Balancing studying for a Master’s degree with creating her unique home accessories line, Katie Spragg is one busy lady. With a penchant for storytelling and the world of the curious and bizarre, Katie’s designs are as unique as they are varied, encompassing plates to Christmas decorations. She chats to The LuxPad about her inspirations and more below…
Growing up what were your career ambitions, did you always want to work in art & design?
When I was very young I had a huge list of things I wanted to be including an archaeologist and a ballerina, but by the time I was at secondary school I was pretty sure I’d be doing something creative. When I started art college at Camberwell College of Arts, this was when I realized I wanted to make things.
What made you chose your degree in Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics – what fascinates you about working with these materials?
I was still unsure at this stage what materials I really wanted to work in and this is a great course that keeps it open for the first year so you can try a bit of everything. I found that wood and metal were too ridged materials for me, and I didn’t have the right kind of patience. I specialized in ceramics and plastics which both use a lot of mould making and involve putting things in an oven. You do need a very special kind of patience to work with clay as it can be so temperamental and hours of work may not survive a kiln firing and you need to be able to just think “ah well, let’s try that again”. I rarely work with plastics now, though I find it’s a good skills set to have – having some knowledge of a range of materials makes me a good ‘jack-of-all-trades’. Ceramics offers so many possibilities of techniques and processes; I am always discovering new ways of working with it and new ways to approach the material.
What is your most favorite project that you have ever worked on and why?
I find that my work is constantly evolving so it is normally the last project I’ve just done that is my favorite. While I have my standard ranges that I have refined and know are popular, like the Urban Animal Plates and my Gift Shop Bottles, researching and experimenting with new techniques and learning new skills is what really excites me. I am currently doing an MA at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in Ceramics and Glass which is a great opportunity to do these things – earlier this year I created a collection of pieces that decanted and served food in absurd ways, the collection resembled a giant, tableware version of the board game ‘Mousetrap’. This project opened up a completely different way for me to work with ceramics; I repurposed existing pieces of tableware, cutting them and joining them to create the pieces for the table; a soup tureen became a ‘Pea Rally’ with glass spiral tubes for the peas to spin out of, I added spouts to dinner plates to make a ‘Sauce Waterfall’ and I drilled holes in a small ceramic basket and suspended it from the ceiling to become the ‘Italian Waiter’ – filled half with parmesan and half with black pepper. The piece culminated in a film of participants using the pieces to dine on a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs with food flying everywhere; it can be seen below:
Where did the inspiration for your fabulous collection of plates featuring illustrations centered on bizarre true stories come from?
Storytelling is a really important part of my practice, the true animal stories are almost all from the metro newspaper – I loved the idea that these completely absurd, yet true stories were given such prominence in a paper that so many people read each day; people obviously enjoy and remember these stories; they become urban legends. I wanted to encourage the retelling and sharing of these stories by putting them on plates. When selling this range at fairs or my open studio – I often get customers sharing new stories with me; which have resulted in new plate designs. The story of the dolphin Pelorus Jack is from a childhood book called ‘Nine True Dolphin Stories’ that one of my customers posted to me as he thought I might enjoy the stories. I love that this collection inspires a chain of storytelling.
Can you talk us through the process of your creations, from initial idea to finished product?
I begin with a lot of research in libraries, museums and online; gathering stories, themes, drawings and photographs. I then begin working out ideas in a sketchbook and with materials tests in clay in the studio. From these tests I work out what works and the forms and pieces evolve. There is a lot of backwards and forwards between making and thinking. Because every project is quite different, the process of making is often different; for example the Urban Animal plates were quite simple because the illustrations are applied to ready-made plates – so I already had a blank canvas to work on and the focus was on getting the illustrations and text right. With the Gift Shop bottles there was a lot of mould making and shape development at the beginning; using found objects that I cast and developing my own bottle shapes on the plaster lathe. The pieces for sale on the Amara website have undergone a lot of refinement to work out how I can make them best.
What is a typical working day like for you at your studio in Iliffe Yard, Elephant and Castle?
Because I am currently doing my masters, I spend most of my time in the studio at the RCA. My day normally begins with a cup of tea and working through what I need to get done that day. I’ll then get to work making in clay or mixing slips or glazes. Sometimes there will be a kiln to pack or unpack; the most exciting thing is opening the door of a kiln full of freshly glazed pieces and seeing which have worked and which haven’t. One of the things that is great going back into education is the feedback from all the other creative people on my course, we often discuss ideas and it is really helpful to have that creative exchange.
What is your most treasured possession and why?
This is a hard question! I think I’d be most upset if I lost my old sketchbooks – or photographs. I like taking pictures with a film camera and I have an awful memory so photographs are important to remind me of things I have done.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
To not try to please everyone at once.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
When I did first aid training while I was a technical demonstrator at Brighton University I thought I’d like to be a paramedic as it’s such an admirable and obviously useful job. But really I think I’ll always have to make things or I’d just get frustrated.
What’s next for you and your brand?
I am currently working on developing more one-off, experiential pieces and thinking of different ways I can work with clay, incorporating other mediums such as film and animation. I would also like to develop the illustration side of my brand though and see where I can push that.