CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Ockley designer JoJo Rowley produces striking ceramics

PUBLISHED: 16:39 13 September 2013 | UPDATED: 16:39 13 September 2013

Designer Style

Designer Style

Archant

Working from her Ockley studio in the heart of the Surrey Hills, JOJO ROWLEY produces striking ceramics that are inspired by the beautiful local landscape. Janet Donin went to meet her there

How did your interest in ceramics first start?

I worked as a dietician in the NHS for a number of years and just dabbled with ceramics as a hobby, but when my husband’s job took us to Washington DC and I was unable to continue with that career, I joined a studio and took working with clay more seriously. Then, the year before we returned to the UK, I was lucky enough to be awarded an ‘Emerging Ceramic Artist’ grant to have my own studio within an artist complex and turned my hobby into a new career.

So what’s the difference between a ceramicist and a potter?
Essentially we are the same as we both make pottery. However, I work with porcelain clay, which is finer and whiter than natural clay, and refer to myself as a ceramicist as I think it suggests a slightly more artistic approach and outcome.

What was it that drew you to working with porcelain clay?

Although porcelain clay is quite difficult to throw because of its smooth ‘cream cheese’ nature, it offers me the texture and purity of colour that I want. I love the challenge of taking a basic natural product that’s essentially a lump of mud and then, through a series of careful stages, turning it into a pleasing object.

How did your work evolve?

Initially, I was like a kid in a sweet shop working with different kilns, mixing my own glazes as well as trying out a variety of styles and finishes. Gradually, I developed a more cohesive look to my work and a style that pleased me – and others too as my first solo exhibition in the States was a complete sell-out.

What happened when you returned to Surrey?

I was determined to continue with my new career and had a studio up and running within months. Then, in 2011, I took part in the Surrey Artists Open Studios, which was great fun and I was lucky enough to be contacted by a couple of local galleries who wanted to represent my work. From there, it’s gone from strength to strength.

Tell us about the process that’s involved?

I hand-throw each piece on my wheel to create the basic shape. It’s then left to dry until ‘leather’ hard – which means it won’t fall apart when handled – before excess clay is trimmed away. When it’s completely dry, it has a first ‘bisque’ firing for about 13 hours in my electric kiln. I like to keep the outside of my pots unglazed so a lot of time is spent, at this stage, in wet-sanding the pieces so the outer surface has a lovely tactile, almost ‘eggshell’ feel. I glaze the inside of many pots with a single striking colour while others have a clear glaze. The second firing lasts for eight hours to finish the piece.

Describe your signature work…

I really love my perforated pieces. To create these, I use a hand drill to create a series of holes into the clay before firing. It’s quite labour intensive as the holes are different sizes to create a pattern and each one needs to be smoothed with a wet cotton bud. Depending on the size of the bowl or vase, it can take me a day to complete. 

Do you work in any other way?
During the Open Studios month in June, we did some pit firing behind the house. We dug a big hole in the ground, filled it with organic material like cones, banana skins and coffee grounds before topping with wood and lighting. Pots were then put inside to fire. The smoke and the various materials interact with the clay to produce random colours of pink, grey or blues. You never know what’s going to happen, which is surprising and fun.

Where do you find the inspiration for your work?

Living where we do, it’s all around me. In the bluebell wood behind my studio, a leaf, a bud, even the bark of silver birch trees. But I got the idea for the perforated styles from a sea urchin shell found on the beach.


What’s your favourite thing about your job?

Not being woken by an alarm clock to work nine to five. I do work long hours but I love the solitude of living and working here in the country where my ideas are not influenced or disturbed by passing cars or people – just the occasional visit from one of my cats. I listen to Radio 4 during the winter but in summer I’ll leave the doors open and just listen to the natural sounds.

Have you anything new planned?

I like my work to have a function as well as being decorative. However, I have started to develop a more organic style, drawing even more on the shapes and forms in nature.

Finally, have you ever had that ‘Ghost’ moment?

You mean like in the film? It’s a lovely idea and although my husband Nigel is right behind my work, throwing pots is a solitary occupation that needs endless practice, but it makes me happy.

For more information on the work of JoJo Rowley, contact her on 01306 627157 or visit jojoceramics.co.uk. You can also see JoJo’s ceramics at The Art Agency, Esher, and The Art Shed at The Medicine Garden in Cobham

More from Surrey Life

14:51

The spookiest time of the year is fast approaching! We pick some of the best events to celebrate Halloween in Surrey

Read more
14:43

This edition of Surrey Life features all the local ingredients to make this month special

Read more
12:43

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (26, 27 and 28 October): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Friday, October 19, 2018

We round up 10 of the most beautiful photos of Surrey shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Thursday, October 18, 2018

To mark the appointment of Peter Estlin, a former head boy at King Edward’s Witley, as new Lord Mayor of the City of London, Surrey Life has joined forces with the 400-pupil school to give away two tickets to the Lord Mayor’s Show on 10 November plus an overnight stay in London

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

With The Great British Bake Off back on our screens the nation is falling in love with baking once again. Head pastry chef at Pennyhill Park, Sarah Frankland, tells us about what it takes to make it as a professional

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wrap up in your favourite coat and scarf, grab your sparklers and a warming drink, and enjoy one of these fantastic firework displays taking place in Surrey for bonfire night

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Home to outstanding architecture, ambitious community projects and arts ventures that are putting these villages firmly on the map, East and West Horsley are among our county’s most desirable addresses

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Chertsey’s best-kept secret, the Great Cockcrow Railway, steamed into a half-century this year

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A taste of Korea has swept into the beautiful market town of Godalming as Bada sets out its stall with a tapas-style fusion of seafood, traditional dishes and spice

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

With friendship as the central theme in Adele Parks’ new book, Zoe Richards met up with the bestselling author and her publisher, Kate Mills, to find out how these two Surrey dwellers have discovered a successful working relationship, and become firm friends too

Read more
Monday, October 15, 2018

As the twilight falls, the magic begins… There’s something for everyone at Christmas at Kew – and we’re giving you the chance to win one of five family tickets for two adults and two children to the Preview Night of Christmas at Kew on Wednesday 21 November 2018

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Good table manners have long been a source of national pride but in this modern age of social media are our longstanding traditions being left behind? Rebecca Younger visits the stately Beaverbrook estate for a lesson in British etiquette

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search