Kara Leigh Ford Ceramics: A Maker’s Story
May 8, 2016 Philippa
Kara Leigh Ford Studio Shot

From trying out pottery during an after-work evening class, to making it to the final round of auditions for last year’s The Great Pottery Showdown, Kara Leigh Ford’s journey to becoming a full-time potter, creating stunning pieces inspired by her love of the sea, is both uplifting and inspirational. Who hasn’t dreamt of giving up the 9 to 5 for a new life?

We are huge fans of her beautifully made work, which fuses a fresh, modern, Scandinavian-style colour palette with organic forms. The glazes and hand-thrown nature of Kara’s work makes it invitingly tactile; making everyday routines that bit more special. I won’t be parted from my chalk white mug; using it for my morning cuppa makes me smile every time and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out a bit about the story behind Kara’s work, the journey she took to get to where she is and what inspires her lovely pieces.

Hello Kara. Thanks for talking to us about your work.  Let’s kick-off with an easy one! Which 3 words would you use to best describe your work? Hello! It’s a pleasure! Let me think … Modern, Rustic, Organic.

What led you to choose clay as a medium? Did you try any other crafts before focusing on ceramics? I did my degree in fine art, training as a painter, and even though I enjoyed it, it wasn’t ‘immediate’ enough for me. The joy of ceramics is that a lump of clay can be transformed into a recognisable shape very quickly. Granted the drying and firing is time consuming, but the kiln-opening moment is also a moment of instant gratification (or commiseration)!

And can you describe the journey you took from your first experiences using clay, to where you are today, creating beautiful ceramics as a full-time job? I started pottery at evening classes. I was working in an office at the time and needed a creative outlet. I was hooked from the start! I slowly built up equipment; buying a second hand wheel from a potter who was getting rid of his entire studio, he gave me lots of glazes and tools at the same time. When we bought our current house I was super lucky that it came with an outside office (or maybe it was more like a shed!). I decided this would be my studio. I knew it was getting serious when I got to the point that buying a kiln would be cheaper than paying for firings.  I also applied to the Great Pottery Throw Down last year and I got through to the final 20 auditionees. That experience gave me such a confidence boost and I decided the time was right to go full-time.

I’m always fascinated by maker’s studios and the way they create spaces to enable them to carry out their work. Can you tell us a bit about your workspace and how it is set-up to suit you. My studio is in my garden. It’s 6ft by 12ft and painted like a beach hut. It just about fits everything I need although I do have a second storage shed for storing packaging.

Do you have an underlying philosophy or attitude to your craft that informs your work?  I hope that I will never stop learning. Giving myself the time and space to grow my practice is important.  Pottery is such a diverse discipline, there are so many new things to learn. Also I try not to rush things – mistakes happen when pottery is rushed.

What would you describe as the main challenges you face in your work? At the moment my main challenge is building up stock levels. I work on a made to order basis, but I am trying to make items to hold in stock at the same time. It’s tricky – as as soon as I make things they seem to sell – which is great! I will need to invest in a bigger kiln in the next few years.

And what do you feel are the best things about what you do? I love making things with my hands. I find it challenging, exciting, engrossing; it’s different everyday. Only about 50% of my time is spent actually sat at my wheel making, the rest of it is spent on packing-up orders, taking photos of my work, writing listings, social media, answering enquiries and researching. I also love speaking to customers and hearing their ideas.

What advice would you give to people just starting out or interested in making? I totally understand how scary it is to put your work out there, but I would say just go for it! Before I started selling I was scared stiff of showing anyone my pottery, my theory being, if I didn’t share it, it couldn’t be criticised – but then it couldn’t be loved either.  Selling my work has only built my confidence. Granted, I have grown a bit of a thicker skin too. Just remind yourself that for every person who doesn’t like what you do, there will be a ton of people who love it.

Are there any craftsmen or designers who have particularly inspired or influenced you or your work? I love the work of Norman Yapp. I find his methods of making pottery inspiring. He only fires his work once, which is a risky process – I admire his guts. Grayson Perry is also inspiring as a potter who won the Turner Prize. I also follow many ceramicists on Instagram, too many to mention but all are inspiring in their own way.

What is your favourite artwork? Through studying fine art, I developed a love of many artists and my taste is very varied. From Egon Schiele to the Brit artists; Tracey Emin, Damien Hurst, Rachel Whiteread etc, I love them all… but if I had to have a piece on my wall, I think it would have to be a bit more restful; maybe something by Georgia O’Keefe – her landscapes are stunning.

What is your favourite piece of design; be it architecture or product design? Living near the city of Bath, I have a great appreciation for Georgian architecture. I am drawn to anything old, anything that has a story.

What style of home décor do you find the most exciting at the moment and what style are you drawn to when decorating your own home?  Personally I prefer rustic and cosy to neat and minimal. Classic coastal style appeals to me greatly, reminding me of childhood holidays by the sea. The most important thing for me is for a house to be homely. A beautiful farmhouse table or oak door I find irresistible. I love handmade items too (obviously), anything in which the spirit of the maker can be seen. My house is a tiny old blacksmith’s cottage, with oak beams and a low ceiling – it’s very cosy. I love greys and have painted our living room with a palette of gorgeous soft greys from Farrow and Ball.

Thanks so much for talking to us Kara. Can we ask what’s next for Kara Leigh Ford Ceramics? I want to expand my dinnerware offering and make side plates and bowls to match my dinner plates. I also need to save up for a bigger kiln!

Home Etc


Comments (4)

  1. I love seeing other people following their dreams – this is so inspiring and a fab interview! Love her place of work! 🙂 Jess xx

    • Author
      Philippa 2 years ago

      Yes her studio is great isn’t it! Glad you liked it ? Philippa x

  2. Ohmygoodness — they’re absolutely beautiful!!! I love pottery that is tactile and tells a story — Kara’s pieces are so beautiful. LOVE her she-shed too!! Mine is currently being built — cannot WAIT for a dedicated space to have my design studio 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing 🙂 Caro x

    • Author
      Philippa 2 years ago

      Thanks Caro! Thanks for hosting #HomeEtc 🙂 Yes her pieces are really special aren’t they! Your own she-shed sounds fantastic – I hope you share some pics when it’s finished as I love seeing people’s creative spaces, it’s always so interesting! Thanks again! Philippa x

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