Katie Robbins is a ceramicist who loves working with porcelain. I'm very excited about our second collaboration with Katie and her beautiful hand thrown pieces from her 'Landscape', 'Skyscape' and 'Hillscape' collections, inspired by the stunning Welsh coastlines, mountains and skies. Let's find out more about Katie, her inspirations and creative process.
Katie Robbins in Denmark
Hi Katie! I’m really delighted to be interviewing you, as I adore your beautiful pieces. What’s your background? Where did your interest in ceramics come from and how long have you been making them?
Well, my academic background wasn't creative in terms of making, though I did do Art a-level which included some pottery and did several evening courses in my early twenties. When I was at school I hadn't envisaged an artistic career and I went on to study French with European Studies at University.
After graduating I worked for about 10 years as a public relations consultant which comprised of writing copy, directing photography and liaising with clients and media. I had a career break after having children and did a few part time courses including sewing and pottery. I found a course that specialised in porcelain and began to focus more on my hobby. I had some work accepted onto an Open Exhibition and I was so happy when it sold. That gave me the confidence to think that I could sell my work.
So for about two years I carried on with courses in order to build up my skills and range of work, and I got an artist pass so that I could work at a local studio. But when I kept taking over the kitchen table with boards of Christmas decorations it became apparent that I would need a dedicated space. Fortunately we had a defunct conservatory that I was able to convert into a workspace, and install a kiln in, and I think that's when I started to gain a bit more of a profile and following to successfully sell my work. That happened about 3 years ago.
Katie in her studio
Can you tell us about your creative process and where do you work? What methods do you use?
Well that's quite an interesting question as I'm currently switching creative process. I initially started out using the slip-cast method, where you build a mould that can then be reused to make a shape that you can then embellish slightly every time. I was drawn to making patterns inspired by nature for quite a long time.
At the same time I had always loved throwing on the wheel, but its a skill which requires dedication and practise and isn't very easy to do in porcelain. But, I'm stubborn, mad, determined - I'm not sure which and even though there were days that made me cry in frustration I carried on throwing in porcelain as not only do I love the process, but I also fell in love with the glaze colours and effects that I was starting to achieve in my electric kiln. I've finally taken the leap now to be working about 80% of my time to throwing in porcelain, and have more recently started making different and shaped pieces such as bottles and lidded vessels, as well as rounded plant holders.
Katie in her studio
Which part of designing and making do you love most?
I always thinking how can I improve my work? What is the next shape that I'd like to be able to throw? Chinese masters of pottery dedicate their lives to perfecting their skills. Ceramics is a funny thing, as the more you begin to learn, the more you realise you don't know. I guess this is what keeps it interesting for me, as there is always the next challenge waiting.
Katie's work is inspired by Welsh landscapes
Landscape beaker inspired by Welsh slate mines and green hills
Where does your design inspiration come from?
In terms of my design inspiration I think my shapes are really simple, but they are given a very contemporary finish by my use of glaze colours. It's actually quite ironic as I was initially drawn to porcelain due to its very smooth finish and white finish; however colour has become a big part of what I do. I've been drawn to pastel hues inspired by nature such as pale pink skies; as well as brighter shades for aqua blue and sea-green waters. I also love colour combinations repeated in nature - pink blooms with green leaves, or grey lichen with pale green moss.
I haven't totally left pattern behind in my new ranges as I've also been exploring mark making and texture with a patterned rolling pin, based on a traditional Polish folklore pattern.
Bud vase by Katie Robbins
What’s your favourite season of year?
This is an easy question for me. It has to be spring, when we are welcomed with returning of natures' colour palette, the pale pinks of blossom, the excitement of the first green leaves beginning to unfurl after the starkness and bare branches of winter.
Hand thrown lidded porcelain vessel by Katie Robbins
Do you have any work in progress you’re excited about and want to share with us?
I always have so many new projects that I'm excited about, and like to start something new, before I've even finished my last prototype! I have just unveiled a new planter based on two tone coloured round vessel, in my own macrame, finished with beads that I have made. I've been working on a lidded vessel with a textured lid and I've been making small bud vases too. Next on my list is mugs which are again, notoriously difficult to make with porcelain due to its finicky nature. But as you can see...I do love a challenge!
Hand thrown Skyscape beaker by Katie Robbins
What are your other passions and interests?
Well, I love photography and creating images; I think that has contributed to me developing my on-line presence. I love getting out into nature, 'forest-bathing', seeing and observing all the seasonal changes. Exercise is a big part of my routine - it helps to keep me grounded and this could be a dog-walk, or a bike-ride and I practise yoga twice a week too. More recently I've taken up guitar as I wanted an intellectual/memory challenge, and I actually find it really relaxing and fun to have a totally different focus and it keeps me away from technology too.
Katie in her studio by Iza Korsak Photography
Apart from Lewes Map Store where else can people buy your work?
I don't do markets that frequently but I do have one coming up this summer with the Paperdolls Handmade community on July 21. I also have an Etsy shop which normally gets updated after a market.
Finally, are you a tea or coffee person?
No contest here. I love my morning tea, and can't live without a cuppa in the afternoon too, to keep me going.
Hand thrown porcelain beakers by Katie Robbins
I hope you had a wonderful weekend and enjoyed the glorious sunshine. Have a lovely week.
Dörte x (@lewesmap)