Q+A with Finders keepers

The lovely ladies at Finders Keepers recently got in touch for a quick q+a about me and my work and posted it to their blog. You can follow this link to find it https://www.thefinderskeepers.com/blog/2020/08/five-questions-with-lousiemstudio/, or read below.

WHO IS BEHIND LOUISEMSTUDIO AND HOW DID IT BEGIN?

I’m Louise and I’m the owner/designer/maker/everything at LouiseM studio. I started making ceramics professionally about 8 years ago and the business began as a place for me to go on my ceramic journey and make the sort of pieces that I wanted in my own home. 

After high school, I decided to go to uni and do a design degree. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to get out of it, but I thought the course looked interesting. I’d never done ceramics in a serious way before and took the elective on a whim, then I totally and unexpectedly fell in love. I think I was really fortunate to be going through that course, in the right place and the right time, I had some really wonderful tutors who introduced me to ceramics in ways I’d never considered before, and it opened the way for me to practice as I do today.

WHAT IMPACT HAS 2020 HAD ON YOUR BUSINESS AND HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED DIRECTION? 

The way that I earn a living has always been quite up and down, with unexpected things coming along and changing the flow all the time, but even so this is shaping up to be a very different year for me professionally. 

Previously I’d say most of my cashflow came from hauling myself and my ceramic wares out to markets, alongside teaching ceramics classes through a local community college, so when the pandemic hit us here in Australia I was at first distraught. Then I pulled myself together and was totally ready for this to be an opportunity for me to reset and make more time for new designs. What actually happened was that online sales picked up from all those wonderful people that had seen me at the markets over the years, and a small ongoing commission that I’d been producing for quite a few years took off, leaving me spending more time in the studio, making more than ever before and feeling exceptionally grateful.

WHAT INFLUENCES YOUR WORK AND SPARKS YOUR CREATIVITY?

I’ve never had a problem with my creativity, it’s always flown freely. Inspiration and what drives my work and my process usually comes from experimentation with technique. I’ve developed so many works that started from just playing around in the studio and there are so many more things I’d love to have more time to explore. What’s been really important to me has been having the space to test things out and to make mistakes and follow my interest.

My work has certainly developed over the years, but a big driver behind most pieces that do go through the design and development phase and then on to manufacturing is that I want it to be something so lovely that it’s beyond style. Something that gets loved, appreciated and used, and not put aside in a year because the trend has moved on. As a maker of pieces that have the potential to last thousands of years I’m acutely aware of my responsibility to not just add to the world’s collection of ‘stuff’. Even though I make things according to my own whims and interests, I do have to temper that with what is useful and fit for purpose, and I would say that’s where my design training shines through.

WHAT ARE YOU LOVING AT THE MOMENT AND WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?

So many things. This has certainly been a good period to practice gratitude for all the good things in life; partner, friends, family, gardening, music, books, tea, eating well. On a personal level I’ve enjoyed making more effort to keep in contact with loved ones, and seeing everyone have a little more time for each other. I have always been an avid reader, I even worked in a bookshop for a number of years. My top picks from the last 6 months would have to be Dark Emu, Sapiens and A Dream About Lightning Bugs.

I have been kept quite busy lately making butter keepers for Pepe Saya Cultured Butter, on top of custom orders for people and replenishing stock levels. When I have the chance to do anything else I have been slowly developing a new range of tablewares, on top of tweaks to existing products.

CAN YOU SHARE YOUR WORK FROM HOME TIPS?

The bulk of my work is not done from home. I am fortunate enough to have my own little studio space not too far from where I live, and going in to get some work done has always been easy. What I do have at home is a little office/photography set-up, and this is probably the aspect of my business that I have the most trouble getting on top of. 

My number one top tip for getting work done at home is to treat it like a job that you go to. You go in, you set yourself up, you get the work done, you don’t get distracted by non-work things, and then when it’s all done or you reach a certain time, you get to stop. It doesn’t always work for me, but it’s been my most effective self-management strategy by far.

