Hello! Today we have the very lovely and talented Katie Robbins on this edition of the Opinion9 Inspiration series. Her work is just so mesmerizing, and peaceful. Katie makes ceramics inspired by the sea and its beauty. There are shades of azure blues, quiet indigos and serene whites, if you can imagine the colours in your mind. I love the simplicity with which her work really captures the essence of the coast – with just the form, texture and colour speaking volumes. Katie’s photography and her vision with which she creates her designs are also very impeccable and distinctive.
Read on to hear what she has to say.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Katie from KT Robbins Ceramics. I make a variety of porcelain vessels and accessories for the home as well as individually designed pieces of jewellery, inspired by the coast natural world. I love working with clay to produce mainly functional as well as decorative forms and shapes.
I love your minimal and naturally cool style! Do you have a particular theme for each batch of ceramics you create? Is it planned or more spontaneous?
A lot of my work is influenced by patterns in nature, often relating to the coast and sea, such as the crest of a wave, sea-foam and even the raised circles on a sea urchin. I have done collections relating to the coast, which is a theme that I am still exploring.
What was the hardest (and easiest) part while starting your business?
The hardest part of starting a business was having the courage to start and give it a go. But I had (and have) lots of creative ladies in my circle, as well as a supportive partner, who encouraged me to give it a go. I used to work in PR and marketing, and had some interior design clients, but felt that I didn’t want to continue with that after having children. The easiest part of starting this business was having that knowledge and the inside track of knowing the importance of having a strong brand, as well as some of the styling tips I gained on-the-job to create good photography and support material. But ironically I haven’t written a single press release about my ceramics since I have set up on my own.
What makes you the happiest in your creative process?
I love it when a new idea works. I slip-cast most of my work which means that I build an original shape and then create a mould of it. I can spend several days creating a new shape and it is not until it has come out of the final firing that you can be sure how things are going to turn out. I also love the chemistry of glazes – which in combination can produce exciting and unexpected results. There is always an element of chance during the final firing, and there is nothing more exciting then unloading the kiln to see if what you had hoped for has happened.
(Katie’s workspace is just beautiful. Love the wood, white walls and all the little elements that work so well here – the potted plants, the pictures, the storage too!)
Could you give us a glimpse in a typical day at work?
I must admit that I don’t have a typical day as it really depends on what needs doing. I am normally juggling working around family life. This means that as soon as I get up I am checking emails, and am actively promoting new or existing products on social media. After school drop-off and finishing any household chores then I have around five hours of studio time, which is located next to my house. My priority is to work on shapes that I have cast on a previous day as the clay dries out and there is an optimum time to shape and decorate it. I will also cast up new shapes, sand down my work ready, and glaze work ready for a final firing.
I also have some afternoons where I work in a collective studio as I find it really helps to be able to have a peer group, which you can ask for advice or just be a little sociable with.
I leave the house at 3 to pick up the children from school and in between making them tea and helping with homework I am finishing off any projects from the day, packing up goods, or taking photography for my shop or blog pages.
And after the kids are in bed later in the evening I will quite often spend time writing features, catch up with more admin or join in Twitter chats as a way of self-development. As a sole trader there is always so much to learn about how we can market ourselves and improve our business.
By the way I always make time for lunch in my working day. I can’t concentrate on an empty stomach.
What qualities are needed to keep up and also enjoy running a creative business?
I think you have to always want to learn and self-improve. I quite often take part in courses, on-line and in person to always be taking myself to the next level. Running your own artisan craft business it’s essential to take good photographs and I’m just about to go on a course to improve this. This term I’m also doing a course in wheel work, as I love the simple shapes of hand-thrown forms.
Where do you see yourself in a few years?
I would like to see my brand grow in recognition and I would like to be stocked by more art galleries and independent shops. Up until now, I haven’t had a chance to concentrate on building a range specifically for these markets.
What motivates and inspires you the most?
I find feedback immensely motivating. Also, talking with my friends who are passionate about ceramics – about their projects as well as my own.
How long has making ceramics been your hobby? How did you think you could convert your hobby into a business?
I have been interested in ceramics since my school days; and often did courses at night school whilst I was working. I thought I could convert my hobby into a business after entering and selling a vase in an open exhibition at the MAC, a local arts centre. I realized then that people would pay money to buy what I could make.
Just for fun: What is your favourite: colour, food and flower?
My favourite colour is a tricky one. I think it has to be blue – the colour of the sea, the sky and agapanthus which covers off my favourite flower too. And my favourite food has to be crab.
What are some themes are particularly inspiring you at the moment?
I love the revival that we are seeing in houseplants and macramé. It is so beneficial and beautiful for us to have greenery in our lives and I’m really championing this in my creative work at the moment.