Case study

Ceramicist and teacher — Jo Taylor

Jo left her career as a police officer to take her ceramics hobby to the next level. After completing undergraduate and postgraduate study she now runs her own business and works as a teacher

How did you become a ceramicist?

I had a career in the police force but wanted to attended university as a mature student in order to learn more about a hobby. I studied for a BA in Ceramics, followed by a Cert Ed, and then an MA in Ceramics, from Bath Spa University.

After graduating with my BA, I was offered teaching work, which I pursued alongside making and selling my work.

After the MA my work went from functional to sculptural and I continue to teach and make/sell in tandem. You can see my portfolio on my website - Jo Taylor Ceramics.

What's a typical working day like?

If I am teaching it is straightforward what has to be done.

As a maker I normally create peices with a show in mind - my studio is based at home, and although small, it is convenient and well equipped. During the week I also incorporate all of the associated admin such as planning, accounts, social media and responding to emails, that running your own business entails - if work is being fired I can't use the studio so I use those days for admin.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I like every day to be different and the challenges are all problems to be solved, technically or logistically, which I can deal with.

It's a high when you take a risk in your work and make good progress - that's why we do it, the making is truly exciting.

Other ceramicists are very supportive, it is a great community. It's wonderful to have a good show and get a good response and sell work, and to be asked to show, teach and participate in events.

What are the challenges?

Ceramics is a technical subject and you can have disasters, so it's character building.

Earnings can be really sporadic, so for reliable income, I teach. Often opportunities come all at once. At times you can be very busy, which can be tiring and stressful.

At other times it can feel like nothing is happening.

In what way is your degree relevant?

I needed the technical knowledge and qualification to get teaching work and for applications to exhibit. Galleries, shops etc. always want to know where you trained.

For my work it allowed development, alongside serious learning, which is the most important factor.

How has your role developed?

My role has developed organically - it can be hard to plan, as it is dependent on many factors such as successful applications, networking, and suitability of work. You can aim for certain directions in your applications, but can't often control the outcome.

I have experienced many rejections, which is normal, and am grateful for the opportunities that I have been given. There can be a lot of trial and error in terms of showing and selling; it's not easy to predict.

I am ambitious and aim high, you have to keep trying - I have seen that being tenacious has worked well for other makers in my field and being positive about your work and ideas is crucial.

What advice can you give to others aspiring ceramic artists?

Make sure you have a reliable source of income, especially in the early stages. Stay positive as it can be tough at times. Embrace social media to keep informed of opportunities, enjoy the support of other makers and keep up to date with what's happening in your field. You should always be professional and reliable: create a good impression and reputation.

This job works differently for everyone, it depends what you make, where you want to show and sell it, what other income source you have, the way in which you work, your location, and your family circumstances. This can be a challenging career choice but most makers I know would not change it; the most successful makers I know work really hard and have a professional approach.

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