Thinking about taking up an evening class after the summer holidays? In Autumn 2009 Jan Lord embarked on an evening class in pottery and became hooked. Fast forward three and a half years and she scooped first prize in the Ribble Valley Open Exhibition. Working from home in the picturesque Ribble Valley she takes inspiration from nature and the wildlife that surrounds her. I love her sculptures of leaping hares, foxes and hungry seagulls. As well as producing decorative ceramics for the home and garden Jan also works on commissions, people’s pets and other personalised gifts for loved ones. Here is a day in the life of potter, Jan Lord.
What time do you get up?
I have an early start to the day, usually around 6.30am, sometimes a lie in until 7.00a.m. if I’m lucky!
Do you begin working straight away?
Getting the kids off to school and walking the dogs generally comes first. When the kiln is on I often pop out to check things are okay or open it up for cooling prior to my return.
Do you have your own studio at home?
I am lucky enough to have an old outbuilding in the back yard which I use for making and firing. It is freezing in winter (except when the kiln is on full blast!) but gives me the room to leave work in progress out and store clay, tools etc. Prior to that I was working on the kitchen table which caused a few problems and a lot of mess. I would like, and could use, double the amount of space if I could get it!
What drew you to ceramics?
I used to run a family construction business with my brother, on leaving this I wanted a total change of direction, less stress and more creativity. I had always enjoyed “making things” but work and family left me with no time. I spotted an evening class in Whalley and once I started playing with clay there was no stopping me. It is addictive, the range of possibilities for making and finishing ceramics are endless.
How long have you been involved in ceramics and pottery?
I attended the evening class in Autumn 2009, so three and a half years so far. I’m still learning and developing. I try to attend other makers’ courses when I can, to improve my skills and techniques.
What drew you in?
Potters are so friendly and usually willing to share ideas and explain their work to newcomers. I found that I progressed slowly at first. However, once I purchased my own kiln, and dedicated more time to ceramics, I could see my work developing beyond my very basic early creations into something I was willing to show others, not just family (who still laugh at my early stuff!).
Were you involved in anything artistic prior to that?
As a teenager I used to pencil sketch birds and sometimes play around with water colours. I had a copy of Charles Tunnicliffe’s ‘A Sketchbook of Birds’ and spent ages trying to create something as good as his heron paintings.
What time do you stop for lunch?
When I get hungry!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
The wildlife around us in the Ribble Valley; hares, deer and a large variety of birds all frequent our garden. I also love large scale bronze sculptures, such as those of the enormous hares at Chatsworth House. If I had a huge kiln I would love to make life size animals. There are particular ceramic artists whose work I love, such as Brendon Hesmondalgh and David Cooke.
I love animals in general so any books or photos I can find which appeal to me I collect for future inspiration.
Do you continue to work in the afternoon? If so what do you do?
I work any hours I can manage to squeeze in, it’s not a 9-5 job. I work around the need to create stock, deadlines for a show application or an event I am attending. I had a very busy run up to Christmas last year making commissions of people’s dogs. I can be found in the pottery studio between 6.30am and 11.00pm depending on what needs doing and where the kids are!
If you weren’t creating pottery what do you think you would be doing?
Gardening is my other passion and I really need to spend more time out there. We plan to open the garden to the public next year, as my Mum and Dad used to do years ago. There is so much work to be done before we achieve that goal! I think my alternative to ceramics would be painting but I am so busy I haven’t ventured down that route yet.
Where do you sell your work?
I am usually at Browsholme Artisan and Farmers Market on the first Sunday of the month. I have attended country fairs and other local events. I have also more recently had work in the Platform Gallery, Clitheroe. I am currently seeking out other suitable outlets and galleries, including a hotel in Cumbria which now has a few pieces of my work on show. People can see a large range of my work online at www.cowarkpottery.co.uk Locals have visited me at home to buy an item they have spotted on my website.
How did it feel to win the Ribble Valley Open Exhibition at the Platform Gallery, Clitheroe?
Amazing! I was very surprised and absolutely delighted. It gave me a confidence boost, which I needed, and hopefully will give me some credence with other galleries and artists who are more ‘professionally’ trained than I am.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have been trying to get one or two really interesting good quality pieces ready for the Northern Potters New Exhibitors stand at Potfest in August and for other selling exhibitions coming up in the autumn. I have been doing more raku work, giving the animals and birds a totally different look. I am waiting for a new kiln to arrive allowing me to fire larger raku pieces. I am still obsessed with hares, but I have also been experimenting with birds (lapwings, gannets, seagulls, pheasants and grouse) and deer.
To see more of Jan’s work go to www.cowarkpottery.co.uk.
All images courtesy and copyright of Jan Lord.