We talk to Hannah Bould, the North London ceramicist whose work is capturing the attention of buyers far and wide. Here, she gives her thoughts on social media strategy, studio life, and how to get into business if you’re not the business type.
Hannah Bould’s garden studio is a beautiful space; small yet sturdy, and filled with light from its many windows. Unglazed mugs fill rows upon rows of shelves, while tiny painted pots bask on the windowsill. From the clay-splattered walls above a well-worn potter’s wheel to the kiln in the corner, the small space is filled to capacity with five years’ of work.
However, it wasn’t always that way; Hannah’s father initially built the shed as a studio for her mother, a printmaker. Initially, Hannah thought she would follow in her mother’s footsteps, and studied illustration and printmaking at Camberwell College of Art, after which she worked at a print studio for six years. While she enjoyed the experience, she eventually realised that printmaking wasn’t for her. “When you’re printing other people’s work you lose sight of your own style. I wanted a new outlet.” By chance, a colleague recommended that Hannah explore a nearby ceramics studio. One evening class later, and the rest is history.
“When I took my evening class in ceramics I became completely addicted! It was run by a guy called Stuart Carey who is amazing, and so generous with his knowledge. We had a family friend who had an old wheel and gave it to me, so I put it in our shed and slowly started filling it up with my work. I started getting orders and doing less time at the print studio until eventually I realised I couldn’t work there any more because I had too much pottery work to do.”
Five years on and Hannah runs her own ceramics business stocking boutiques all over the UK. Gesturing towards her orders list, written on a whiteboard by her pottery wheel, she expresses her gratitude that she’s been able to turn her passion into a career that allows her to work with like-minded creatives. “I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to do too much picking and choosing in the people and shops I work with – our sensibilities are always similar. They like what I do, and I like what they do. I would happily shop with them, so I’m really flattered that they like my work.”
When asked about how she has made her business a success, Hannah is modest. “I’m by no means a good business person, I just like making pots!” However, she does have some advice to give anyone hoping to start their own business.
1. Get social-savvy
Hannah has her own website, but she also makes the most of social media platforms like Instagram. All of her business so far has come through the channel, which she sees as an honest and authentic way to show your work. “You feel like you’re really getting an insight into people’s worlds; it feels very genuine. Pretty much every shop that knows about me is from my Instagram, and a lot of my friends in different areas of the art world say the same thing.”
2. Don’t worry about creative block
As with any job, there are days when the creative juices just aren’t flowing. Hannah’s advice? Don’t beat yourself up about it. “Sometimes the motivation to make new things is hard, but as soon as you get started you get into it. The best way to combat creative block is just delving into the more process-led side of the business; getting your hands in the clay and make something. Just feel your way through it and eventually you’ll end up making something new without thinking about it.”
3. Trust your instinct
This is crucial for Hannah, and has underpinned most of her business decisions so far. “It was never a clean decision that I was going to be a potter, as much as I wanted it to be like that. I think it’s important to stick to what you want to do and keep a clear idea of your style and what you want to achieve.” Pausing to look around her studio, she continues, “You need to just enjoy it as well. You can get so worried about the business side, when actually the whole reason you got into it was because you love making what you make or doing what you do. It can be easy to forget that. I wanted to do pottery and didn’t really think that I’d necessarily be running a business, but it’s happened in a very doable, human way.”