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The Sarah Cannings Interview: Being a Professional ceramics artist

We asked Sarah Cannings,  a professional ceramicist based at the Red House Glass Cone, some questions about her experience of working in the ceramics industry. Here’s what she said –

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How long have you been a ceramics artist and what made you decide to use the medium you work with?

I’ve been running Saz’s Ceramics since 2007, but I didn’t really class myself as an artist at first. Only when I started picking up commissions to paint pieces did I started to consider myself a practising artist. I’d always loved working with clay, ever since I was little, but the decision to start using clay in my work began when I was given a potter’s wheel, and I realised that people wanted to learn how to make things with clay.

How did you learn to be a ceramicist? Did you take classes? Do an apprenticeship?

I attend seminars occasionally to continue my professional development and further my skills, but apart from Art ‘A’ level, I haven’t been formally trained. Luckily, though, I’ve picked up a lot of top tips since I’ve been working at the Cone; and have worked collaboratively with some of the other artists on site, so I don’t feel the need to get any more qualifications, as I’m doing the job already!

Mini Saz painting an owl statue
Mini Saz painting an owl statue

What is your favourite part of the process?

It’s difficult to say really; I enjoy the process of making a piece, and if it has to be fired, the moment I remove it from the kiln and it’s come out okay. Also, hearing other people’s (favourable) opinions is a bit of an ego boost.

Have you always aspired to be a ceramicist? or did you ever dream of following a different path?

When I was about eight I remember writing down a list of things I’d like to be when I grew up. Amongst them was ‘Artist’. For a number of years I was an English teacher before I decided to set up my own business, so for me, I am realising my aspiration.

What advice could you offer people looking to get to where you are today?

Determination really helps, as does self belief! It’s important to network with people in the same industry, and never be afraid to ask for help. It can be quite a daunting thing to do, but be flexible and don’t take yourself too seriously. I think it’s important to have fun in what you’re doing, because then it comes across in your work.

From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging?

It’s difficult to manage the many threads of the job; there aren’t enough hours in the day! Being an effective time manager is something I’m always trying to improve, and I also get a bit frustrated with technology, as my IT skills are sadly lacking, but, I’m getting there slowly!

porcelain chandelier
porcelain chandelier

Do you have a favourite piece and can we see a picture?

I must admit that I loved the porcelain chandelier I made. Over 600 buttons were made for it. It took a while, but it looked great when it was lit up.

Is there anything you are currently working on that you would like to tell us about?

I’m currently prepping for my next twilight session for adults. We’re going to be making clay wind chimes, so I’m trying to do a ‘Blue Peter’; i.e., ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’. If I can make it, it gives me confidence that my customers will be able to. Also, I’m a bit obsessed by a set of cookie cutters I was given at Christmas, so I’m using them to create a woodland themed wreath for my front door. Watch this space! 

Mr bloom
Mr Bloom

Share with us the proudest moment in your career so far?…

I had my 15 minutes of fame on the CBeebies programme ‘Mr Bloom Here & There’, when I helped to create a mural with a group of children and a colleague of mine, Charlotte Hughes-Martin. I’ve not seen the episode, but I’ve been told it was very good. Getting paid by the BBC was a highlight for me!

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