Meet the Maker – Louise Condon, Ceramic Botanist
Louise Condon, also known as Ceramic Botanist, works with the seasons to create tactile ceramics that capture the beauty, structure and form of plants at particular points in their life. She uses hand-building techniques to create unique pieces, each one individual in its composition. In our Meet the Maker interview, Louise talks to fellow Folksy maker Kat from Glass and Light Studio about her influences, artistic journey and the need to be creative.
Shop Ceramic Botanist on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/louisecondondesigns
Treat yourself to 10% off Louise’s pieces before 9th October 2021 with discount code ‘CeramicBotanist’
The craving to explore and make never goes away. It’s a curiosity that needs to be constantly fulfilled.Louise Condon, Ceramic Botanist
Hi Louise. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Lou from Ceramic Botanist / Louise Condon Designs. I began my creative journey at Chester Art College in the ’90s where I studied Art and Design. I found this to be a very nurturing environment with amazing teachers. I then went on to study a BA in Design Crafts at Newi (North Wales School of Art and Design), specialising in ceramics, at the time when the crafts courses were booming.
After university I was asked to teach a pottery night class, which grew into a job teaching the Art and Design course – a job I have loved wholeheartedly for 21 years. Working with young people is hard work but extremely rewarding. It’s about being among other creatives in inspiring spaces.
Being a teacher means there is limited time to create, other than samples for students, but the craving to explore and make never goes away. It’s a curiosity that needs to be constantly fulfilled, so I’ve always tried to make it alongside my teaching.
How did you discover your passion? Have you always been interested in ceramics or was there a particular moment that made you think “Yes, I want to make that”?
I have always been drawn to surface pattern and three-dimensional work, and working with clay, glass and metalwork. A very special colleague once said to me that I was like a frustrated prop designer and I think he could be right!
Using my hands to create in three dimensions feels like such a natural thing to do. My first ever pot was a jug made with pressed leaves and found objects – I remember it vividly. It’s a combination of nostalgia, collecting and exploring.
The ceramic process is long and can be very unforgiving, but something just has me hooked – maybe it’s the anticipation? Even when I open the kiln and it’s not what I’m expecting, or when something has gone wrong, I keep going go back for more!
Which artist or artists inspire you the most?
I’m influenced by historical movements that relate to the natural world, as well as traditional crafts. I absolutely love the Art & Crafts movement, the romantic curves of the Art Nouveau, and Karl Blossfeldt, whose images remind me of the work of a blacksmith. One of my favourite ceramicists is Kate Malone – I went to a talk she gave back in the early 90s and was captivated by her ability to translate beautiful organic shapes into clay.
I love decorative arts with a nod to nature.
I love people, plants and clay, so making bespoke pieces from customer’s own stems feels like a perfect combination.Louise Condon, Ceramic Botanist
Is there a particular piece you are most proud of?
I love nothing more than creating pieces for others using their own stems. This can be a wedding bouquet, garden stems from a family home (often when someone is moving away) or pieces made with seasonal flowers that someone who has grown and nurtured themselves. Often people have a flower that reminds them of a time, place or person and, as we roll through the seasons, this can be a comforting reminder.
Every stem I receive has a story or a journey, and this brings with it, not only the pressure and expectation to create something worthy, but the pressure for it to succeed. I love people, plants and clay, so it feels like a perfect combination. I also love making big! One day, hopefully, I will have a larger kiln, which will enable me to explore scale in more depth.
What do you find most challenging?
Writing has always been my biggest challenge! Being dyslexic always makes me aware of what I am saying and how I’m saying it.
Tell us about your studio. If we were to peek over your shoulder, what would we see?
Usually chaos! Flowers at varying stages of life (sometimes not smelling great!), my order board, recycling buckets of clay and recycling on plaster bats, drying orders, bisqueware, glazed pieces and a very hairy double doodle called Smokey. He is my wonderful studio companion, and he reminds me when it’s time to take a break.
What materials, tools and equipment do you use?
My equipment is basic. I use things like old clothes, rolling pins, modelling tools and brushes for hand building. I also have an old potter’s wheel that doesn’t get much use at the moment.
Has your artistic journey had a deliberate direction or did it evolve gradually and naturally?
I chose to focus on hand-built pots because it meant I could get the clay out on the kitchen table, among the kids, cooking and college work. It fulfilled the hunger I had to create.
An artist never puts down their pencils at 5 o’clock. It’s a lifestyle and it’s part of who you are.Louise Condon, Ceramic Botanist
What do you enjoy most about being an artist?
The obsessive practice as a creative is such a healthy benefit for the mind and soul. People of all ages need to have an outlet to self-sooth and express themselves.
I find that, working as a creative practitioner, no two days are the same. I love to collect objects to sketch and develop ideas and I am always looking for inspiration, whether that’s in the garden, collecting by the sea or visiting a gallery. Drawing for information is a great way to get things on paper. I never ever get bored.
I always say to my students that an artist never puts their pencils down at 5 o’clock. It’s a lifestyle and it’s part of who you are.
Do you have any advice for would-be artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s how we learn.
- Find a niche or specific audience who will respond to your work.
- Create a service, so you have diverse income streams. Run workshops, teach or take commissions.
- Surround yourself with other supportive creatives.
- Set yourself targets to give you a real focus – these could events, exhibitions, sales goals etc.
- Know that not everyone is going to like your work or want to engage with you.
- Be brave, ignore that monkey on your shoulder. It’s normal, healthy and keeps you moving!
- Be inspired by others, be true to your own hands and mind. You are on your own creative journey.
Shop Ceramic Botanist on Folksy – folksy.com/shops/louisecondondesigns
Credits: Photographs by Kat Weatherill & Kamila Kosior
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is Kat Jurczenko from Glass and Light Studio, a stained glass artist based in Essex who creates jewellery for your windows and other beautiful glass ornaments for your home.