In the world of ceramics, there are a few key styles we’re loving of late and almost all of these are blue and white homeware pieces. No surprise then that Nicola Suckling is making an appearance on YGT. Having just stocked the National Gallery’s gift shop with her wares, Nicola shared a few stories of her success with us, and allowed us a little peek at her processes and highly original fine bone china and blue ink creations.
Tell us a little about your creative background…
My Grannie was the first person to get me really excited about art when I was little – she painted watercolours and I thought she was the most talented artist in the world. I then studied illustration at university and have been peddling my image-making skills since then.
What drew you to ceramics and illustration?
I think there’s something elegant and comforting about bone china tea sets, and blue and white is so clean and calming and fits in with any decor. I love the way my designs and illustrations look in this medium.
How would you describe your work?
Intriguing and quirky – people often do a double-take when walking past my stall and then come back for a closer look. My pieces use the traditional language of blue and white china, but I add contemporary imagery, which customers find exciting and amusing.
What inspires you?
Cityscapes and suburbanscapes both interest and inspire me. I love the contrast between hard architectural lines and organic shapes like discarded rubble, rust and plants.
What are your greatest influences?
I’ve always been interested in artists and designers who use mundane urban or suburban imagery and elevate it so that it becomes art. London Transport posters, for example, show escalators, commuters, rain and trains and make all these images strikingly beautiful. Printmakers Sybil Andrews and Edward Bawden do this to incredible effect and are two of my favourites.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
I’ve always got several designs on the go in my sketchbooks, but I have to be selective and choose one that will work well with the range. Once I’ve decided on a new design I work loosely with acrylic paints and india ink to build up the image, hairdrying the paint when I get impatient because it won’t dry quickly!
I sometimes cut pieces out and move them about the page and erase the cut marks in photoshop later. I often go back to the designs several times over several days, re-painting and adjusting. When I’m happy, I scan the finished design into photoshop – all my china is clean blue and white so I need to erase any smudges or finger marks before the images can be processed for screen printing. When I’m painting I always have something playing in the background. It’s usually a podcast, or a random find on Spotify.
How did you launch the shop and how has it been turning your passion into a business?
I went on The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme which I’d recommend to anyone who wants to start their own business. Through the programme I’ve been to lots of workshops on everything from website design to accounting. I love the creative part of running my own business, not just painting the designs, but photographing my china and creating marketing materials. I’m definitely more grumpy on spreadsheet days, but you can’t have one without the other.
Can you talk a little about your new ranges?
I’m so excited about my new designs! I’ve extended two of the ranges so that they’re a full dinner set, and I’ve released two new jug and mug designs. One features an underground station, and the other is a London street scene. They’re in a new royal blue which looks stunning, I couldn’t be more pleased with them!
Where are your pieces available to purchase?
You can buy all my pieces online. They’re also available at Covent Garden Market, as well as other stockists such as the Prince’s Trust Tomorrow Store located on Eldon Street and the No. 89′ pop-up shop in Barnet High Street.
What one piece of advice would you give to young people trying to make it in the creative industries?
I’ve still got so much to learn myself, but I suppose I’d say that as a creative it’s easy to give yourself a hard time and dismiss your skill. It’s not easy pursuing a creative career, so give yourself a pat on the back – not everyone can do what you do.
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Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth