My story, Louisa Taylor – Ceramics

I have a particularly strong memory of my first experience of clay. I was about six or seven and I remember making model dinosaurs! Later at secondary school I was interested in art and did it for one of my A levels but it was not really promoted as a career; my career’s advisor didn’t know what to do with me and I didn’t seem to fit into a category. I didn’t know how to use my creativity or that doing art and making things was an option.

After 6th form I did a year’s art foundation course at my local college. It was a fantastic year, you get to do a bit of everything and I think doing a Foundation Diploma course is really important. I had a wonderful ceramics tutor who was very enthusiastic and passionate about the material. Because of him I found I engaged with clay and enjoyed the skill required and the fact that you’re not really in control. You put things into the kiln and they’ll come out completely different, I like that about ceramics.

I went on to study Ceramics for my degree, and thoroughly enjoyed those three years. With a BA I feel that unless you are particularly gifted your work may not yet be of a standard to compete with other makers and I wanted to go on to do an MA. I didn’t do this straight away. After BA I shared a pottery in Lincolnshire and became self-employed for about a year and a half, which was really hard work. I was also teaching a night class and doing clay workshops in schools, which was a valuable experience. I then applied to the Royal College of Art, where I did my MA from 2004 to 2006. Doing an MA is very different to BA and is not for everyone; sometimes there’s a bit too much emphasis on education and there are other ways such as apprenticeships or working with another maker. But the RCA MA course worked for me, for the professionalism and confidence in your own ability you get at the end of it.

To help me get set up I applied for a grant from the Crafts Council and got £5000 of matched funding towards my kiln, wheel, spray booth and other equipment and Cockpit Arts, where I have my studio, have given help and support.

I realised early on that being a ceramicist may not provide you with sufficient income on its own, so I also teach ceramics at university one day a week and at drop-in workshops at the V&A every couple of months. I’m also a colour consultant for a homeware company in the USA and I have a book coming out in August, Ceramics, Tools and Techniques for Contemporary Maker. You have to have fingers in a few pies!

 

Louisa Taylor

   
 

My advice to anyone is to do a foundation course first; even now I think about the things I made during my foundation year - I loved the naivety and the experimentation I had then which you tend to lose later on. You must have a flare for ceramics, it’s heavily skills based and takes time to get a professional standard. Develop transferable skills and become adaptable so you can apply yourself to different things. After college you must accept that you’ll be self employed so you must recognise and make opportunities for yourself. You have to be incredibly driven and a shameless self-promoter, so get a website. Always look at other people’s work and do work experience if you can. There’s no instant reward, but stick at it and don’t give up and don’t get disheartened if things don’t work out. It’s a long journey to get to a professional standard. And remember to enter competitions if you can, one year I won £15000 in prize money!

Visit Louisa’s website: www.louisataylorceramics.com

Louisa studied BTEC Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Yeovil College before doing her BA(Hons) Ceramics at Bath Spa University and MA at the Royal College of Art.