop from others, often by accident!  If I have a lull in the flow of new ideas.  I find going back to basics; either throwing 100 mugs, or simple hand building, usually stimulates the grey cells into doing something different!


I have always had creativity inside me, but it only blossomed into a concrete form around the age of 25.   I had wanted to be an actor.   At School I got 5% in Mock Science O Level and refused point blank to take the proper exam, and bugged everyone until I was allowed to do Art O level (for which I received my best marks).   Later Ceramics came into my life almost by accident, but I was hooked.   I built, literally, my first studio and immersed myself in making and selling Pots. I also returned to teaching, Ceramics, this time rather than English and Drama. After a period when I was teaching full time, my own creativity stopped and I had a need to do something completely different.   Many years later the call of the clay could no longer be resisted and I returned to full time Potting.  Now it informs my life!  It’s a visual response, by looking at everything from a different point of view, seeing ‘a pot’, potentially in every view or landscape.


With regard to commissions, I don’t really like them, unless the brief is VERY open.  When some one has said’ make me one like that’, they usually end up saying, ‘but its not same colour’ or ‘the shape is different’ as if the pieces were made on a production line and from moulds.  If I make thrown domestic ware then the work is repeatable, but less satisfying to do.   The open brief can be quite satisfying, but if the commission is not something that I enjoy doing then I am afraid that it takes a back seat in my list of priorities.

I don’t really enjoy the process of selling or marketing my own work.  ‘Artist and Makers’ Fairs, ( I don’t like the “Craft Market” scenario as it rather gets mixed up with knitted tea cosies and stuff my Mother used to make for Church Bazaars, which I hasten to add have their place in the order of things!), are my main source of direct outlet.   I take part in our County Open Studios fortnight, which I find interesting and rewarding.   I am delighted if Galleries are interested in taking/buying my work, although I dislike the process of having to present myself and my work for scrutiny.  If money were no object then I would play around with ideas more than I am able to do now, experiment and ‘play’ with different techniques.   I have a website, which I am very bad about keeping up to date, thankfully, my Webmaster is good at nagging me.   I don’t do twitter or Facebook.    Fortunately there will always be people who want to buy hand crafted work, and will pay for it, preferring that to the mass produced and significantly cheaper, items in various stores.   It is just a case of finding them!


Jenny Ayrton – Cast Glass

  Creating cast-glass is a fairly drawn-out process involving a number of stages. Initially I work with great attention to detail, however with the introduction of molten glass each piece takes on a life of its own, and often I have no idea what I have created until I open the kiln days later. It is this anticipation that drives me on to want to make more.

Sometimes one opens the kiln to find an unexpected success, more frequently things haven’t worked how I would like; depending on the deadline that I’m working towards I often feel more excited when it is the latter, if everything goes exactly as I expect then I quickly find myself getting bored.   I love problem-solving  and I think that it’s this that keeps my work evolving.  By the time I’m half-way into one mould I’ve usually identified an alternative way to make the next.

It’s so exciting when a new idea strikes. I begin with a rough sketch, I then spend ages puzzling over how best to approach it technically, and the finished piece evolves from there. I’m rather stubborn so if someone says that an idea can’t be achieved, or suggests a simpler but less effective approach, then I’m determined to do it my way!    When I reach a technical dead-end though, I find my dad incredibly helpful. He comes from a more scientific background (though he’s also very creative), and when talking through a project over a couple of beers he’ll often ask just the right question, or suggest an unusual solution. 

I recently came across a box full of my sketchbooks from the last 13  years, it was amazing flicking through to see doodles of uncompleted ideas. Having recently finished a foundation degree in applied arts many of these may take on a new life as I can imagine their potential in materials that I previously hadn’t considered. Over the last couple of years my work has taken a very noticeable turn towards a domestic theme, prior to that it was nautically inspired, I have no idea what it will be next!   The rest of my life certainly affects my art, so I suppose the opposite must be true. I like to think that I’m good at thinking of alternative solutions to life’s little problems, a similar approach to my mould making. 

Like so many artists I find getting out and about really helps when I’m low on ideas. I live in Devon so I’m very lucky to be surrounded by stunning moor, woods and coastline. I’ve also found that travelling by train is fascinating as it gives you an alternative perspective of towns and cities.

