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Skratch Ceramics Full of Character and Individuality

Kate Russell designs and create Skratch Ceramics products at her home studio in South Wales. All of her pieces are hand-built in white stoneware, which results in items full of character and individuality – lumps, bumps and wobbly edges abound.

No matter the technique she has used to make the piece – coiling, pinching, moulding or slab-building – she decorates them all with the same method. Sgraffito means ‘to scratch’ in Italian and it is the the name given to the process of scratching though a top layer of slip or underglaze to expose the clay below and create a decorative pattern.

“I simply love the feeling of carving away at the leather-hard clay and bringing a piece to life,” she said.

“Once decoration is complete my pots undergo a high temperature firing to make them durable and watertight. They’re finished with a wonderfully tactile, lead-free, food-safe, silky glaze.”

She is very lucky to have a beautiful garden right outside her studio window that provides plenty of inspiration. She’s also influenced by the Welsh culture and landscapes, folk art and Delft-ware.

“Although I make batches of work with the same pattern theme, I enjoy incorporating slight variations each time, which together with the hand-built nature of my work, means that each item is truly unique.

The journey of Kate started a few years ago, busy Mom of two signed up for a pottery course at her local college, wanting to find a creative outlet. Within twelve months, the history of art graduate began selling her beautiful British inspired wares, mixing her love of folk history and the great outdoors.

“I came to ceramics fairly late,” Kate explains. “I studied history of art at university and worked in arts-related jobs until I had my first child. I spent the next five years as a stay at home parent, but once my daughter started school and her younger brother was 2 years old, I was keen to find a new interest for myself.”

“I had in the back of my mind that I would ideally like to start a creative business down the line, but I wasn’t sure in which field or if I was capable. I signed up for classes at the local community college and pottery was the one that stuck. After a year I started posting images of some of my pots on Instagram and the interest they received gave me to confidence to start selling my ceramic work.”

Kate now creates her hand-built ceramics from her home studio in the Vale of Glamorgan in Wales. Growing up in between the picturesque peaks of the Lake District and the Pennines, and then living in cities such as London and Amsterdam, Kate’s return to her rural roots continues to inspire her work and has seen her adding welcome traditional touches.

“I love wild landscapes – mountainsides and rocky shores,” the ceramicist continues. “It seems to be something in-built, perhaps because I grew up sandwiched between the Lake District and the Pennines. I absolutely love the Highlands of Scotland and, closer to home, Snowdonia. Our location in Wales prompted me to think about including Welsh ladies in my work. It just started on a whim, when I was decorating a piece in college, but they have since become a key design motif in my work.”

This Welsh lady whim has paid off, as they’re among some of Kate’s bestsellers – each piece is currently sold on the Skratch Ceramics website,. “I like to take those long-standing trans-national folk traditions of pattern-making and colour, but give them my own contemporary twist,” she adds.

As well as Britain’s landscape and Welsh history, Kate’s pieces also feature sgraffito – decoration created by scratching away at a surface, to reveal a hidden colour – a talent she also rediscovered at one of those inspiring ceramics classes: “I made a couple of sgraffito decorated panels at secondary school, which my parents had kept all these years, and I remembered I’d really enjoyed it,” Kate smiles.

“When I went along to ceramics classes at the community college, it was top of my list of things I wanted to try again. I was also following Vicky Lindo, a fantastic sgraffito ceramicist on Facebook. I was really inspired by her modern take on traditional slipware, using bright colours. As soon as I tried it again, I was absolutely hooked. There’s something about carving through leather-hard clay, that I find both therapeutic and thoroughly addictive. I really felt like after years of searching for ‘my thing’ I’d finally found it.”

Not only did social media start Skratch Ceramics, but it continues to provide inspiration and connects Kate with other ceramicists as well as potential clients. “I have found it so inspiring on Instagram to see so many women with creative businesses, making it work on their terms,” she says to 91magazine.co.uk.

“That’s been a really positive influence on me – to just to go for it and do things my way. I follow a lot of ceramicists on Instagram, but more out of interest to see their daily working practices and relish in the sheer variety out there.” As Instagram has been such a “valuable resource” for her, Kate recommends other makers starting out to “make the most of social media as a free marketing resource. I haven’t spent any money on advertising, all my custom comes from Instagram and Facebook.”

“Share your making process and don’t be afraid to bring your own personality to your brand – it’s what sets you apart from the big guys and people really like to know where products come from,” she advises. As well as a scroll through Instagram, Kate’s also a fan of podcasts, gaining “businesses tips, reassurance and inspiration from those who’ve been there and done that,” including Hashtag Authentic, Raw Milk and Creative Biz Rebellion.

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