A Chat With A Cumbrian Artist

Part 2. Daniel Ibbotson

a series of casual chats about being a professional artist in Cumbria today.

you can find out more about Daniel and his work on his website.

So we’re Sat in the second exhibition that you've organised this year, 
So I'm guessing this year you've gone from not just artist but to 
curator, organiser and all around busy person.

That’s right, a stressed person

Big on the stress! And so if you could tell me… we'll start with your 
education or background in art. How you got into being and making art?

Okay. I went to Morecambe High School And just got my O level in Art, 
which obviously triggered my interest in it. But my main inspiration 
was football crowds when I was younger and drawing the reactions of 
the football crowds to goals and to the difference movement within a 
crowd. And also the colours within the mass groups of people 
supporting the same team. So obviously there's set colours within 
those huge areas. Making expanses of human movement which was the 
first interest for me. 

After that I started drawing. When I went to London to work, I started 
drawing my friends and different situations that I was in, even if it 
was waiting in the dole queue at Brixton Dole office and I’d draw 
pictures of people and different types of behaviour. So I became more 
interested in experience, drawing what I experienced in my life. Now 
after that, I applied for Brixton college, which was Lambeth college 
today. My foundation back in about 1994 something like that and they 
give us a chance so I did a year there and then moved on to Middlesex 
University to do a degree. And when I got to Middlesex, I worked on the 
building sites during the day and then, because we had 24 hour access 
to the studios I was in, I went in at night and just worked like crazy. 
But I ended up picking up things from work and that I used within my 
pictures. So any buildings that were stripping or you know, we were 
peeling off history in the buildings, I would collect material, put 
them into plastic bags and take them up to Middlesex, why I would 
include the work and into the pieces I was doing. And from there, that 
developed. I got a first class degree, which is brilliant, you know, 
for myself after that I applied for the Royal College through a 
recommendation, but I wasn't organised enough in my application, it 
was a bloody shambles because I was stoned out of my head when I did 
it. It was me and my friend, a photographer, made a bit of a pig's 
ear. So, so that didn't work out. So eventually….

We took a short break to allow someone to come into the gallery and 
then restart our conversation…

So you were too stoned to get into RCA... 

Dan  To present work that was acceptable, my friends took the pictures 
but he was the one who was causing the damage, so between the two of 
us it wasn’t a very good end product. And I got told off by the tutor 
who had recommended me! Anyway, that was my first introduction to 
preparing your work for potential buyers or competitions and 
everything else. A lesson in, you know, preparation and presentation 
of your work. So ever since then, because I missed out on a fantastic 
opportunity, going to RCA, simply because the work wasn’t presented 
well, it was off the scale pathetic. So then I took a break for 15 
years. We moved back to Carlisle, because by then My daughter had 
been born and after that my wife was due with our second child so we 
decided to move up to Carlisle and I didn’t do anything, well 
artistically, in a painters sense, for a few years. In the meantime 
I used to teach dance all over Cumbria and graffiti art. I got 
approached by Cumbria dance to do it, just because I attended a class, 
and from there I did a couple of years of that before that all ended. 
Then I returned to my painting, in 2016. So I’d taken a break of 
maybe 15, 16 years. But in the meantime I’d still worked on pieces on 
my own and developed a style I was really happy with and that suited 
my day to day job obviously being a decorator, just picked up loads 
of waste materials and used them creatively so that was what 
sustained me through that period of not exhibiting at galleries, 
exhibitions or whatever. 

So you used those techniques that you picked up during your degree 
and developed your personal style and even though you weren’t out 
there, you were still working on it and chipping away at the old 

