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An interview with ceramicist Heidi Harrington

Design-Nation recently returned to The National Centre for Craft & Design with our new autumn selling showcase of beautiful work called “Pattern & Sequence”. This exhibition will be at NCCD until 5th of January next year and makes an ideal destination for admiring beautiful craft and festive gift buying.

All work is drawn from our portfolio of UK designer-makers, including ceramicist Heidi Harrington. While setting up for the show we managed to catch up with Heidi and asked her a few questions about her practice, inspiration and how she works with us.

Design-Nation asked: Please tell us about your practise and how your business began.

Heidi Harrington answered: I studied Ceramics firstly at Bath Spa University College and then at the RCA, graduating in 2007. I started working with clay and print at the RCA and have continued developing this area since then, now making a range of screen-printed porcelain vases, moon jars, plates and wall pieces. I also teach workshops as part of my practise.

D-N: Who has been your most influential teacher or mentor?

H.H: Felicity Aylieff has been a great positive influence in my ceramics education – she was my tutor on my degree at Bath and then by the time I got to the RCA she was a tutor in the Ceramics department there. I have always very much respected her skill, empathy and honesty as a tutor. I also worked alongside Annie Turner earlier in my career at Wimbledon School of Art and I learnt so much during that time. Annie was so generous with sharing her knowledge and seeing her teach was a fantastic foundation for the approach I like to take to teaching ceramics myself. Both women also produce fantastic, innovative work.

D-N: What inspires you?

H.H: Observing both the structure and wildness in nature is what I always come back to – the movement and the stillness, the vastness and the tiny details. Overall it’s the clay material itself which offers endless opportunities and inspiration.

D-N: Please tell us a bit about your design process

H.H: I begin with photography, taking detailed shots of textures and shape I find in nature whilst walking. I then develop these images using photoshop: often the images will be greatly enlarged to enable me to expose them onto large silkscreens. I then take the screen-printing frames back to the clay studio and print the images with underglazes directly onto wet slabs, or around bisque fired pieces I have made. Some images that work well in 2D won’t translate as well around a three-dimensional object so image selection is important and there is always an element of experimentation which I enjoy. I use a lot of ceramic making processes in the studio, from hand building and slip casting to throwing, with the common thread being the clay image.

D-N: What is the best thing to have happened in your business to date?

H.H: A highlight for me was when I was selected for the Project Space at Collect in the Saatchi Gallery in 2014. I presented an installation called Ornamental Walk for which I also received Arts Council funding to produce. I would actually love to do it again with a more ambitious project… maybe one day!

D-N: What is your workspace like?

H.H: I have a home studio in the garden now. I am about to expand to almost double its space which is really exciting, as I will be able to teach from it next year. It’s great working from home as I can keep a really good rhythm to the making processes and it fits well around my family life.

D-N: Do you work hard on your PR or do others help you to market your business?

H.H: This is an area I will be focusing more on in the coming year, to implement a more structured approach. At the moment I do it myself and I like to use Instagram to share updates from my studio and what’s coming up. I enjoy the community there as often I will be working on my own between events and shows, so it’s nice to interact with people around the world, and actually many opportunities have arisen from it too.

D-N: What are the main challenges in your practise?

H.H: Technical problems always occur when you push to develop new pieces –  which is something that I also see as essential, so although it’s a challenge it’s a useful one. The other challenge is to keep focused on where I want my business to go and not turn off into too many side roads even if they are appealing!

D-N: Where would you like your practise to be in 10 years?

H.H: I would like to have an established practised with core signature pieces and seasonal collection releases of print and colours. This is something I am planning to bring in next year on my cylindrical vases and then will develop across my ranges. I would also like to have a strong commissions and projects area running alongside this, including collaborations which is an area I am really keen to explore.

D-N: If you could collaborate with someone new who would that be?

H.H: I have a long wish-list of ideas for collaborations! To isolate a couple, I’d love to work with a jeweller on a collection that could incorporate pieces of fine printed porcelain: the change in scale intrigues me. I would love to collaborate with a floral designer to showcase both of our work and display at events, and lastly interior designers to create larger installations of vases that are bespoke to their projects, both image and colour wise.

D-N: If you weren’t a designer what would you like to do?

H.H: I would do something that involves working with my hands, people, and nature as this is the kind of work I find most rewarding, so maybe garden design could be an option?

D-N: Why did you join Design-Nation? What is helpful about being a member?

H.H: I joined Design-Nation to be part of a group of fellow designers and makers, and to be able to show and network in the group. It’s a great organisation and really supportive. The group shows are always really well thought out and curated, and you can have a chance to try out a show as part of the DN group before making a larger commitment yourself. I find as an umbrella organisation the brand is very well respected in the sector which has obvious benefits and opportunities.

D-N: Do you have any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up that we should know about?

H.H: My next show is Beautiful & Useful at the Garden Museum on Sunday 17th Nov. It’s curated by Natasha Goodfellow and has a great mix of makers in a fantastic venue so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Beautiful & Useful

Garden Museum

Lambeth Palace Road, London

17 November 2019


Pattern & Sequence

National Centre for Craft & Design, Sleaford

Until 5 January 2020


Ceramic Art London 2020

Central Saint Martins, Kings Cross

20-22 March

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Laura Jacometti


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