 I’ve always had a creative streak, from finger painting as a toddler, to collecting shells on the beach. As a teenager I found textiles excited me more than art lessons at school. When I was 18 I was split between a love of the sea, and a desire to be creative. After a few years afloat it was time for a change so I signed up for a course at Plymouth College of Art, and I haven’t looked back since!    I’ve also recently become a mum for the first time, whilst this has severely restricted my glass-casting time my daughter happily models a number of mummy-knitted outfits, and we’re having great fun getting messy with paint!


I am neither comfortable nor confident when marketing my work. For one thing I get very attached to each piece, though with some projects it’s very much a love-hate relationship. Initially it felt like I was selling a little bit of me, however I’m getting better at handing work over, and instead I see it as an opportunity to start on another piece.  At college we were told that to be a professional it’s vital to designate a substantial part of time each week to the business side of things, but somehow the hoovering and washing-up always seem more inviting!   

Last year I designed and made the trophies for the Association of Colleges Gold Awards which were presented at the House of Commons. In some ways it was a great experience, but the words ‘blood, sweat and tears’ would not be an understatement!  I would think twice before agreeing to make so many almost identical pieces on such a tight budget and deadline, however it would be lovely to work with customers to create individual pieces with personal meaning.

The introduction of new technologies in art interests me.   I’m not sure whether it will directly influence my work as I still really enjoy getting messy, but there are certainly some very exciting things happening in the glass-art

I would love a bigger workshop with state of the art cold-working facilities, however I have recently started to rent time in the workshop at Teign Valley Glass, and it’s made me realise that having my own workshop could get rather lonely… so totally blowing the budget I think a fully equipped multi-purpose workshop to share with all my artistic friends!

Casting is quite a messy process however it helps to keep things fairly tidy and to clean up as you work (though my husband would tell you my workshop is a tip, I know where everything is!). Much of the equipment I use can be found in a standard kitchen (though not in ours as it tends to migrate to the garage never to be seen again!). So long as I’m inspired and there’s something good on the radio I’m quite happy, I’ve even been known to break the ice on the outside sink to rinse out my plaster bucket!



Artist Spotlight: Melanie Pike – Jewellery Designer (recycled materials)

Melanie Pike

Our first  spotlight of this Winter 2012 show features  jewellery designer  Melanie Pike.  Melanie’s jewellery is quirky, funky and completely original and she assembles carefully selected found componants to create new and unique pieces.  The term wearable art is used a lot these days but it does describe Melanie’s work exceptionally well.  There appears to be a secret life behind each piece  with opening doors and secret messages suggesting travel and exploration.  I love her colours and the sense of humour behind the ideas, each  seems have  a particular story to tell, if it could speak it would probably make for a very interesting dinner guest.

You can see Melanie’s work  in the  gallery until February 2013.

 She talks here about her work as an artist, what inspires her and her thoughts about living a creative life!

I create things because I cannot help myself.  I have tried to do other, more ‘sensible’ things but this urge to design and make stuff always catches up with me.  I’ve simply given up resisting it.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a bit older now – I’m in my mid forties – that the idea of ‘getting somewhere’ seems increasingly less important or interesting and the possibilities inherent in being somewhere, here, increasingly more attractive and enjoyable.  

Softly Like Spring – brooch using recycled materials

Designs usually stem from the materials themselves.  Colours, textures, combinations of elements give me an appetite to combine, arrange, juxtapose. I notice ways in which one element can enhance another, or sometimes add humour to another.  At some point a rightness emerges and with it a knowing that this piece works.  I follow my enthusiasm and the time flies.  It is as if there isn’t a me making a something, there is just the flow of making.

 I’ve always been aware that there are certain activities in this life which are their own reward – things we do that have a purpose or goal but that we do for the love of them.  Like gathering mushrooms on a beautiful autumn day in the woods.  The goal is a fine mushroom supper and yet the steps leading up to that are pure pleasure.  This work is in that league for me  and it is a privilege to do something I love that also brings other people pleasure.  Like many people, I am very visual and am struck by the beauty of very ordinary things.  I try to translate that, through my pieces, into a more widely available appeal.

To re-energise,  I take walks, dance, sing, do yoga, work my allotment, nap, cook, go visiting, check out exhibitions… If I am feeling uninspired it is not because ideas aren’t flowing but because life isn’t flowing through me, so that’s what I try to encourage – the flow of life.

 I am a daughter of very creative parents, my dad is an artist and my mum has taught gourmet cooking so there is an inevitability about what I now do.  But it took me a long time to become clear about the path.  You could say I put a lot of obstacles in my own way.  I spent many years thinking I had to be ‘more’ or ‘different or ‘better’ to be happy.  Once I let go of that burden I found I was free to enjoy doing what I love.

