Farnham-based The Great Pottery Throw Down finalist Sally-Jo Bond
PUBLISHED: 15:34 17 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:03 17 August 2016
From evening classes in Farnham to a finalist in BBC’s The Great Pottery Throw Down, Sally-Jo Bond has come a long way. Janet Donin finds out more
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2016
How did you get into throwing pots initially?
I loved pottery at school. I was always covered in clay and late for any subject other than art. So five years ago, when I wanted to make a wedding present for my best friend, I joined an evening class at Farnham Pottery, so I could make something unique, and was hooked.
Your background is interior design, so why the switch?
My background is actually in textiles originally, but I retrained as an interior designer to bring more creativity into my work. I love colour, pattern and texture, so the interiors and ceramics complement each other really well. Pottery started as a hobby but I absolutely love it and, although I still work as an interior designer, it’s taken over all my spare time.
What is it you enjoy so much about making pots?
I just love getting my hands dirty and exploring all the possibilities of clay. Some days, I love the quietness, usually when I’m hand-building something, and watching it grow gradually, and then other days I love switching the tunes on and getting into the fast-paced throwing groove.
Describe your style to us…
I love the avant-garde style of ceramicist Kate Malone, but I’m still working out my own style. I want my pieces to feel fresh and free, with clean outlines. Recently, I’ve been working on vessels inspired by seed pods and unfurling ferns and I can always get excited about pomegranates and pumpkins. I love working with colour as well but, as I say, I’m still enjoying experimenting.
So talk us through the creative process for a piece…
I always start with my sketchbook. I take it everywhere; it’s a fantastic reference. Depending on how ambitious the idea, I might make a miniature version in clay, to iron out a few issues. For large pieces, it’s important to keep the clay in the right state. Too wet and it will collapse, too dry and it will crack. Once finished, the piece is allowed to dry completely, then I bisque-fire it in my electric kiln, before glazing and firing again.
What is your workplace like?
I’ve set up my own small pottery in a brick shed in the garden, which is freezing in winter and not much warmer in the summer. Aside from the constant need for thermals, it’s my favourite place in the world. When I cleared it out, I found my grandfather’s old tools, and stuffed behind some air bricks were sheets of The Times from 1933. I hope he approves of his organised workshop becoming a very messy pottery.
Tell us about The Great Pottery Throw Down…
It was fantastic, and Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent was the perfect venue. I just applied with a ‘why not?’ attitude but once I got through all the auditions, there was no looking back. It was certainly a steep learning curve but I realised that I quite enjoyed being pushed out of my comfort zone. Without it, I would never have considered making a 5ft garden sculpture or a bathroom washbasin and the response has been overwhelming. I’m still in touch with all the fabulous potters and we all got together this summer at the Festival Pottery Showdown in Devon, which was amazing!
Anything new on the horizon?
I’m making ceramic basins for a new spa hotel in Bath and I’m also in discussions about a public artwork for The Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia. I’ve started teaching pottery at home and have a few two-day masterclass workshops lined up for the summer, but I still find the ceramic classes in Farnham a great way of keeping in touch with other makers and for technical support.
How do you like to relax when you are not working?
I go to the local pottery!
• Find out more about Sally-Jo’s work by visiting her website at sjbceramics.com