This month, Harriet Elkerton tells of her creative path to ceramics and the pros and cons of running your own business.
London based ceramicist Harriet Elkerton makes beautifully simple, contemporary, yet timeless ceramics by hand in her garden studio. They are slip-cast and glazed only on the inside, creating a tactile and visual juxtaposition between the raw edges and the glossy, smooth interiors. “High-fired porcelain vitrifies; you get a beautiful, matte, almost self-glazed surface. I exploit this by only glazing the interiors” elaborates Harriet.
The pieces are made using paper models, as Harriet explains “I work through ideas in paper, in maquettes, seeing the forms in three dimensions, and how the pieces work together as a collection. The maquettes are the models for the moulds.” She then creates the pieces in white porcelain, cleverly incorporating natural materials, such as leather, to add further texture, function and beauty to the pieces, as illustrated in the hanging pot with the butter-soft grey leather strap below.
Harriet’s earliest memory of using clay was in primary school. “I made a coil pot with a lid, it was a (horrendous) riot of colour. I don’t think it was even fired and the ‘glaze’ was probably poster paint.” she recalls in amusement. However, it was only later whilst on her foundation course that Harriet developed a passion for working with clay, “I was on a textiles pathway but was using every non-traditional textile material going: wire and wax, and then clay. I began by making simple press moulds. I loved the ability to translate forms” she explains.
Her career has evolved along a creative path, beginning at school studying A-Level Art and Textiles, followed by a Foundation Studies course in Art, Design and Media at Buckinghamshire New University. This led to a degree in Design Crafts at De Montfort University, which Harriet describes as: “An Applied Arts course, on which I learnt about almost every material: metal, wood, glass, plastic, paper, textiles, ceramics. Over the three years I began to specialise in ceramics, but still incorporating other materials.”
Harriet started her eponymous business in 2014 producing her work at home in a converted space. “I have a studio. It is not necessarily a thing of beauty, but it is practical. My talented uncle made me some custom benches and I have my own kiln. I am very lucky to have the creative space” she shares.
Starting a small creative business brings both rewards and challenges, for example working alone can be isolating and Harriet confesses “The transition from studios and workshops at University, filled with creatives to spark off and get input and encouragement, to working for the majority of my time, on my own, without being surrounded by all the creative energy, was rather a challenge to adjust to.”
However, there are also huge positives to taking the plunge and for Harriet the most rewarding element has been “getting to make work I believe is beautiful, which people buy and put on display in their house or gift to a friend or family. It’s a simple concept but it means so much, that people will part with their hard-earned money because they consider the work beautiful and want to see it every day.”