Welcome to the first in our new series of blogs, Meet the Maker. This new blog series will share interviews with the artists and makers behind many of the beautiful handcrafted collections we sell here at Hesta Scene. There is also a very talented team who work right here in the Hesta shop, so you might just be served by one of our talented artists too when you visit.
Today we meet Amanda from Amanda Mercer Ceramic Designs and Loveliness. Amanda is a talented Cumbrian ceramic artists featured in Vogue, Country Living and House & Garden.
Welcome Amanda, tell us a little about yourself, your work and your inspiration
I am Amanda, a ceramic designer and maker behind Amanda Mercer, ceramic design and loveliness. I live in Carlisle, Cumbria designing and creating ceramic gifts and homeware. Alongside my craft I work at Hesta Scene where I have been there since 2010. Hesta Scene was one of the first places that started to stock my work so it is lovely having a collection alongside working there. In my spare time I love to travel visiting different places, going for walks and running, especially a parkrun.
Ever since I was little I have always been creative and loved art. I was always drawing, painting and making. I can remember being asked by my teachers to make the big birthday and leaving cards and I used to design and make my friends work folders for their school work. I was called the little artist from one of my teachers. I went onto study art and textiles at GCSE and at A level which then led me to the university of Cumbria to study BA Contemporary Applied Arts, gaining a first class honours degree. I couldn’t believe I could actually study something I loved doing. It was a great diverse course where I studied, embroidery, printed textiles, constructed textiles and ceramics. I actually specialised in embroidery and printed textiles in year two and year three and it wasn’t until my final project that I went back into ceramics. I wanted to make buttons to use within my textile pieces and then that was it, I was hooked! I ended up being really inspired creating more and more pieces from porcelain working towards my final degree show, ‘Home birds.’
I create a range of ceramic homeware and gifts, from porcelain buttons, jewellery, decorations and framed pieces. As everything is handmade I can also personalise pieces with names or special dates, ideal for a birthday, wedding, anniversary or any other special day.
In lockdown I started to create letter box gifts such as pocket hugs and tokens which come accompanied on a personalised card which are a popular choice to be sent direct to brighten a loved ones day.
I work from my home studio in the heart of the city centre in Carlisle. Each piece is handmade from fine white porcelain. I use a few different techniques to create my work but mainly I imprint textiles into the clay which is then hand built into different forms. A lot of the time I leave the pieces completely raw as I love the whiteness of the porcelain but sometimes I will use different colours of oxides or underglaze as an inlay to bring out the surface pattern.
I also like slip casting which is where liquid porcelain is poured into different moulds - this is how I create my little dishes. Lustre and decal transfers are also featured in my work to give colour and surface pattern or text decoration. My pieces are then fired up to three times in a kiln. The first firing is a bisc with allows me to decorate and glaze. These then go back in for their second firing- a high firing at 1250 degrees. Then if I am adding decals or lustre to the pieces these will then go in for a third fix firing.
I have a mix of inspiration from vintage textiles, lace, buttons, nostalgia as well as nature and my surroundings. I also find my inspiration comes from the different pieces I create and one piece will give me an idea for something else which has developed my collection over the years. I love shopping in independent shops and visiting galleries. Flicking through home styling magazines, Instagram and watching home interior design shows. Escape to the Chateau is one of my favourites! I find working at the shop is so inspiring too, being surrounded by beautiful textiles, shapes, patterns and with many items created by artists and designers.
Tell us more about your favourite work and any highlights in your creative journey and what's next for you
At the moment my favourite pieces are my little houses (I have a thing for house shapes.. and bees!) and I also love making my letter frames, especially when they are personalised as they are so special to the customer.
My degree show was quite pivotal to me. I had lovely feedback and with lots of support and encouragement it gave me the confidence to set up my business. I then started to supply galleries and gift shops and take part in exhibitions. I regularly attend retail events such as Potfest and the Country Living events selling my works. It is still the best feeling when a customer purchases something you have made, its the biggest compliment.
Back in 2011 I was delighted to be awarded the editors choice award at the Country Living Christmas Fair in London. I have also been proudly featured in magazines such as Country Living, House and Garden and Vogue.
I have some ideas for future pieces (which I keep adding to my on going list!) to sample. Topping up my website with some new loveliness and I am making stock at the moment for my future shows and I also have a couple of exciting projects coming up working with a photographer creating keepsakes for her to give her customers. I love how each day can be different and the different directions my work takes me!
Thank you Amanda for sharing your story with us. You will find a selection of Amanda's work available in store at Hesta. Amanda works in our Caldbeck shop on Fridays so if you happen to be visiting on that day you can say hello in person and chat directly to the artist.