Yeah, that was the key, that time wasn’t wasted it was, you know, 
utilising free materials for a start which suited myself and the way 
I wanted to work. So from there I applied to Carlisle Art Fair, 
which was in the Sands Centre, it was errr...I think there were four 
people who came on the first day, it was a boiling hot August day 
and then the second day it rained luckily so more people came in but 
it was still rubbish. But it got me going, then I applied for 
Cumbria Artist Of The Year, with a big painting which I didn’t think 
would get in, but it got in. It was made of sheets of sand paper, 
it was an overhead view of the lake district, that then rolled on to 
exhibiting at Derek Eland’s Gallery, No. 3, he accepted a couple of 
pieces then I did the Cathedral. Then I started applying to 
competitions like UpFront’s. Got some work in there, then a bit of 
success, got short listed for a couple of things, the public vote 
for the Cumbria Artist Of The Year, I won the UpFront competition 
which was amazing and really exciting. It was a double sided 
painting, based on a trip to Italy, and also the barns and 
architecture within Cumbria, so I based the painting on those two 
things, so if anyone asks about it I had the experience and all 
the knowledge to explain it. So the semi abstract, very textured 
pieces I was doing, were based on layers of experiences that I was 
having and I would put them all in to a pot, mix them up and see 
what I would come up with as far as presentation, because each 
layer could have been presented on its own. So that way, that was 
they style I was developing, multi layered experiences, multi 
textures and some of the textures may not have been related to 
the theme of the painting, they all came together and that’s how 
I decided how I was going to work. So from there I started 
picking up things when I was out walking with the dog, simply 
because that was the experience, and I like using different walks, 
I’d walk in the country and pick up bits there, but then wed do 
back alley walks where we’d basically go street combing and pick 
up dolls arms and bits of old trainers or whatever. And that 
helped, it was free material and it just added my experience and 
this existence into the work. And I was much more comfortable with 
that than trying to achieve something more abstract, and maybe a 
little out of my range. I wasn’t kidding anyone with what I was 
doing in so far as the materials I was using and also my views on 
whatever form of this existence that we’re in. So that combination 
of things is what sustains us today. I still work in the same way, 
its all based on experience, collecting, using recyclable materials 
and if anything, the textures have increased to more sculptural 
levels rather than flat pieces of work. Royal Academy, went down 
and applied for their Summer Exhibition, I got through to the last 
stage in 2017 that was a real eye opener as far as excitement and 
what is possible, that has given me a lot of confidence even though 
I failed to get in and that was heart breaking because it took three 
months before they sent the text. 

The waiting game, isn’t it. Its so difficult, also, you can’t plan, 
you cant move forward, book a holiday, just in case you get selected! 

And the other side of that is crushing disappointment but I enjoyed 
the experience. I actually did a series of works based on the period 
of time between applying and getting the result. Because that period 
was the best thing that happened during that experience, because it 
was always a possibility that I’d get in, so I could dream and put 
myself into that position and having that one off experience. I think 
it would’ve been absolutely amazing, especially after 10 years of 
living in London and visiting the RA regularly. To go back down there 
on the train with a decorators table with a colour chart on it, in the 
style of the original façade of the building it was a smart idea but 
the execution was a bit naff so I had to deal with that. But that 
experience gave me confidence to apply for different things, different 
competitions and the good thing about that now is that the 
disappointment will never be beaten. It was so much, I put so much 
effort into it, I don’t think I’ll ever be so disappointed from failure 
again. Catriona So you started high, and now you’re just winning at 
life. Dan It was so exciting, I wouldn’t have changed any of it, what a 
brilliant experience that was. So that’s us up today, well Covid came, 
I was just about to do the big art fairs, Manchester, Glasgow, Chester. 
I’d got accepted to them, I did Manchester last year and that was a 
really positive experience, 10,000 people. Friends and family came for 
the weekend and we had a ball, but this year its all been cancelled. So 
this, was really an idea I came up with, I got offered an old Florist 
shop on Scotland Road, and instead of dong it for myself, I thought, if 
you expand it and offer it to other people then more people will visit 
the shop and it just went from 20 to 30 to 40, then I had to stop, the 
space was only small so with restrictions on the size and everything 
else, we managed to sell quite a lot of work and that way. You create 
something for a lot of artists rather than just for yourself, you know. 
And that you know did my head a lot of good actually. So after that, I 
started thinking, right, what about the next one, where are you going 
to go with this? Are you going to stay in the same place and do the 
same thing or change venue and the amount of artists? The variety of 
work too that’s key. I don’t hold with the same type of work 
constantly, there’s lots of landscape painters that are not included in 
this exhibition simply because I’ve got the type of landscape painter 
I want. Now in the future it doesn’t mean they’re not included because 
the door is always open, this is not a club, membership people are free 
to come and go. And also retain their own independence, you don’t need 
to sign up for anything its just if I like your stuff I’ll contact you 
and you just turn up with your stuff and I’ll do the rest, try and sell 
your work. If we don’t sell your work you don’t get charged, and that 
is the key because then if you don’t sell a single thing, at least 
you’ve had the exposure and experience. 

And you know, the whole financial aspect of it, in these times, 
anything that can support artists, makers, you know. 

Anything at all and if you give them a nice platform, a well presented 
gallery. The advertising and graphics, it gives it a proper, 
professional look. And obviously its not Saville Row, New Bond Street 
standard but if we could get this to a standard where it could be okay, 
if we could do this elsewhere. With the range of work, It’s good for 
Carlisle, It would be nice if people would come from Newcastle to see 
these things instead of us always going over there for the big 
galleries. We’ve not really got the big galleries over here, there’s 
not really anything other than pop up shops at the moment, so my 
challenge is to try and find a solution to that hole. So this hopefully 
fills that. So maybe doing it once per season. Its a sacrifice as I 
can’t work when I’m putting on these shows, but the commission I earn 
allows me to do it. If I have a good space and present it well I can 
get well known names as well as new and upcoming artists on board and 
people will come. I’ve been lucky that people have accepted their 
invitation and that I’ve sold some work, so everyone benefits. 

So everyone’s a winner. So I’ll ask you a little double question, 
what is your job, what job title would you give to yourself? 

Painter and Decorator and Artist 

So for you, because they feed off each other, they are mutually 


How would you define what an artist is? Especially within this 
context where we have so many different levels, levels of 
experience. How do are you defining artists when you’re selecting? 
How are you defining it for yourself? 

I think individualism as far as how you represent your work so I 
picked a lot of work based on it being different from everything 
else in the exhibition. I know there is some slightly similar but 
I look at the styles and the artists. I look at how the back 
catalogue of work, I do some research and see what I’m attracted 
to and not attracted. With certain artists I specifically pick the 
work I want because all of the work I like, but I’ve seen 
something that I will pinpoint and say these are what I want, the 
rest I’m not interested in, I have to be blunt its not an insult, 
its just I really like those and id like to exhibit and sell them 
for you, you know? Because those two pieces might be totally 
different from anything else in the exhibition and that excites me. 
It gives the exhibition more breadth and in the future it might 
event get broken down into smaller sections because we’re heading 
towards 100 artists with all different styles, its going to be 
difficult to find because after 75 you might find overlaps and 
feeling as though you’re repeating yourself. Going back to the 
question sorry, individuality and that persons self, I could see 
them with in the work. Even if its, sorry that’s the wrong thing 
to say because I don’t know that person, but I can see a style 
develop from that person, even if I don’t know them I can see a 
style developing from their personality and its constant, so 
that’s how I would define the work I’ve picked for the 
exhibition, its a collection of individual artists with 
individual styles that represents themselves. 

And outside of this exhibition, what is it that you think is the 
difference between an artist who paints as a hobby, or an 
amateur I guess. 

Erm, that's difficult because without dissing amateur painters 
because in my own way I'm an armature because I don’t do this 
full time. So... 

But then that's saying that when we chatted earlier and we talked 
about the mutual, its beneficial also but you need that painter and 
decorator practice to gather materials, inspiration, so you know, 
does that stop you being a professional? Because you need that. No! 

No that’s right, its a, based on my own experience, if you can use 
your day job in a create way, to feed your art. Obviously you could 
have other jobs that could dictate and affect your work, If I 
worked in a shoe shop, perhaps my work would be very ordered, its a 
silly example, but you understand what I’m saying, when I’m at work 
because I’ve dealing with very textured, rough things all the time, 
that dictates how I present my work. But I can imagine if I had a
very clean job that… 

We won’t let you work in hospitals or a dentists then 

Yeah, I don’t know its a difficult one that one, as far as I’m 
concern my day job dictates or has ended up dictating how I 
present my work and I’m sure that is not the case for most people 
but for me, it is. That’s my opinion, I find it really difficult 
to judge other peoples creative process because, its probably 
what interests me because I really like the why and how people 
have got to that point. Presentation, based on mundane job like 
myself or not maybe they’ve got an exciting job and do minimalist 
work. I don’t know, its fascinating to see how people reach their 
conclusion artistic with different lifestyles, so yeah. I’m 
probably sitting on the fence with that, its very hard to judge 
peoples processes as I can only relate to my own. 

