Continuing with our maker interviews ahead of the 2016 British Craft Trade Fair, we're delighted to chat to Rebecca Killen, one of the eight NI makers attending with Craft NI, about her process, her work and her plans for the future.
Hi, Rebecca. Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get into making?
I am ceramic designer/maker living and working in County Down creating blue and white bone china products for the interiors and gift ware market. I was first introduced to clay by a very passionate teacher and potter at school and have been using the material ever since. Whilst studying Fine and Applied Art at the University of Ulster I specialised in ceramics and also took a year out to study business at a college in America. After graduating I was keen to combine my making and business skills to create a business in which I could produce and sell a contemporary range of ceramics, so I applied for Craft NI’s making it 2013-2015 programme to help me achieve this goal. Having recently completed the programme I am now selling bottles, vessels and dishes in craft galleries and design boutiques across the U.K.
Could you tell us a bit about your making process?
I am currently working with bone china, a beautiful material to use. Its smooth and high quality fine finish provides the elegance and delicacy which I use as a foundation for the hand painted decoration. I use the industrial technique of slip casting which involves casting liquid bone china in plaster moulds that I make from turned models or found objects. The surface pattern is then applied, whether it be a hand painted pattern, ceramic decal or dipped cobalt glaze. Each piece is then finished with hints of gold lustre.
Every day in the studio is different (one of the reasons why I love what I do) but depending on what deadlines are looming, I could be doing anything from making moulds, hand painting the cobalt designs, glazing to packing and shipping the work. I usually cast first thing every morning to build up stock and the rest of the day is consumed by all the other elements involved in making my work. I allow time during the week to work on the business side of Rebecca Killen Ceramics where I am making calls, answering emails and marketing my products – time-consuming activities but a surprisingly enjoyable part of my business. I am also a part time lecturer at the Southern Regional College and help take a variety of workshops at Mount Ida Pottery, so the weeks tend to be very busy. The process of making is the most enjoyable part of what I do. I wouldn’t exactly say it is relaxing, however when you get into a rhythm there is something strangely satisfying about working with such an unpredictable material.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to maintain a healthy lifestyle so I try and get to the gym as often as I can, but after being inside the studio most of the week I love to get outdoors at the weekend. I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the country beside the sea and at the foot of the Mourne Mountains so there is plenty to explore. I am also getting married this year so does planning a wedding count as a hobby?
Where can people currently see or buy your work?
Locally you can find my work in Kiln and Loom and Coppermoon in Belfast, The Kingfisher Craft Gallery, Killyleagh, F.E. McWilliams Gallery, Banbridge and Synergy Studios in Newcastle. My work is also stocked in a range of galleries and design boutiques across the U.K and I have recently sent an order of work to an Irish design shop in Tokyo called Stor. I am excited to be exhibiting some new pieces at the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate this April along with 7 other talented maker/designers from Northern Ireland. You can find us at stand 400.
Where would you like to see your business in a year's time? Do you have any big plans for 2016?
I hope for continued growth of my business, to be fulfilling orders for existing customers but also reaching new markets with my products. I would love to have my work in some larger retailers in the U.K and Ireland this year and also expand on my product list. I am hoping to take part in a couple of major selling events in the U.K and also intend to exhibit at another trade fair (early 2017) to introduce my brand to new audiences.
Find out more about Rebecca Killen, as well as her work and details on where to buy it, on the Craft NI Directory.