Meet the Maker: Potter Sarah Bagouin Harris
With the return of the Great Pottery Throwdown back on BBC2, we couldn’t resist getting to know a bit more about what makes a potter tick! We sat down with professional potter Sarah Bagouin Harris, to chat about all things clay and how she got started…
Visit her Etsy shop: etsy.com/uk/shop/sarahbagouinharris
Tell us about your pottery work. How did it start?
I booked myself a taster session at a local pottery studio. I was shown how to use the wheel and that was it, I was hooked! Prior to this I had been drawing designs with ceramic pens on plain plates, which were then then bake in my home oven to fix. When I first contacted the studio my idea initially was to buy in bisque wear, which I could then decorate and fire. I was persuaded to have a go on the wheel in the taster, and I’m so glad I did! From there I have been going every week, and I still love it.
What do you love about working with clay?
I love the range of possibilities. You start with a ball of clay, and depending on whether you are wheel throwing or hand building, there are limitless shapes and forms you can create…you can never get bored.
How do you come up with a new design for something?
I’m constantly looking at Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. I will quite often draw some designs before I start throwing, but quite often I don’t know what I am going to make until I’m actually throwing. With everything I make I try to ensure it is functional, easy to use and beautiful to look at. I like clean lines, and simple shapes, paired with splashy runny glazes, for a nice contrast! I try to follow that ascetic when designing a new pot.
What’s your biggest craft disaster?
I tried to make my own baby leggings pattern, from something I had read on Pinterest. I’m always looking for colourful and unique things to dress my little boy in, so I decided to have a go at designing my own. I had hand printed the jersey fabric with a simple teardrop shape, which I then sewn to make a pair of leggings. I couldn’t even get his foot through the legging to fit them!
Tell us a bit about your other crafting passions
I enjoy painting, macramé, drawing and screen-printing. I’ve made a couple of plant hangers using macramé, and I find it very relaxing and satisfying. I’ve also always loved textile design, and so this naturally led on to screen-printing my designs onto fabric. I also enjoy knitting, although I’ve never made anything other than scarves! I would also like to learn how to make quilts, I think filling you home with handmade objects make it more beautiful and personal.
How do you decide what to work on next?
Sometimes I try to work on a more challenging object to throw, like a teapot. I think its good to push yourself in order to get better. I also usually look at what has sold on my Etsy shop and I try to fill it up with a diverse range of pots.
What’s your favourite thing to make and why?
I honestly love making everything! Its hard to choose because part of my love of pottery is that I can make a diverse range of objects…if I had to choose it would be planters, as they can come in a range of shapes and sizes, and I love indoor plants.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To go for it! I wouldn’t be where I am now if I had listened to my own doubts, and not to my family and friends who have always encouraged me!
Give us a tour of your studio…
I split my time between two studios…I don’t currently own a wheel or kiln, so any pottery I create is done at Unearth pottery in Exeter. I do everything else at my desk in my spare room. It’s never usually this tidy!! As you can see I like colourful prints and patterns. One day I would like to buy my own wheel and kiln. I’ll move the wheel into my spare room and the kiln will be in one of our small coal sheds in the garden…I have big plans!
Who inspires you?
Creatively, too many potters and artists to mention!! My husband and family inspire me to pursue my creative career, they have always encouraged and supported me. My little boy also inspires me to strive for more; I want him to be proud of me one day.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to start with clay?
Go for it! I never would of known I would love pottery as much as I do, if I hadn’t of tried it! Try to find a local pottery studio and see if they run taster sessions. There is a range of different processes you can try, like using a pottery wheel or hand building. Its good to learn from more experienced potters, as its easy to feel daunted when starting something new, and I’m so grateful to have the expertise if I’m struggling.