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Meet local maker Katie Robbins
“Working out of my garden studio in Birmingham, I create porcelain vessels to make the everyday moments in your home more beautiful.
A lover of the natural world, especially plants and flowers, I combine my passions to inform a contemporary range of ceramics. From vases, and planters to candle-holders, these simple shapes are finished in a palette of pastels and pretty shades. I aim to make beautiful items for the everyday which you will want to keep forever.
I love the feel of a thrown item, which leaves the trace of the hand that made it. I use porcelain, often considered a luxury material, as it has a fine delicate finish on which the colours appear so much brighter.”
What first fuelled your passion to make / create your designs / product?
I have always been into clay having first used it during my AS level art. I then attended night school/adult education classes in ceramics whilst I was working. After having children I left my full time marketing role, and had time to explore new ways of working with clay at the Mac, my local adult education centre, in particular slip-casting porcelain.
Tell us about the origins of your business.
Whilst doing the clay course I submitted a slipcast vase into an open exhibition. This work sold, and gave me the confidence that people would buy my work. I soon out-grew the arts centre and I was fortunate to be able to convert a disused conservatory and have a garden studio.
What’s your motto?
I love the quote by William Morris ‘ Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I really want my makes to be considered as everyday luxury and heirlooms of the future.
How would you describe your designs / products?
I’m drawn to simple shapes, with soft curves. Many of my pieces feature the subtle and gentle undulations made from the throwing process; a reminder of the hand that made them. I use calming colours which often find their inspiration in botanicals and the natural world.
What was the first success / landmark moment for your designs / product range?
I think probably when 91 magazine did a six page feature on my work, ceramic journey and studio space; they also invited me to take part in a pop-up shop/run workshops at Westelm in London. It felt like a special event and I was able to connect with many people both face to face and via the internet.
Tell us about your materials - where do you source your materials from?
I use porcelain, a luxury clay whose pure white finish allows colours to appear brighter on it. Its fine nature means you get a beautiful finish. Porcelain uses china clay deposits of which are found in Cornwall, and of course, China.
Tell us about your making process?
I throw my items on a wheel. I love the proximity you have to the work as the clay glides through your fingers, with each piece having character and the marks of being hand thrown.
Have you ever had any interesting commissions?
I have made lots of items for people, but this has usually been items that have sold out in my range rather than something completely unique.
Do you have a favourite of the Birmingham museums? If so, why?
I love Sarehole Mill as it is quite local to my home and we have lots of memories of when the kids visited with their primary school and baked bread. I haven’t had the chance to go because of lockdown but I also love the idea of the pods for eating pizza in!
And finally, a tourist arrives in Birmingham for the first time ever, where do you take them?
Well I would need to take them to do the tour of the Bournville Chocolate Factory, and we would also visit the city centre to take in the landmark buildings of the Birmingham library, walk through the square taking in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and then make our way to the see the Selfridges building and I would end with a photo opportunity with Birmingham’s iconic bull.