I've been selling Penny Spooner's ceramics since 2018, having originally spotted her beautiful porcelain ware on the Great British Bake Off. I fell in love with her delicate use of colour, the smooth, tactile shapes of her creations and their functional beauty.
Penny is a keen supporter of independent businesses, and loves family, friends, dogs, creativity, and ice cream. I had a chat with Penny to find out a bit more about her work and process. We talk often via email and social media, and although I've never actually met her in real life, Penny feels like a close friend!
How long have you been running your business? I first started selling my work when I moved into my studio back in 2008 - 15 years ago, which is mad because I’m fairly certain it was only 5 years ago...
What's your career background? Bonkers actually - I left school under a cloud and went to college for a year to study secretarial with business studies. This enabled me to earn a living as my parents were living abroad at the time. I then started on a campaign to find the thing I loved doing and it went something like this: six months as a secretary, three months travelling, six months temping, two years as an estate agent, three months as a temps controller, two years running a small business buying and selling antique/vintage furniture, three years at a PA to the IT Director of Prudential. 10 years raising children and temping occasionally. Nine years part time as a classroom assistant, whilst launching my ceramics business. If at first you don’t succeed, move on and find something that does suit you.
What inspired you to start? From the age of 23, every year I signed up for an adult education class to learn a new skill, which included, photography, GCSE Psychology, Painting & Drawing, Interior Design, Piano and Ceramics. Ceramics was love at first sight and I have never considered doing anything since. Although, I do still sign up for other courses in my spare time - it’s fascinating all the amazing creative arts out that that you can try your hand at.
What was the first design that you came up with? And which is your favourite? My first design was a medium size oval shape serving bowl with circular holes either side to pick it up. I wanted something to serve new potatoes in (because I am the biggest fan of potatoes.) I think I must be fickle, because my favourite changes all the time. Each time I make something new I think ‘ooh I love this one best’ but then something new comes out the kiln and I move on!
What are your must have design tools? Radio or podcasts are a must have in the studio. I love music and hearing other people telling their stories about work and life. I think they help keep my mind clear and positive to design. My main design tool though is playing with the clay - I like to wedge up a variety of different weights of clay and just start throwing to see where the clay and my hands take me - it’s not your typical design process, but I love the freedom it brings to the process, and I hope it helps to keep things fresh.
What's your typical day? It starts with coffee and Wordle (which I exchange with my friend each morning). This is followed by 30 minutes exercise in my kitchen (I got hooked on Mark Wright’s workouts during the second lockdown). After breakfast I walk my rescue dogs, Beamish and Stanley, and then we head round to the studio for three hours in the morning. We always come home for lunch, and then back for another 2-3 hours in the afternoon.
My day is never typical because the process of running a ceramics business is multi faceted - I could be throwing, turning, sanding or glazing or packing pots; or I could be loading/unloading the kiln, recycling clay or answering emails. I think the fact that my days are so varied is probably why I enjoy this so much. I love creating things that I would enjoy using and looking at, but the variety is definitely important for me.
Penny's work is available in our Canterbury shop and online, or you can see her full range on her website.