Katie Robbins interview
A few months ago I came across Katie Robbins (known as @ceramicmagpie) whilst scrolling through Instagram. I was instantly drawn to her beautiful pottery and was interested to learn more about how she works and where she gets her inspiration form. She has a wonderful and beautiful sense of aesthetics which comes across in her pretty pots and other ornaments that she makes.
I asked if she could share some insight into her career journey and inspirations along the way because it’s always interesting to be let-in on other people’s creative journeys, and Katie has been a huge inspiration for me as an artist and designer as I am just starting out – I think it’s so interesting to hear about the back end workings of such an established artist.
Thanks for approaching me to do an interview.
1. What was your career path to becoming a potter?
My path to becoming a potter hasn’t been linear at all. My interest in ceramics started back in school when I did AS level art, and made several clay vessels [which I still have on my shelves]. I studied French and European Studies at University and went on to work for a PR company for around ten years. During that time I attended pottery classes regularly in the evenings. It was only after having children, when I had a career break that I got back into pottery. I found a specialist porcelain course, as I had always wanted to work with this special luxury clay and I entered an open competition where the piece that I had entered sold. That convinced me that maybe I could make some kind of go of making pots.
2. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Inspiration is a funny one. I started off being very focused with my inspiration coming from natural organisms living beneath the sea. Nowadays I have moved away from this kind of detail, with a focus on simple yet elegant wheel thrown shapes. I takes lots of colour inspiration from nature, and like putting colour combinations together, a pink rose provides colour inspiration for my pink and mint green bowls [which were very popular] or mossy rock provides the inspiration for my hillscape and landscape beakers.
3. How do you balance your business with family life?
Balancing business with family life has got easier as my children have grown up. They are almost both at secondary school now so are already fairly independent. I try to keep to normal work hours so that the evenings are free; though I do have to work weekends during the festive period when there are Christmas markets and fairs.
4. Who is your favourite inspiration in your field?
Ooh – good question. I think for her colour choices, my favourite inspiration is an American potter Lindsay Emery of @suiteonestudio. She uses a lot of pink and gold, but makes mainly tableware, which isn’t really what I do, but she’s very generous with her knowledge and I like her aesthetic.
5. What has been the biggest challenge in setting up your business?
I think the biggest challenge is probably my own self confidence. Fairly early on I visited a gallery with some work and they told me at the time that my work was too white; I was so affected by this rejection that up until this day I have never approached another gallery asking if they would be interested in stocking my work. However, I’m hoping for a good end to this story as the same gallery recently approached me and has now asked to stock my work. So watch this space.
6. What’s next for Ceramicmagpie?
I always like to have my fingers in lots of pies, and like collaborating with other makers and fulfilling orders for the independent shops that I work with. Small projects bring me a lot of joy. I still feel that I am at the beginning of my ceramic journey – although I have been selling for around five years I started off slip-casting and am now am throwing which is a skill which takes a long time to acquire. That being said, I’m really happy with the progress I have made this year. I want to focus on growing my business slowly, giving myself some time for experimentation and making one-off pieces rather than being a production potter. In five years time I’d love to be making tableware for posh restaurants – but I guess I need to make a few plates first if I really want that to happen!