I am a ceramicist based in the heart of rural Suffolk, a beautiful county with gently rolling farmland, and the most magnificent skies.
Every piece I make is thrown on the potter’s wheel, then decorated with coloured slips (liquid clay). I build up layers of colour on the clay’s surface, using techniques including stencilling, printing and resist to create the lines, circles and brush-marks which adorn the pots. My surface designs are often inspired by marks and patterns found in my local landscape; grasses swaying in the wind, the moon over the Suffolk fields.
During lockdown 1.0 I was sitting at my computer renaming images for our website after a photoshoot. I was so bored of renaming images I turned to Instagram as you do! I was aware that “Makers Market from Home” organised by the super talented Andy Greenacre was taking place. Kate work grabbed my attention to the point I wanted to see more of Kate work. Before I stumbled across Kate Welton Ceramics, I was looking for more unique ceramics that would work with the other ceramists that we have in the gallery. I had meetings with Kate at the gallery and it was so nice to see how they would fit in. I'm in love with Kate's soap, as they are very different to our other soap dishes we have in stock. Finding truly unique products for the gallery is super important. It makes our products standout from all other Galleries and Gift Shops around the North Essex area.
Here is our in conversation with Kate and Mary at the gallery, I hope you enjoy getting to know the ceramicist behind this unique collection.
Q: What do you love most about being an artist?
For me, the most exciting thing is the possibility of creating (which is pretty much endless!), and the journey I go on from the start of an idea to the finished piece.
Q: How long have you been making ceramics?
I’ve been developing my current collection of ceramics over the last five years. I started to really focus on ceramics in the second year of my degree after some throwing workshops. I was completely captivated by the technique, and the transformation from lump of clay to usable vessel still fills me with joy.
Q: Which artists are you most influenced by?
I am often drawn more to painters than potters; I think because my work is very much about mark making. Vanessa Bell is a huge source of inspiration to me, both her paintings and the life she created for herself. The work of Matisse and Bonnard are also massively inspirational to me, their use of colour is just sublime.
Q: Did you always want to be an artist?
From a young age I was always making things, and art was definitely a favourite subject. I started taking pottery evening classes during my A-Levels, and that’s where my interest in ceramics was really ignited. That led on to a degree in Design Crafts at De Montfort University, where I specialised in ceramics. Then in 2016 I set up my own business and started developing my collection – it’s been an amazing journey so far!
Q: Are there any little tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years, that would help or inspire budding artists?
Talk to other creatives whenever you can, especially those who have been in the business for a while. I’ve always found potters to be a really friendly bunch, and it is always useful gathering advice. I’d also say remember to keep experimenting; that’s often when the most exciting things happen in the studio.
Q: Tell us about your workspace – what do you like about it?
My studio is in an industrial unit, which means it can get pretty chilly, but is perfect for ceramics. I have two tables; one I try to keep clean for sketching and planning, but it usually ends up getting messy! The other is my making table, where I attach handles, decorate and glaze my work. Then I have shelving for work in progress and finished stock, my wheel and kiln. My favourite corner of the studio is my ‘inspiration wall’ where I pin up a collection of postcards, drawings and magazine cuttings.
Q: Do you listen to music when you’re painting?
I usually listen to a mixture of music and podcasts. ‘The Great Women Artists’ podcast is my ultimate go to – always a fascinating listen. Sometimes silence can be nice in the studio too, when I’m really immersed in making.
Q: Do you use photo references?
I rarely use photos to directly reference designs, more often I carry an image in my head and work from memory. Most of my designs are heavily abstracted and don’t need an accurate reference. I do make a lot of scribbled sketches though, and numerous notes on techniques and colours used in each design.
Q: What subjects inspire you?
Marks and patterns found in my surroundings are my biggest inspiration. Contours of the landscape, grasses swaying in the wind, the moon over the Suffolk fields. I am also inspired by the use of colour and composition in works by painters such as Matisse.
Q: How important are titles to your work?
All of my designs have names, something I began doing for the mainly practical reason of easily distinguishing them. Recently, titles have become more important to my pieces, as a means of conveying the feeling or inspiration behind the design. I hope each title conjures up an evocative image, and helps the viewer form a connection with the piece.
Q: What do you personally find the most challenging thing about being an artist?
Self-promotion! Like a lot of creatives, I’m naturally a little shy, and so speaking about myself, and my work publicly is sometimes challenging. Like anything, this gets easier with practice, and I’ve noticed the amount of time I’ve spent on Zoom over the past year has definitely helped!
Q: What’s the highlight of your career so far, or your proudest moment?
I was lucky enough to work for five years as a studio assistant for Cambridge based ceramicist Rachel Dormor. A big part of the studio was facilitating and collaborating on community projects. My proudest moment was working alongside artists and organisations to create artworks with members of a local MS Support Group. Clay is such a wonderfully accessible material, and it was so insightful and rewarding to work with the participants, who each created a ceramic tile with imagery to incapsulate their experience of living with MS.
Q: How would you describe your artwork to someone sitting across the dinner table that had never seen your artwork before?
I make mostly functional pots designed to be used daily, and which aim to bring a sense of calm to your space. I love experimenting with pattern, and the surfaces of all my pieces always feature a combination of hand-painted circles and lines.
Q: What is your favourite piece in your collection that is coming into Wonky Wheel Gallery, and why?
The Mugs! This may be a strange choice, but the mugs in my collection are the product of about four years of refining. Looking back at the first ones I made, it’s rewarding to see the huge development in my making skills. For many reasons, the humble mug is often my favourite piece in a collection. It’s a practical, useful object, but the possibilities for its surface are endless. I love the idea of making a piece that will be used and held every day, but which has a surface equally as expressive as a vase. A handmade mug is a work of art.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Have more confidence in yourself and never stop trying new things. Also be patient, things don’t happen quickly, keep going and you’ll get there!
You can find out more about Kate’s and her collection at Wonky Wheel by clicking here