Jill Ford - Origin: A Journey - From teacher to Artist to Origin at Somerset House

14 Aug 2009

 Jill Ford shares her journey over the last 9 years that has led her to be showing at Origin this year! I think this is a great inspiration to others who may be embarking on a similar journey today.

At the turn of the millennium I embarked upon a life-changing career move. As a teacher I had risen through the ranks of class teacher to deputy head, then as my own children grew up I switched to part time contracts and Nursery teaching.  But an HND course in Design Crafts (2000 2002) was the catalyst for change, as I set up my own pottery in a converted garage in rural East Riding of Yorkshire. Armed with a second-hand wheel and kiln, a sink, a small supply of porcelain and a huge supply of enthusiasm, I started out again as a self-employed ceramicist, establishing Jill Ford Ceramics. Seven years down the line, the business has grown and my contemporary porcelain has developed in confidence and voice. I supply around 50 galleries throughout the UK and Europe and a couple in the US and exhibit at major craft/ceramics fairs around the country.

Origin, the London Craft Fair, has long been in my sights. The old version, Chelsea Craft Fair was always an inspiration with its packed corridors and rooms brimming with craft talent. The re-branded version Origin, at Somerset House, London is ideally located to attract national and international visitors as well as residential and business communities in the capital. Over two separate weeks, work from 300 makers will be showcased in a bespoke pavilion designed to provide a light and stylish environment in which to see and buy the thousands of objects on offer. It offers the opportunity for first timers such as myself to exhibit alongside internationally acclaimed artists and to put work under the scrutiny thousands of discerning visitors.

The initial feeling of euphoria on being accepted has not quite evaporated, and the long making process has begun along with decisions about selection of work. I will be showing my signature porcelain wall pieces and thrown bowls and vases: simple elegant shapes decorated with minimal colour and textural relief. Spindly silver birches carved into the white porcelain contrast against thick dark foliage in the Landscape Range. Echinacea bowls with finely pinched rims squeezed whilst still damp from the wheel and new wall pieces and vessels decorated with shrub roses, their full flat flowers modelled from hundreds of wafer thin layers of porcelain. My work explores the fragile strength of this smooth sensuous clay - pinching, turning and squeezing it to the brink of collapse. This year has seen the introduction of the Old Fashioned Roses jewellery collection in bone china and silver, statement jewellery that is fun and flamboyant.

Origin will undoubtedly be a huge logistical and artistic challenge, one to be relished. The journey so far, from tentative steps entering the Ceramics Room at York College to the prestige of exhibiting in central London has been exciting and fast-paced. I view Origin as a hub along that path, a convergence of artists and public - the platform for many new travels.