Thank you for chatting to me about your experiences and yeah and 
everything you've got To turn on hope the rest of the exhibition 
as well. Thank you 

Date of chat 18th December 2020

Date published 30th December 2020

A Chat With A Cumbrian Artist

Part 1. Laura M R Harrison

What it is to be a professional artist

A series of informal chats with local artists, discussing their work and what it is to be a professional artist, maker, creative in Cumbria.

You can find out more about Laura’s work on her website.

Catriona So we’re sat on a bench near the river Caldew in Dalston, 
with Laura M R Harrison. Laura, can you tell me a little about you, 
your education, your practice.

Laura Shall I start with education then?

Catriona Start with education

Laura I have a BA degree Fine Arts, and it was in 2003, I graduated 
for that. Then I had 10 years, well, just under 10 years, out from 
our practice started practising again, actually a little bit earlier 
than that maybe in 2008 went into a studio group, and then I went 
back to do my MA in 2013 to 2015 in Contemporary Fine Art. And this 
year, the beginning of this year I started a PhD in practice based 
Fine Art.
Shall I talk about my practice as well.

Catriona Yes, please do.

Laura Since my MA, so since 2013, I've been working in predominantly 
video and audio. And that's very much installation based, and I'm 
interested in how space and place inpacts reading of artwork, and I 
am just starting to incorporate object and sculpture more into my 
work as part of my PhD practice.

Catriona So, do you think that your practice has, almost in a sense, 
restarted since your MA or was it slightly before that.

Laura Yes, really the MA kicked it off again, partly because I ended 
up with a concept or a theme that I was really fired up about. And that 
just pushed the work, and it was also. That's the point at which I 
learned to connect with researching properly. And that real 
understanding of how practice and research are intertwined, and that 
relationship and that's kind of what really fired the practice off, 
and I started working at a much more professional level in terms 
of my output.

Catriona And would you define yourself as a professional artist?

Laura It's not something I find particularly easy but I think I'm at 
the point now where I almost can't. And so it's almost like the 
reverse it's like, I think once you've been working for so long at a 
certain level and because of the type of work I’m making now. So, say 
if I started in 2013, that's quite a while now, I've been doing that 
sort of work and looking at certain sort of opportunities. And so yes 
I think I do now.

Catriona So within your practice, you said that you worked with visual 
and audio and you're just introducing sculptural elements, do you 
produce products or pieces of art that are saleable?

Laura In theory, some of them could be sold, but I don't. And that's 
a deliberate choice. And I think for me, there's an issue with how 
the commercial shifts your practice and shifts how you're able to 
engage with subject matter, and perhaps what you choose to make. The 
exhibition that I did at signal film, which you saw, which was the 
bricks. They are technically objects so you could sell, but I needed 
to get rid of them actually the money went to charity. And that was 
my preference that it went back into a different sort of system. And 
it doesn't, it's prevents the work being sort of commercial commodity 
in the same way.

Catriona So you don't necessarily earn a living from your practice?

Laura No I don’t, I've never earned anything. And even when I've had 
opportunities. I've been lucky, and there's only one way I've 
actually came out and I could have paid myself but I didn't, I 
decided to invest it in my studio instead. So that is the only one 
where I've been given enough money, where I've been able to produce 
the work and technically would have been able to pay myself, it still 
would have been below minimum wage, for the hours that I put in by 
quite a long shot. So no I don't earn money from it.

Catriona So you've had access to funding you've, you've managed to tap 
in but...

Laura Yeah it's difficult because I think our location actually impacts 
that, and I think it impacts the kind of the logistics of opportunities 
if you're in a position where you have a mortgage, and you have 
responsibility close to home. It makes accessing a lot of the 
opportunities a lot more difficult because the sorts of things I'd be 
looking at are longer term residences so you might be a month or a 
couple of months working away which I unfortunately can't do at the 
moment for financial reasons. And so it limits how far you can go, to 
seek those opportunities. And also it's not been easy to get a profile 
from this area, and that is limiting. So, there's kind of a level where 
I'm kind of stuck at where I can get a bit of money, but get into that 
next bit where you're going and doing opportunities and you're getting 
enough to cover all your costs, and pay yourself is like the next step.

