03 Nov The Fonthill Creative – Sarah Jane Handmade Ceramics
Interview with Sarah Jane Handmade Ceramics
FH: Thank so much for chatting to me. I have been following your Instagram feed avidly since you arrived on the Estate in June this year. It’s all looking very Christmassy! I read that pottery is something you came to ‘a little late’ in career terms. How long have you been doing it and how did it all start?
SJ: I have always been an arty soul, enjoying all sorts of crafts but about 8 years ago I decided to try my hand at pottery. I am totally self-taught.
I started by making Christmas decorations for friends and family in my kitchen.
I bought an old kiln.
My first firing was a disaster and I melted everything!
But I gained confidence and I was encouraged to do some small fairs.
As my confidence grew, learning firing temperatures, different types of clay, glazes etc, I thought I’d give throwing a go.
I bought a very old wheel and a bag of clay and off I went. I studied lots of You Tube videos and practiced, practiced, and practiced.
I just took to it but with a huge learning curve.
As I started making sales, I upgraded my wheel and kilns and I now work with stoneware, earthenware, and porcelain clays.
FH: We love your salt pigs, hand thrown match strikers and of course at this time of year your hand-cut porcelain Christmas decorations featuring reindeer, fairies, handwritten messages and lots more! How do you come up with ideas of what to make and where does your inspiration come from? Do you have a favourite piece?
Sarah: Apart from the decorations, the ideas just come from necessity mainly… most of my makes are practical. I used to keep a notebook handy and if an idea popped into my head, I’d scribble it down or draw an idea. With the decorations, the arrival of 3D Printers has been a God send, as I have a guy who will make specific shapes for me. My favourite decorations are the ones with the dog illustrations … I am a dog lover and have a very old black Labrador, which my first ever decoration was based on. From the thrown items, I think the Tealight holders are my favourite.
FH: There are lots of aspects to your job, not just making your lovely creations. Are you in charge of marketing, your website shop, Etsy, and everything in between or do you have a team of helpers and what do you enjoy most about your job?
Sarah: A team of helpers … I wish…. it’s all me… I look after the website, the Instagram page, Etsy and anything else that comes along. My days are often long as once I finish in the workshop, there is often emails to answer, parcels to wrap etc. A fact of having your own small business.
FH: Obviously, things are different this year in terms of retail and with lots of Christmas markets cancelled, have you noticed a huge increase in online shopping already in the run up to Christmas?
Sarah: I usually do two major Christmas Fairs, Country Living in London and Bath Christmas Market. Obviously, COVID 2020 means they have been cancelled so I turned to the website (something I’m not familiar with) quite recently. I have been really pleased with the response. Instagram has been incredible, an excellent marketing tool and has resulted in many wholesale orders plus it has pushed people towards my website. Wholesale is something I hadn’t explored before, as the fairs have always taken my time in preparation terms, leaving little time left for wholesale.