Who’s seen the little booby ring holders that we stock in our Coal Drops Yard store? They are made by a wonderful one woman band artist called Katherine Leonard. Ceramics is her medium, but she manages to tell a story with her little pieces that is endearing and so beautifully crafted. Have a read if you’d like to learn more about her world of creativity and her interesting, precise way of thinking and working.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Katherine, the maker of Kitty Leonard Ceramics. I’m from North West London which is where I’ve grown and developed my small creative business of playful pots. I’ve been selling my ceramics for a little over a year now but making art since I was small. I grew up with a love for all things creative and an eye for shapes, colours and design. I’m a calm and quiet person who’s inspired by nature and organic forms, which I think is reflected in my ceramics.
Take us through your typical ceramics day.
Every day is different with ceramics, but I always start my day with a coffee and bring it with me to the studio. When I decided I wanted to make ceramics at home I made a little space for myself in the corner of my Dad’s garage, which he then made into a small studio using parts of his old kitchen.
Before I begin making, I’ll sometimes write myself a list of what I need to make that day or occasionally draw a couple of design ideas that I want to try out. Then I wedge the clay and weigh it out into balls of however many pieces I’m making. My ring holders for example are about 50g of clay each. I’ll then keep making them until I’m finished, stopping for lunch and tea breaks or to try out my new designs. I usually have music or a podcast playing in the background to keep me company. Other times I will spend the day glazing pieces ready to go in the kiln for their second firing.
Last year I was spending one day a week on my ceramics but I left my day job at the end of 2019 to go travelling. I was squeezing in my admin, marketing and everything else into the evenings or weekends. With everything going on right now I’m unsure what the future holds, so I’m putting in as much time as I can into making my pots while I can.
Who influences you?
When studying art at school I was heavily influenced by female artists such as Jenny Saville and Tracey Emin. I was inspired by their raw and honest approach to depicting the female form. My favourite artist is Louise Bourgeois, she is a great reminder to believe in what you do and be courageous with it. There are also so many amazing artists and business owners I know or I follow online who influence me all the time. I’m lucky to be involved in a community which is so supportive of each other, it’s influenced me to want to see others succeed in their passion and build each other up.
What attracted you to working with clay?
I first experimented with clay during my art foundation at college and really loved it. I then returned to it after university after building an interest in ceramics and homeware. I think the fact clay can be functional is definitely something that draws me to it, it gives my creativity a purpose. I always painted throughout school and college but found it hard to do at home with no direction or subject and nothing to work towards. With ceramics there is a finished product which can be used in your everyday life, whether that is a mug for your morning coffee or as a pot for your new plant. I wanted to make things that would bring a smile to people’s faces or make them feel at home. I love homeware for this reason.
Clay can be so therapeutic and healing too. Time will escape you when you’re working with clay. I always find my mind works best when my hands are busy and with clay you are physically building something with your fingers and palms. It’s versatility means there are so many places you can go with it too. You can experiment with texture, size, colours and more.
How has your style developed?
When I started selling my ceramics, I didn’t have an idea in mind of what my range would look like, so I’ve found it really interesting to see how my style has developed over the last year. Sometimes my pots come from something I’ve designed, but often forms take shape organically when I’m making so I like to see where it takes me. I’ve always had an interest in creating portraits and figures, so I think this developed naturally into my ceramics as well. My style is definitely becoming more refined the more I progress. Shapes and colours are key elements for me, so finding the right technique and glazes to achieve the result I want has been important and taken time to get right. I would say the basis of my style is calm, playful and organic.
Are you working on any new designs?
Yes, I’ve made a couple of woman shaped vases and vases with faces which I’m really keen to develop into my range. It’s taken me awhile to find a way to create larger pieces that don’t break in the kiln, so I’m hoping to make some bigger pieces in general over the next few months. I also want to experiment with using my painting techniques on my pots as well as creating more sculptural pieces. The last two years I’ve been building my skills in hand building, so now I’m looking forward to playing around with more concepts and ideas.