Catriona And so you can pay your mortgage back at home.

Laura Yeah and that next step. I think is going to be really difficult 
to hit for various reasons.

Catriona So do you work to sustain your practice?

Laura I do.

Catriona Can you just tell me a little about that

Laura So I work as a civil servant, and I work for the rural payments 
agency. And it's basically admin work. But I work maintaining kind of
the things that make an office tick, so it's been stationary, car park 
etc. I mean that's not quite as basic as that but first aid, health and 
safety sort of stuff. And then I'm about to change jobs, and I'm going 
to be "PA"ing for a department in DEFRA. So that's three days a week, 
and slightly condensed hours so the longer days that most people do. 
And that's enough to pay my bill

Catriona And to allow you time to practice, and to develop work.

Laura Yes and to do my PhD. On the PHD I’m  50/50, so 50% work, 50% PhD, 
and it allows me to split that time and so it's a part time PhD, it's a 
really long commitment of five to seven years, and but that's the only 
way that I could physically do it, or financially do it was to split 
between study and working.

Catriona Did you tell me what do you think defines a professional 

Laura My opinion on professional, what classes is professional? Because 
what you think of it for yourself and what you think of it for other 
people. I'm not sure it's necessarily the same thing.

Catriona Well we're harder on ourselves. I think we're less...

Laura Oh, I don’t know, I might be harder on other people.

Catriona What do you think constitutes a professional artist?

Laura There's there's an element of how long you've been working at it 
for. And for me, there's also an element of how you approach it. Which 
is really not very easy to define but I think, you know, I've been 
doing this on and off for a very long time now and personally I've got 
a lot of education and I don't think it necessarily comes down to 
education but I think it's an attitude around that learning, even if 
it's not formal learning. The learning through your practice or the 
learning and the way you push yourself and progress, but I guess this 
is also coming more from a conceptual art practice and, more so than 
maker designer kind of direction. But I think there is something to 
be said for the time that you've been doing it, and where you're 
placing your work and how you're positioning yourself in yourself in 
terms of your own learning. So you can't place a time on it, but I, 
there's that point where I go yeah okay I consider that person 
professional I know it's very much on a case by case basis so it's 
very difficult to define but they're the sorts of elements I would 
be looking for.

Catriona Yeah, it is just a really weird... Like I spent years not 
thinking I was some sort of imposter in my making, and now I kind 
of have got to a point where I think I'm there-ish or on the path. 
And then I've gone back to education, which doesn’t set me back 
but its...

Laura But, the thing with you is you've always pushed yourself so 
when I look at makers, just this is my personal interest it's not 
even about whether they're professional or not. I always like to 
see people who stuff, changes, they're not doing the same thing here 
and they're pushing and they're progressing and they're learning and 
you're always looking at new techniques and you're honing your, your 
glazes and your colours and you're always looking for those each 
little bits like I want this to be better or honing this bit I've 
done a bit of reading or watching or whatever about and those 
are the sorts of things I'm looking for. So when you put the output. 
I think you see it in the output particularly makers you go..

Catriona They’ve moved forward yeah or sideways, or in a different 

Laura And they’ve put a lot of effort in, you can almost see 
references, or things have been looking at in their work.

Catriona Cool. Well, I mean it's 10 minutes but I think they've got 
quite a lot in it, Thank you very much for chatting!

Date of Chat 17/12/20
Date Published 23/12/20

A Return To Education

And my thoughts about getting on with it

I started an MA in October, something I did very quietly after years of thinking about it and months of agonising about whether the time is right. Very few of my nearest and dearest know, mainly because know, mainly because I’m terrified I’ll fail, and the fewer people that know, the fewer people I’ll have to admit failure to.

My first term has been challenging: an extended period of humility and feeling stupid. The lectures require intense concentration. Yet afterwards, everything I’ve just heard exits my brain pronto and I have absolutely no idea what I’ve just listened to or read.