Arizona Brooch – created from recycled materials

Because I work with found objects I’m always paying attention to the inanimate elements in my surroundings – pavements and roadsides in the city for the rusty treasures that might be lurking there.  In the country I look for pebbles, beach glass, driftwood, plastic debris, pottery shards, bones (I have some wonderful bird skulls and sheep’s teeth from Wales).  I am amazed by the wealth and variety of fascinating and beautiful materials beneath our feet.  What is it they say, ‘hidden in plain view’?

I work at home and it suits me.  I like to be able to put the carrots on and return to my bench while they cook and sometimes taking a break to do the washing up is exactly what is required in the flow of a creative process.  My workspace is full of good, natural light and because the scale I work to is small it is not difficult to have everything within easy reach.  I have small drawers with loosely classified objects and finds, boxes and tins stacked on shelves, big jars of tools and small bowls of tiny treasures.

I particularly enjoy working to commission.  I like to transform people’s cherished fragments into wearable art.  Almost everyone has some precious items tucked away in a drawer or box – an orphan earring from a  treasured pair, a scrap of fabric rich in associations, a button, pebble or gold ring, elements which can be made into truly one of a kind pieces that speak of the person you are, the life you have lived and of what has mattered to you.  Pieces of jewellery emerging in this way have an intimacy that a mass-produced item can never replicate.  Otherwise I tend to work in series, following the potential of a given material, improving on a design, varying it, dancing with it and then taking what I have discovered forward to inform the next series or project. 

 Thank goodness people like my work and that it sells!  Otherwise I’d run out of living space as my home would become choked with all the pieces I have made.  Selling my work enables me to make more pieces.  Sometimes I hold onto a favourite piece for a while but I am pragmatic so most of it goes on sale.  Realistically, running the business/marketing side of things probably accounts for about fifty percent of my work time.   How confusing daily life would be if money didn’t enter the equation.  I’ve never experienced that.  It’s a simple equation for me, work equals income, lovely and straightforward.

The era we now live in enables a much broader definition of ‘art’ than any that has gone before.  It encompasses an extraordinary diversity of self-expression.  Fortunately, for those of us who are compelled to express ourselves artistically, it would seem that our contribution to life is required and welcome.  I feel immense gratitude to the people who repair roads, staff  hospitals, teach in schools and generally keep the machinery of the civilised world functioning.  I wouldn’t be as good at doing those invaluable jobs as I am at doing what I love to do. 

 I see our role as artists as remembering not to take ourselves or life too seriously.  We introduce playfulness into the equation, don’t we, by introducing another way of seeing the same old thing.  Inspiration means ‘to inhale or breathe in’.   Art is like taking a breath of fresh air, it refreshes.

Listening with the Moon brooch – created with recycled materials

In that way my heart’s desire has been fulfilled.  I have the freedom to play with unusual materials and turn them into treasure or art. This makes me feel like an alchemist, extracting the precious from the mundane and everyday, bringing the overlooked to life.  I look forward to teaching some day, although I’m not sure how that will come about as yet.  It will be a delight to share some of the processes and solutions I have discovered with others.

As far as learning other crafts goes, if I didn’t find jewellery and wearable art so all consuming I’d love to learn stone carving.  I have some gorgeous pieces of alabaster I’ve picked up on the North Somerset coastline and always imagine that at some point I’ll acquire the skills to work it.

  I’ll probably still want to turn it into some wearable adornment, though.

Glimpsing St Ives – Brooch – Created with recycled materials









Jill Desbo – Artist Spotlight

Jill’s Exhibition puppets have caused a bit of a stir in the showroom, they are undoubtably on the dark side of of the fairy tale spectrum, beautifully made and all quite mesmorising!   They have become the anchor points for this Autumn show and are perfect for the atmosphere of the turning of the leaves into the darker end of the year.  Each puppet has a powerful personality and the character of each one is delectably theatrical.  Jill talks here about her work and her thoughts about what being and artist mean to her.


I love the physical act of making- either marks on paper when I’m drawing or for etching, or transforming a lump of wax into a character head for a puppet. The desire to get my ideas inside me out into the world keeps me going as an artist! Also I think ideas of mortality drive me, especially as you get older.

I find walking is very productive, once I have the bones of an idea. Sometimes a book like Mervyn Peakes ‘Titus Groan’ will inspire puppets, or Chaucer. Sometimes ideas just land and then it’s a case of working them up through drawings, or straight into the sculpt. I find one piece of work often ‘inspires’ another- i.e. leads into a new thing. I think the discipline of working is important- not necessarily waiting for some inspiration. Once you start, things often just have their own momentum.

