Home Interviews The folk art of Sheena Spacey
Sheena Spacey, folk art, folk artist,

The folk art of Sheena Spacey

by Camilla

Meet the Maker: Sheena Spacey Folk Art

Artist Sheena Spacey‘s folk art ceramics and paintings are an antidote to the high-speed world we inhabit. They’re innocent, simple and reassuring. “I like my work to evoke a sense of nostalgia for quiet days gone by, where home and storytelling offer comfort and a haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday living,” she explains. Every piece Sheena makes is one of a kind, from the little stoneware houses lined up in a row to her ceramic bowls hand-painted with folksy illustrations of domestic scenes and animals. We caught up with Sheena to find out more…

Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
Hi, I’m Sheena Spacey and I work with stoneware clay and other mediums, with influences from folk and primitive art. Naïve illustrations and simple designs form the basis of my work, and some of my ceramic pieces are smoke-fired for additional unique finishes. Everything I make is made by hand individually, including folk art paintings and occasional mixed media work.

Sheena Spacey, folk art, folk artist, ceramic bird bowl

Everything I make is made by hand individually, including folk art paintings and occasional mixed media work.

Have you always been creative?
Yes, art has always featured in my life, from childhood days spent making cards and cut-out colouring pages, through to studying art and art history at school. The biggest influence was probably my late mum, who was always creating and never afraid to try something new. She was primarily a painter, but also did embroidery, sculpting and even welding. She encouraged me to pursue art and even bought my kiln for me.

How did you discover ceramics?
I enrolled in a part-time ceramics class at our local college when my children were small and I very quickly became hooked on clay. I gained my first ceramic qualifications there and then carried on as an advanced student.

Sheena Spacey, folk art, folk artist, little ceramic houses

I’m inspired by home and all things house, and I like my work to evoke a sense of nostalgia for quiet days gone by, where home and storytelling offer comfort and a haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday living.

Aside from ceramics, are there any other materials you particularly enjoy working with? 
I take enormous pleasure from painting, particularly on wood – it adds a dimension and authenticity to my folk and primitive paintings, and I’m really hoping to pursue this much more in the upcoming months. I’ve also just completed a year-long course in printmaking, which included linocutting and monoprints.

folk art painting on wood, Sheena Spacey

I take enormous pleasure from painting, particularly on wood – it adds a dimension and authenticity to my folk and primitive paintings.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
I’m inspired by home and all things house, and I like my work to evoke a sense of nostalgia for quiet days gone by, where home and storytelling offer comfort and a haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday living. I think there’s a part in all of us that looks back to childhood days of innocence when we were free to explore our imaginations with simple play and creativity.

little clay houses

It’s always very satisfying to see my little houses cleaned up and in rows, ready for display.

Who inspires you?
Mixed media artists such as Edwina Bridgeman and Kirsty Elson transform flotsam and jetsam into wondrous creations, and I love looking at the work of many many artists both contemporary and classic, including John Caple, Elaine Pamphilon, Cathy Cullis to name just a few. My list would be endless.

folk art, sheena spacey, british artist

What would I say to someone thinking of selling their own work? Be prepared to put in lots of hours, don’t give up at hurdles– even when you feel like throwing things in the bin – and never be afraid to try new things.

Where do you create your work?
I work from my home in a small market town in Somerset, tucked away in an upstairs room that overlooks our garden, where I can look out the window and hear the birds singing all day. At the moment it’s relatively tidy because I haven’t been in here that long. Before I moved up here I worked in our very tiny utility area, sharing the space with wellington boots and odd socks…

Does where you live influence your work?
I like to know that open countryside is never far away, somewhere to walk with my dog and refresh. Green hills and lots of trees, birds and open sky – all very important to clearing your head, and living in Somerset offers all of these in abundance.

british folk art ceramics

I don’t like repeating work over and over, so each piece, even my little houses, are all made individually.

Can you tell us about your creative process?
My creative process starts with an initial very sketchy idea that usually forms while walking the dog. Things evolve and take shape and change as I work, depending on how the clay performs. If I set out to make something specific, I usually end up making something completely different. I don’t like repeating work over and over, so each piece, even my little houses, are all made individually. Hand cut from solid blocks of clay, they are all individually finished so they’re always slightly different. They have two separate firings in an electric kiln, with different underglazes and glazes, and some have a final firing in woodshavings, giving depth and random markings to each one. After their smoke firing they usually need a lot of tidying, so their final spruce up takes a few hours too. It’s always very satisfying to see them all cleaned up and in little rows, ready for display.

folk art, sheena spacey

The best thing about working creatively for a living is that you can set your own boundaries – push them and cross them as and when you want to, with the occasional deadline to push you to extremes and discover new things you didn’t know about yourself.

What’s the best thing about being creative for a living?
I think the best thing about working creatively for a living is that you can set your own boundaries – push them and cross them as and when you want to, with the occasional deadline to push you to extremes and discover new things you didn’t know about yourself. You also have the freedom to plan your own day, although for me this does lead to a lot of dithering in the day and working in the evenings to make it up.

folk art, decorated ceramic bowl

I think there’s a part in all of us that looks back to childhood days of innocence when we were free to explore our imaginations with simple play and creativity.

If you weren’t a maker, what would you be?
When I was little, I wanted to work in a shoe shop or as a mounted policewoman as I loved horses, but I actually ended up doing office work. It was good in that it gave me the admin skills I need to work for myself, but I couldn’t go back to the confines of a nine-to-five job now. I think I would always have to be involved in a creative process somehow. Costume or set design has always appealed to me or something along those lines.

Folk Art, UK, Sheena Spacey

How does it feel to be part of the UK craft scene?
The UK craft scene is so diverse and it never ceases to amaze me to see the talent that’s out there, from people working in their spare time as a hobby to those fully fledged full-time artists making their living from doing what they love. So many opportunities now exist to develop and get your work seen, especially with the huge social media aspect. Every day is different, sometimes frustrating, but mostly vibrant and exciting.

Sheena Spacey

Craft is something made from the heart with skill and passion, which reflects the maker’s own originality.

What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Be prepared to put in lots of hours, don’t give up at hurdles even when you feel like throwing things in the bin, and never be afraid to try new things. Make things every day and be proud of what you do, even if that means accepting temporary setbacks, keep going!

What does craft mean to you?
Craft is something made by an individual, made from the heart with skill and passion, which reflects their own originality.

Sheena Spacey, artist, interview

My perfect day would probably involve a trip to the coast on a blustery day with my husband and our dog Molly, and a walk along a deserted beach finding driftwood washed up from the stormy sea the day before.

How would you spend your perfect day?
My perfect day would probably involve a trip to the coast on a blustery day with my husband and our dog Molly, a quiet café with sea views that serves hot chocolate and huge slices of homemade cake, and a walk along a deserted beach finding driftwood washed up from the stormy sea the day before. Oh, and chips. Definitely chips.

Folk Art ceramics, by Sheena Spacey

See more of Sheena Spacey’s folk art in her Folksy shop >

For 10% off Sheena Spacey’s handmade ceramics and folk art use the code Maytime16 – offer expires 23rd May 2016.

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