Covid 19, of course has not helped. The first year being the one in which all the theory modules are completed, I had been looking forward to intense and challenging lectures with time before and after to meet and get to know new people as well as getting back into a well equipped studio to re establish long dormant skills and get playing with glaze recipes. The reality is challenging and engaging lectures on Microsoft Teams with no studio access this year. Fair enough, but coupled with hearing problems and isolation from my fellow pupils, some of whom presumably feel as overwhelmed and confused with the whole learning process as me, it has been a tough start.

I’m struggling to engage with the lectures despite being interested, wanting to understand and know more. I suddenly and belatedly have much more understanding and empathy towards the mature students from my BA who worried and struggled about written assignments for weeks. Whereas I’d roll in from a night out, pen whatever came to mind, re read and type the following morning probably after 2 hours sleep, hand in that afternoon with last night’s make-up still smeared across my face and head back out for drinks to celebrate another deadline met. I’ve moved to the mature student camp. I feel paralysed with fear when I sit down to type. Although I can talk through my ideas when I sit down to write my essay I have a complete disconnect with the thinking part of wards.

I’ve had a long hard look at myself and at my procrastination/ over thinking techniques. Here are some pointers helping me move beyond this ridiculous writers block of my own making:

1. know your time.

Despite knowing I am (and always have been) a morning person, I continually sit down in the evening to get started. I’m completely useless in the evening, really struggle to answer emails never mind focus on essay writing. Its not unusual to be accompanied by an audio book, podcast or the TV. Honestly, no wonder I can’t concentrate. For me silence is golden, when writing or reading I struggle to concentrate when other things are going on. I’m sure this is linked to me hearing loss and reliance on hearing aids as I can’t mentally block out/ syphon off sound like I used to.

So the solution is short, morning sessions with no technology. Computer near for any checking or referencing but closed. Pen and paper are what’re needed to break the back of this piece, preferably at the big table rather than my miniscule desk so I’m not tripping over myself to find books, notes and scraps of paper.

2.Wear the right clothes.

When I say the right clothes, I mean right clothes for the job. I’ve lived in a fabulous 80s mohair number this week. Its cosy, comfortable and completely unsuitable for lots of activities. Although I have to admit I did a little gardening in it yesterday, it just doesn’t work for practical jobs. Studio stuff and clay just gets stuck in it and its a nightmare to clean. I can’t even make a cup of tea without finding magenta fluff floating in it, this definitely rules out cooking, baking and general kitchen pottering, which is my usual procastination tool of choice. In short I’m wearing one of the few garments I own that will make me pause before heading to the kitchen or studio- Win!

3.Focus on the task in hand, not the bigger picture.

I’ve been feeling totally stifled with fear/ worry, this is hindering me. Aside from all my normal day today worries, I panic about why I’m doing my MA, what my final outcomes will be, which direction my work is heading in, oh AND I have an essayto do and its all too hard and too much…

Stop. Breath.

I sat down yesterday with my patient husband and talked about and wrote down the points I want to discuss. This morning arrived and armed with a pot of tea, silence, my trusty mohair jumper and a plan. 2 of 6 points have been addressed, it’s a start and something to build on, now I’m planning to leave it until tomorrow, then repeat this process.

Its overthinking that’s holding me back, not lack of ability. Worrying about what grade I’ll get for a piece, instead of getting on and writing, is not going to help me get the job done, no?!

I think what’s been the hardest thing to get my head around in the return to formal education and writing my first essay, is that my procrastination technique are different to those I use within my practice as a Designer Maker. I’m a big believer that understanding why I’m struggling can help me move forward hence the above musings. Perhaps they’ll help someone else, if anyone reads this that is!


P.S. These ramblings are nearly half the length of the essay I’ve been struggling with, proof perhaps, that I can do it, or maybe just another form of procrastination. Watch this space more more musings…

Making in Lockdown

Kurinuki Pots

When lockdown started, I was caught short: an order of clay waiting for me in Yorkshire, daily emails cancelling events and exhibitions, more time on my hands than I’ve had for years and limited materials to fill those hours. Kurinuki, or “carving out”, is a Japanese hand building technique, where you begin with a block of clay and carve out the centre. Once the interior is hollowed, you are able to score, carve, tear and cut away at the exterior. The clay itself dictates its form as much as the creator. This technique, in so many ways opposite to the work I produce in “normal times”, gave me a chance to connect with the material, slow down and just focus on creating with out inhibitions or pre-conceived designs.