Due to this, I rarely have a lull in the flow of ideas – I work freelance as a commercial sculptor; my problem is finding the time to do my own work! The puppets have been repeated or can be, but each one is unique- different colour scheme for example, and embroidery. I have done small editions of sculpture and if they all sell, well that’s great! I don’t have to have a studio myself because I work fairly small, I can work anywhere – even on the train sometimes! And I always take stuff on holiday. I am never without something to do! It excites me and I feel very grateful.

I sell either through open submission exhibitions, or group shows with 11 fellow printmakers (12PM).or through galleries that have my work, plus an online gallery. I hope my choices would be the same, money no object but that’s an interesting one…. maybe the puppets would be life-size if I could house them! But then I like an intimacy of scale. Because I have the ‘day job’ I don’t have the pressure to make my own work consciously ‘saleable’- or really milk something that’s proved a success. I can sort of indulge myself – it’s always something I really want to do rather than trying to work out if it’s going to be ‘saleable’. For artists who live by their own work, I wonder if it’s sometimes constraining.

Artist Spotlight: Adriana Brinsmead-Stockham


Casting and sculpting in glass is an exacting discipline which calls for complete technical mastery.  Like all art forms that require real mastery, what emerges if successful, looks effortless, like the artists job was somehow to ‘get out of the way’ to set the work free and to me, Adriana’s works reflects that ideal.  She brings her ideas to life in forms that require an enormous amount of artistry, skill and investment to produce.  The interplay of light through the faultless body of glass makes each piece appear almost weightless, although it’s anything but as the glass itself is lead crystal based. This means each piece can be finished to a state of perfect clarity, allowing the light itself to bring to life the pure saturated colour and complex carved rythmical shapes she creates to describe water’s signature on the landscape.  Here Adriana talks in more detail about her work and how she came to find her path as an artist.

Water is my greatest inspiration. What it represents, what it does, what it gives, takes, forms and re-forms (such as coastlines and landscapes, canyons and mountains).  Its different states – solid, vapour, liquid.  The fact that it is both life-giving yet life-taking, creating new things and also destroying.  All of its contradictions and duality drive me to try and capture it – not only of itself but also how it affects me.  It can look so innocent and calm yet be deadly, it is mercurial in its moods – the sea can be gentle and welcoming one moment and then change to a madness of power and destruction the next. It refreshes yet frightens, invigorates or drains, it cleanses or pollutes – but above all, it continually draws me to it and when I’m by a body of water such as a river, lake or best of all coastline, I feel as if I belong, like a homecoming almost – its very hard to explain.

I develop new designs and ideas by visiting different areas – whether it be the Thames, the South Coast, the Great Canyons of the USA, icebergs in Alaska or the puddle in my garden – I have my camera with me to capture anything that catches my eye – usually the patterns of the water itself or the patterns and designs that water has made on the land and landscape.  I then start thinking about how I can take those images and patterns and translate them into a piece of work.   Being inspired, to me, just means being driven to create something that hopefully captures what I’m experiencing.  When this dries up, I either re-visit bodies of water or start thinking about where I would like to go that I haven’t been to, but my main problem is usually being overwhelmed with ideas and not having enough time or resources to follow them all through.
My life as an artist came fairly late in life.  I wasn’t brought up to believe that being an artist was an acceptable form of employment, let alone an option!  I’ve always loved drawing and photography, just for my own pleasure, and due to a change in personal circumstances I was given the opportunity to go to University to take a degree in Fine Art – however, whilst doing the Access to Education course that my chosen University (UCA Farnham) ran, I discovered that they had a renown Glass department and that sealed my fate for studio glass has always been a love of mine.  So I then embarked on a degree in 3D Design specialising in Glass and have gone on to do an MA in Contemporary Crafts, also in Glass, which I will be completing later this year.
Opening myself up as an artist has made me much more aware of my surroundings rather than taking them for granted or not ‘seeing’ them properly.  I find it hard to experience any sort of landscape that intrigues me without thinking about what I could do with it/how I would represent it – whether it’s a deliberately sought out ‘inspiration’ or one that catches my eye while driving on a motorway or walking round the local supermarket – different things can be very evocative and can ‘jog’ different thought processes – usually related to something I’m either already working on or thinking about doing. The most surprising thing about taking this ‘path’ is that whilst everyone I knew either called me brave (to my face) or just plain crazy, I just felt so excited and lucky to have finally found what I truly want to do and I now have a personal confidence and sense of myself that I have never had before, and never believed possible.

