London-based contemporary ceramic artist Hannah Bould creates handmade and wheel-thrown works with a graphic, painterly style. Hannah tells us more about her business, and her passion for individually crafted pieces.
Hi Hannah! How would you describe your ceramic work?
I make functional stoneware pottery, with geometric bold shapes and expressive painterly marks, primarily using wax resist to decorate my monochrome works.
What inspired you to set up your business?
It happened very organically. It had definitely been a dream of mine to set up my own business, but the process was more of a gradual set up. I started with a couple of small wholesale orders, which I would fulfil in my spare time, and that then led on to more orders. Eventually I quit my job to focus solely on my business. I also did an internship, which gave me confidence in my skills, and belief in my own work. Over the years, it has developed slowly as my output has increased and my needs have changed.
What did you do before setting up your business?
Aside from various nannying jobs, I worked for six years at a fine art print studio in East London as a studio assistant. My role there involved paper handling and print finishing.
What’s the ethos behind your business?
I have always prioritised the handmade nature of my work, and endeavour to remain excited about all the individual pieces that I make. As much as possible, I like all my works to be one of a kind, and am open to all forms of collaboration.
What’s your creative process at work?
I use a white stoneware body for all of my work, and black, white and transparent glazes exclusively. I really enjoy experimenting with various forms of wax resist and like to let the form of each piece dictate the pattern or glaze application. When it comes to decoration, I like to work quite quickly and instinctively, and don’t deliberate too much.
Tell us about your workspace.
I work in my garden studio in North London. It’s small, but perfectly formed!
What’s your background?
I studied illustration at Camberwell College of Art, and started pottery evening classes in 2012, from there I just practised loads – with a lot of failed attempts at first!
How has your work evolved?
It has definitely evolved, in that I have honed my skills and refined my techniques, but the imagery and mark making is derivative of my old illustration and printmaking work, so I can see a direct correlation between the two.
How do you balance producing handmade works, with the online world?
Not very well! I tend to get very involved with the making process and am not a very computer-y person – it’s something I definitely need to improve on. My own online shop is hardly ever stocked which is terrible! On the other hand, I love how Instagram is a very quick and easy way to give an insight into my day-to-day work.
How valuable is the online community to your work?
Instagram is invaluable to me and has led to most of my orders, and I’ve always found it to be a really positive environment.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
I find inspiration through experimentation – I am definitely more of a do-er and less of a thinker. The process itself inspires me and find I’m most creative when I’m busy.
Working as an independent maker – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
I can’t imagine working in any other way now! I really enjoy being able to explore an idea on a whim, and I like that I can physically spread out in the studio without getting in anyone’s way. Having said that, being my own boss means I often work long hours and feel guilty if I’m not in the studio.
Which pieces do you most love making?
I really enjoy making anything new, and anything with handles! Trimming is my favourite part of the whole process.
How did you first discover a love for what you do?
At the very first pottery evening class I did, I fell in love with clay and became completely addicted to throwing, I find it really therapeutic. Quite soon into making ceramics I realised how many avenues there were to explore, and I feel there has been a clear trajectory from the those early lessons to now.
Describe a typical working day…
I usually like to get into the studio around 9am and then throw until midday. I’ll then spend the afternoon either trimming the previous day’s thrown pieces, or do a bit of glazing and decorating. I like to vary the tasks I do each day, but that being said, I do strangely love a repetitive task!
How do you approach marketing and PR?
I try to keep my Instagram fairly up to date, and like it to reflect what I am doing here in real time. I think it’s important to take good pictures of my work, but that’s about it!
What have been your business highlights so far?
Throwing live on Selfridges shop floor was a great experience, and being asked to do a professional talk by my old pottery teacher was another highlight for me. And it’s been great expanding my home studio and taking on a new studio assistant – my dog, Fig!
Where do you sell your ceramics?
My stockists include Toast, Venner in Walthamstow, Form lifestyle store in Manchester, Frank in Whitstable, Hunter Jones in Rye, Ondine Ash in Falmouth, the National Centre for Craft and Design, the Design Museum, and others!
What does the next six months hold for you?
I’m currently working on an order for Tavern shop in China, which I’m really excited about. I also have a very exciting collaboration in the pipeline, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to mention the details just yet…!
Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?
Mostly, it’s walking my dog Fig on the heath – I don’t get time for much else!
Any advice for makers just starting out?
I would simply say practise your craft a lot, and make loads of work!
Describe your work in three words…
Bold, playful, simple
What are your making rituals?
Radio on, and hot water to throw with!
Tea or coffee?
Mountains or sea?
Sea, if the sun is shining!
Night owl or early bird?
Night owl… wish I was an early bird!
I wish someone had told me…
Not to worry so much!
See more from Hannah at hannahbould.com