COVID-19 and my small business

The world is gripped in the panic of COVID-19 and it affects us all in some way, large or small. I am lucky enough to be young, healthy and living in a country that decided to take action relatively early, meaning that I don’t know anyone who has caught the disease, nor am I likely to sicken significantly if I did happen to catch it. How it affects me is how it affects my business.

Being the owner of a creatively-based small business means that my income is never steady, but after 8 years of trading I am starting to get a feel for the pattern of things. And what is happening now is not normal. A tentative assessment of my loss of income (required for government assistance) has put that number a reduction of 80%. It is huge. And although I acknowledge the privileged position I find myself in, compared some of my colleagues in other, less-easily-quantifiable creative roles, I know the next few months will be a struggle. I am fortunate that I am eligible for government assistance, but what happens next is murky and uncertain. I will be attempting to use my extra spare time to prepare for a brighter future that I’m not completely certain of the timing of. I plan to still be around, making ceramics after this is all over, but really who can predict the future?

So I’ll be hunkering down in my studio, elated at the extra time available to spend devoted to pursuing new projects and freedom from the usual grind, but also bereft without my usual jammed schedule of making, markets and classes. Being human often involves a complex tangle of contradictory emotion, so I’ll know it’s pretty normal to feel these two things simultaneously and that I’m not alone in these thoughts. Knowing that we’re all in it together has become rather comforting. If you still have a job: please support struggling local business wherever you can. The appreciation isn’t endless, but it is immense.

Lastly, stay safe out there. Much love, Louise

New Products for Finders Keepers

And here they are! Two new takes on my product lines just in time for Finders Keepers.

I made the vases just for the market; they are short and wide and come in a variety of sizes, and hand-carved with my signature patterns. There are only limited numbers, so get in quick if you want one. Please let me know if you’re a fan, and if you think these shapes have a future in my range of works.

Secondly I am really proud to release the new range of blend cup colours. I still love the old colours, but I am in the process of giving the whole range a bit of a facelift (which will include new sizes in the coming months) and have started with these new colours. I have been working on developing these shades for a while now and am really pleased with how they have come out and how they all sit together. There will also only be small quantities of these at the market, but I’d love your feedback, so please let me know what you think about the new colours.

Finders Keepers will be held at The Cutaway in Barangaroo from Friday the 3rd May – Sunday the 5th of May. Opening hours are 12-9 on Friday and 10-5 on Saturday and Sunday. There is a $5 entry fee, but there is so much to see inside. Hope to see you there!

 

Getting ready (and excited) for Finders Keepers in Sydney!

I am so excited to announce that I will be attending the Finders Keepers Markets in Sydney from the 3rd-5th of May!! I am very much looking forward to being a part of the stall-holder line-up and bringing all my beautiful ceramics to all the lovely market-goers! I was a pretty late addition to the market from their waitlist so I haven’t had as much time to prepare as I would have liked, HOWEVER, I do have just enough time to put together some special pieces that will be available at the market only! That’s right, exclusive pieces that I am making just for the market and have not done before! I’ll be releasing a few more details a little closer to the date (and when they’ve come out of the kiln, ha!) so keep your eyes glued to my social media if you want to see what I’ll be bringing along to the event. See you there in May!

Seconds, Samples and Discontinued Pieces Sale

I’ll be holding a seconds, samples and discontinued pieces sale at the Olive Tree Market this Saturday the 6th of April at Civic Park, Newcastle. My shelves at the studio have been heaving for some time now, and I’m looking to make some more space for all the new works I’ve been getting started on in the background, that I’m bringing older stock up with me to my (semi-)regular stall at the Newcastle market. Regular visitors to my stall there will be glad to hear that my Mum will be there too to help out. 

These are sale pieces that are always available to anyone visiting me in the studio, but this will be the first time that I take them off their dusty shelves, pack them into boxes and bring them out into the outside world. I’ve cut a lot of the prices down because I’m really keen to see them go out to new happy homes. So, if you’re a handmade ceramics fan, or just a bargain lover, come visit me at all my stall. Get down early if you want to have first pick, because it’s first in, best dressed. See you there!