My studio and workspace is extremely important and I enjoy having the option to work on my own when I want to and around others when I don’t.  I like my own company and am a bit of a control freak when it comes to designing/making and hate it when other people use my tools without looking after them properly, but I also enjoy the mad banter that a small group of artists generate – the exchange of ideas, often crazy, and lots of laughter is such a wonderfully creative atmosphere and I cherish it.   I love taking my photographs and they are an intrinsic part of my design process and whilst I’m not bad at composition, my technical skills are more or less dictated by the ‘auto’ settings!  But if I had to work 3D-wise in another medium then it would probably be wood.

To date, I only make one off pieces, not from any sort of snobbery for batch making – but just because that is what I really enjoy doing.  Commissions (for unique pieces) are also something I also appreciate – for whilst initially they might not be what I would have chosen to do myself, to be able to take a brief and produce something that gives someone else pleasure but is also identifiable as my work, is a great sense of achievement.  I mainly leave the selling and marketing of my work to galleries – what I produce is not conducive to selling online and I maintain a website more as a portfolio than as a direct sales tool.  I also exhibit in group exhibitions with other artists but I find stewarding a bit of a bore and would much rather be making something than selling it!  If money were no object I would spend all my time travelling and designing/making and employ someone else to do all the sales, marketing and paperwork!

Adriana’s work will be available through the gallery until Sunday August 5th.

Artist Spotlight: Linda Connelly

It’s surprisingly hard to find good enamellers so I was really happy that Linda agreed to come and show her work here in the gallery.  The humour and light heartedness of her style is instantly attractive and engaging, but understanding the level of patience and skill necessary to create the standard of work she produces takes it to another level.  Here Linda talks about her artistry, the fascinating process of how she creates her work and the inspiration behind it.

Sometimes an idea appears to me almost fully formed. I can see it in my mind and I play around with colours and designs in my head, making notes and drawings on. Then I will need to go through a lengthy process with pen and overlays before the design is completed to my satisfaction.  On other occasions, for instance the Brighton Pavilion clock, I go through an extensive design process from scratch, photographing and drawing the building from life and then collecting all the other source material I can find. Then I work with tracing paper and a fine black pen, first setting out the basic shape and then repeatedly tracing over it to refine the design. Sometimes I do some of this work in Photoshop, particularly when I want to play around with scale or produce a detailed symmetrical image.

As part of this process I also have to consider the techniques and materials I will use to achieve what I want. Often this will involve making numerous tests and experiments with colours and processes. I keep detailed notes at this stage in a ‘Technical Notebook’, often including detailed samples. As each piece can have anything from 6 to a dozen or more separate firings, it is important to rationalize the making process at this stage, and ensure that my planned colours will work well together, both visually and technically. I also have to consider construction of the piece and how this will fit into the enamelling process. Often in jewellery I elect to solder some elements after or partway through the enamelling stage. This is technically demanding but often the best solution. In the case of jewellery I make mock ups and check the visual appearance of the shape, and how it will hang when worn. Finally of course I have to check that it will fit into the kiln!

Inspiration can arise from all kinds of sources. Sometimes during a walk on the beach, patterns in the sand or rocks will suddenly stimulate an idea and I will have to rush off to draw it. Other times, ideas seemingly materialize from ‘thin air’, although often I can trace a path of various stimuli that have suddenly gelled! I can’t envisage an existence without creativity. Sometimes I go through a dry patch but this is like being only half alive. Being driven by a creative force is as essential to me as oxygen in the air to breathe.

I have always known that I had to create. Over the years that creativity has found many outlets, but for me it is not a choice – it’s a part of me. Not being an artist was never an option. Without it I don’t feel fully alive. Even when my children were young and time was short, I still managed to find time to draw ideas. I didn’t have much time to make anything, but putting them on paper so they might happen in the future helped to keep me going.

I have recently had the problem of dealing with a lull in the flow of ideas, and I started reading through some of my vast collection of enamelling and jewellery books. I find that bombarding my mind with images, as well as accumulating knowledge of different techniques helps my sub-conscious to chug away and produce a new idea. Otherwise, looking through my old sketch books usually produces an old idea that never happened before, but now with new experiences and knowledge can come to fruition. To this end I constantly note down ideas and collect source material which I collate into folders and books. I also take every opportunity to visit inspiring galleries and exhibitions as well as subscribing to various jewellery and craft magazines. All of this helps to ensure a constant stream of ideas and inspiration.

