Karin Findell Ceramics
Karin Findell is a ceramic artist based in Cheshire, who makes delightful stoneware pottery inspired by British wildlife and flowers. Over lockdown, when her usual materials were in short supply, she started experimenting with the new technique of sgraffito and became hooked. Here she talks to fellow Folksy seller and artist Adrienne Honeyman from Ebby and Flo about the process of embracing a new direction and going with the creative flow…
Get 10% off Karin Findell Ceramics with code MTM10 until 4th February 2023
I feel like I’m at the beginning of what will hopefully be a permanent change of direction.Karin Findell
Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Hiya, my name is Karin and I’m a potter from Greater Manchester on the edge of the Peak District.
Up until recently I have worked in a rustic stoneware clay body and earthy brush on glazes. This work has been based around British wildlife and flowers, in stamped and hand-drawn designs. But over lockdown I was faced with shortages in my regular materials, so I took the opportunity to try a technique I’ve loved for a long time: sgraffito. I’m now totally hooked and feel like I’m at the beginning of what will hopefully be a permanent change of direction.
You already have a wonderfully comprehensive biography in your Folksy shop so I will try to direct the rest of my questions from a different angle. Tell us something unusual about you that our readers won’t know from the biography in your shop.
My husband and I have been converting a transit van into a camper, which has been a dream of ours for years. We’re nearly there – just a few technical issues to sort. The interior is all done and I have filled it with beautiful handmade pieces that I’ve bought from Folksy.
I’m really keen to paint the outside but also a little daunted as it’s so huge. One day I will build up the courage to do it and then I’ll be driving around the countryside in one of my designs.
My proudest achievement is simply the decision to start making and working full time as a potter.Karin Findell
How would you describe your style of work?
My sgraffito style is currently evolving with each new piece I make. I have an ultimate look I want to achieve and I think I’m slowly progressing towards that.
I would like my work to continue having its organic tactile style. I love the way my pieces feel while you’re using them. As for the sgraffito, I’m just going with it and seeing where it takes me. It’s a process. Ultimately I would like it to lead to work that is clean, fresh, bright and practical.
Which artists are you inspired by?
Halima Cassell is a fairly recent discovery after stumbling across an exhibition of her work in a Manchester art gallery. I loved that she displayed pieces that had exploded in firing. Cracked open with bits missing, they were equally as beautiful as the perfect pieces.
Both artists have a quiet majesty, rhythmical and intricate, although they couldn’t be more different. They both fill me with a deep sense of calm when I look at them. Totally absorbing, just stunning.
I love Hornsea pottery as well. I was lucky enough to work in their design studio in the ’90s. I would spend hours riffling through their old tableware designs. There’s something about their two-colour print process that has helped me strip back and clean up my own work. Hornsea were masters of beautifully quirky and stripped-back tableware designs in the 1960s and ’70s.
I also love Antoni Gaudi. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Barcelona in every decade of my life so far, an unplanned quirk of fate that I want to continue. I hope to finally get to see the completion of his masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, one day.
Not everything is going to work but it all informs the process and ultimately leads to improvement.Karin Findell
Tell us about your process from first thought to finished piece…
I would like to say that I keep detailed notes and sketchbooks, but I just don’t work like that; I pull everything out of my head. I have an idea and I make it, working through problems as I go. Colourways and designs are also produced like that. If things work, I will take photos. If they don’t, I move on, using the photos as a sketchbook to improve on the things I like.
I’m not a wheel worker, so I’m not concerned with making each piece identical. Each piece is hand built, coiled or slumped, and this gives me the freedom to just have a go and see what comes out the other end.
I’ve been experimenting a lot this year with form, colour and pattern. It’s fair to say I’m on a learning curve at the moment. Not everything is going to work but it all informs the process and ultimately leads to improvement.
What are your most proud achievements and great disasters?
My proudest achievement is simply the decision to start making and working full time as a potter. You can’t underestimate just how hard of a leap that can be. Slowly building up the courage, belief and confidence. Thinking, researching, designing. So when an opportunity finally comes along, you are ready to accept the nudge into making what’s in your head a reality.
I’ve not had any real disasters, although I’ve been to disastrous markets where no-one turns up or the weather is so bad that stalls are blown away. I guess my biggest worry is my kiln. She is getting on a bit and is becoming a little temperamental. I take a deep breath every time I flick the switch on. She has been known to pack up when there’s a big order or just before Christmas.
Describe what it’s like working from home in your back garden?
I love working from home. It suits me – I like the independence. I also love working in the garden and seeing how the seasons change. My shed is my haven, even if it is a very messy, dusty haven.
It can be challenging though, and at busy times I would love it if someone could tell me what I should be doing – I do have a tendency to flip-flop about.
I guess I love that it’s all down to me and my motivation. I try to create structure in my day, but it doesn’t always work out thanks to dithering and procrastination. Once I get into a good firing-drying-making routine it all falls into place, leaving me enough time to potter about the garden and enjoy being in it, rather than just staring at it through my shed window.
Social media is a poisoned chalice. On the one hand it’s enabled me to sell worldwide from my shed… on the other it’s meant I now never get time off in my head.Karin Findell
What challenges do you face as an independent maker in today’s market?
The best thing, and possibly the most challenging for me, is the internet and social media. It’s a poisoned chalice. On the one hand it’s enabled me to sell worldwide from my shed, promote and reach out to customers and other makers. On the other it’s made my business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I never get time off in my head and I find that increasingly difficult, especially this past year.
Always chasing new ideas is inevitable as an artist and maker; it’s the constant self-promotion that I find hard, especially when I have no real clue what I’m doing most of the time.
What are your plans for 2023?
My workspace really needs a good revamp this year. I’ve got 12 years of clutter that needs sorting out. I’d love more light and to make it warmer in the winter as well.
Work-wise, I need to build up more stock of my good sellers – things like my soap dishes – so I can find more time to work on fun stuff like my candle houses and pictures. Oh and to try not to be surprised by Christmas, again.
I’m looking forward to 2023. Probably none of the above things will get done, and I will go on procrastinating and faffing about blindly on Instagram. That’s ok, though, because it’s going to be another year of making and creating. What’s better than that?
Get 10% off in Karin’s Folksy shop with code MTM10 until 4th February 2023
Meet the interviewer
The maker asking the questions this week is artist Adrienne Honeyman from Ebby and Flo.
Shop Ebby and Flo on Folksy – https://folksy.com/shops/ebbyandflo