Living in Carlisle, meant no lack of green space available for daily walks but the fells, and coast felt impossibly distant and unobtainable. I used extra time to focus on the garden, to coax as much greenery as I could from the slowly warming earth to counteract the factories, chimneys and red Victorian brick of Denton Holme.

The Kurinuki pots were finished with a wash of black iron oxide and a green glaze the impossibly bright colour of new spring leaves. Its jagged, rough textured walls are reminisent of the crags, deserted rock strewn pathways and river tumbled rocks littering our coast. This little pot, small enough to be cradled in the palm of my hand, carried in my pocket, became a talisman and reminder of all that waited to be rediscovered.

This too shall pass.


Turning Off The Waves- a creative collaboration

One of the hardest parts of running a creative business and making work for a living is staying inspired. Giving  yourself a break, allowing time to play, experiment and explore leads to new work. I am so lucky to have wonderful creatives in my life, friends with whom I can bounce ideas off and explore themes with. One of these wonderful people is  Poet and Creator, Rose Gleeson. Together, last summer we embarked on a creative collaboration entitled “Turning Off The Waves”.

A shell collected while on holiday in Cornwall acted as a starting point; each created work and exchanged the pieces. Using the received piece as inspiration the pair then went about creating new work.

With exchanges happening every 2 weeks for a 3 month period, the past paced nature of the collaboration pushed each creative out of their comfort zone, encouraging them to adopt new methods, techniques and to move away from usual themes and ideas.

Unable to create ceramic pieces in the tight 2 week time slots, I turned mainly to stitch, collage and textile based techniques, incorporating “found” ceramic fragments, words, mark making and mono printing to create layered, intriguing pieces. From these initial raw ideas recurring imagery and textures have now been translated into ceramic fragments, plaques and tiles to emulate the original ideas while letting the work continue to evolve.

New Work & New Events

I’ve been working hard in the studio this year on new work to sell at direct retail events.

The new work combines bold, shiney colour pops with hand drawn lines on a contrasting unglazed, matte surface. I have really enjoyed selecting colours and photographing them in the summer garden and the studio, here’s a peek of my Little wonkies and two of the larger vases.


The work certainly had a good reception at Pots in the Pens. It was my first time at the event, despite it being just down the road. I had the best weekend surrounded by beautiful work and great conversations.

Through Potfest, i also got the opportunity to take part in UPFRONT Gallery’s Cumbrian Ceramics exhibition which is on until 11th Nov 2018, pop by if you get a chance!

Here’s my work displayed next, my neighbor the wonderfully Talented Hilary Harrison. It also lovely to see the work of other graduates from my uni course, Amanda Mercer, Julie Asquith Coghlan and Kim Hodgeson. 

A long overdue rebrand

Its been a long time coming but I’ve been working on getting my packaging simplified and a new logo designed. After wrestling with it all myself for for too long, I decided enough was enough, so took the plunge and payed someone else to do it! I could not be happier with the results, the new logo is clean, bold and will work across all my collections, Sarah from SilvaHalo, did such a great job of taking my ramblings and creating the perfect logo for me.

c-a-markThis logo works within my name, like my main banner or as a my initials like here. Simple and flexible, genius! This has been such an important lesson for me. I’ve spent years building my business, working hard to make it grow and to keep moving forwards. this branding was something I was really struggling with, outsourcing meant I could still focus on this without all the stress.

The new branding was set up for the first time at British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate earlier this month. It took a lot longer to set up than normal, and just working out what I wanted to do was tricky, but now its been done, its just a case of making a few adjustments each time I set up. It was worth all the hard work though, the new packaging, branding and furniture worked really well together, and I got lots of very positive feedback about the new look.

I’ll sign off now, as there are lots of orders to be worked on, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @catrionaarchibaldcrafts for more regular posts and updates

c x

A belated beginning

Its been a busy time at Catriona Archibald Crafts HQ, suddenly  3 years have slipped by and I still haven’t sorted out my first post on this blog,  but they say there is no time like the present, so thank you for stopping by, on here you will be able to to read about my hopes, fears and adventures as I run my business and try to figure out what I am doing on the way. The journey will, I’m sure, have lots of twists and turns, thank you for sticking it out with me!

change starts hereMural, Belfast 2018