I love my studio. I wish it was larger but it is light and well designed for me. For instance my kiln is at a level that I can see into it without having to bend so I don’t strain my back. Everything I need is there and within easy reach. I only wish I could find it!

I have always wanted to try blacksmithing. Similar to jewellery making in that it involves heat and hammers but on a much larger scale! I once went parascending – even though I’m terrified of heights! It was amazing – so quiet flying above the sea looking down on the earth. I could have stayed up there for much longer – especially as I don’t know if I’ll ever be brave enough to do it again!

I think the future is good. I think that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with mass produced, cheap, badly made goods and are looking to buy fewer items that will last longer and are beautifully made and designed. I welcome the challenge of commissions. With regards to repeating work, I tend to only produce small quantities of any one thing as I’m always being excited by the next new ‘brilliant’ idea.

In defence of optimism!

Sometimes I need to get things off my chest and this is one of those days!  I am an unashamed optimist. That’s how I see myself, I had an interesting and spirited discussion in the pub recently with a friend of mine, who stated that optimism is a dangerous indulgence which should be actively discouraged. He believes it plays a large part (if not being actually to blame) for most of the world ills.  He has come to the conclusion that looking on the bright side and seeing the positive prevents us from seeing how bad things really are and taking appropriate action, and that’s why the world is in the state it is.  This is an interesting concept to me, as one who had always tried to see the upside where ever possible. I found it fascinating and a little scary, but in a good way!  He was basically saying the same thing as a poster I saw in one of those tourist shops that said… ‘If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs – you obviously don’t understand the problem!’  Pessimists (or realists, depending on your point of view) work on the principal that they do understand the problem.  Maybe I don’t understand the problem?  Could that be true? Actually I don’t think so.  It’s necessary to have a healthy charge of optimism; it helps with your energy, your vision, your creativity and your self esteem.


Humans on the whole (I have read) are hard wired to be ultimately basically optimistic. It’s how we survive!  We believe in better!  But for a reason; we believe in ourselves and our ability to change things, and that ability to adapt has been the key to our survival.  To see beyond the immediate apparent gloom to a better time keeps us motivated to go on, without it we simply couldn’t survive.  Of course we don’t always get it right.  Often we get it wrong but we’re constantly questioning and that gives me hope.

Now I’m perfectly aware that the other thing that is in the core nature of humans is to look after themselves first and foremost.  To build a secure and comfortable place to live is a major drive and so when people have the opportunity to earn or acquire money at the expense of others that instinct can take over, until from the outside it looks a lot like greed.  Then it’s every man for himself and that’s where the problems start.  We’re often torn between our desire to be good, nice, decent people and to look after our own best interests and those of our family.

The constant flow of negative news and of disaster predications keep us scared, defensive and fatalist. It undermines our determination and our sense of power over our own lives.  We start to pull up our drawbridges and build walls rather than be inclusive and to take rather than give.  We get scared, and when we’re scared we see danger everywhere which means we’re more likely to attack first.  Of course it’s important to keep an eye on the world, but actually it’s more important to keep an eye on ourselves and how that information is affecting us and our communities.  Of course, one has to take care of business, pay bills, do tax returns and get the car fixed. But if we could all just determinedly build the world we want to live in from our own back yards, in spite of what we’re repeated told about the world outside, how much difference would that make?

It seems to me that humans have a need to be kind and generous in their personal lives.  It makes us happy to be nice!  It’s actually our core nature, and it’s on that basis I remain an optimist.

I’ll leave you with a nice story.  A little while ago (a couple of months I think) an old chap was walking outside past the gallery. The door was open and my son and I could hear him making really strange noises.  We both looked at each other and questioned if he was OK.  My son went to the door to check on him further but by the time he’d got to the door the old man had collapsed on the kerb side outside ASK pizza.  It was raining heavily but within minutes of him falling he was surrounded and protected by strangers.  The staff at ASK came out, a woman jumped off a bus, ambulances were called, we took out blankets and a pillow and two business men who happened to be passing, without saying a word, stopped and held their umbrellas over him until the ambulance arrived.  People stood around him like guardians, no-one questioned it, no-one thought twice, they just did what was right and it was an amazing sight!

People are basically good and there’s enough for everyone is my maxim for life!  Look for it and you’ll see it everywhere, really you will.  And guess what?  In spite of the terrible weather forecast, the sun is still shining!  Still might take my umbrella though, you never know when it might come in useful!

Janis xx