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Behind the ‘gram with @AlexSickling

This week we spoke to illustrator and in her words ‘wonky pots’ ceramic maker, @alexsickling.

By Bekki Ramsay

This week we spoke to illustrator and in her words ‘wonky pots’ ceramic maker, @alexsickling. Having collaborated with Anthropologie, had her work stocked in the Baltic long enough to become a best-seller, and her ornaments even catching the eye of kids – we wanted to know what her story was, as well as her top tips for those who, perhaps, would like to take up ceramics as a wholesome hobby.

1. Tell us your story... how did you first get into ceramics and illustrations? And when did you start selling your art?

I first started making ceramics whilst in my second year of studying Visual Communication at Leeds Art University. As one of my modules, I started exploring with clay, and fell in love with the process as it allowed me to adapt my illustrations into something more tangible.

Then as I started creating more out of passion, I began selling both my ceramics and illustrations online and at local markets. I’ve been doing this since 2012, and still work from my home studio in Gateshead.

2. Where do you find inspiration for your art?

I’m really interested in folk art and also love visiting art galleries in whichever city I find myself in. I also regularly take part in an amazing market called the DIY Art Market and find so much inspiration from other makers and illustrators there.

Although I’d say that a lot of my work is based on my love for animals. I actually have a small cockapoo called Olive, so most of my work focuses on dogs at the moment – which I definitely wouldn’t say is a bad thing.   

3. The DIY Art Market sounds amazing, and as though it’s a real cultural hub for makers like yourself. I guess attending this is one of your career highlights, but what are your other career highlights, too?

I think one of my main highlights is working with Anthropologie on various occasions. So far, I’ve created a farmer cookie jar, alpaca-shaped pots and an elephant ornament for them. I was also really happy when I found out my work was going to be stocked in The New Craftsmen, London, too.

On a more local level, I have also sold my t-shirts in the Baltic art gallery, which I’m really grateful for. I made them the Bill Murray t-shirt specifically to be sold alongside the Brian Griffiths exhibition from a few years ago.

Despite all of this, I think my main career highlight would be that I get to make wonky pots and ornaments for a living! I really appreciate the support over the years from everyone that’s enabled me to keep this going as a business.

4. I love that! Speaking of your wonky pots and ornaments, what do you think are your top five most popular products?

  1. The Lady Musicians T-shirt – featuring some of my favourite musicians including Dolly Parton, Cher and Aretha Franklin to name a few!
  2. Bill Murray T-shirt – People seem to love this t-shirt, it has been a best-seller over the last few years. Everyone seems to appreciate a Bill Murray film and personally, my favourite is Moonrise Kingdom. 
  1. David Bowie ceramic planter – The face planters are really popular, but David Bowie is always the one that people love the most, featuring the iconic make-up flash.
  2. Little worm ornaments – Kids really love these little ornaments, which makes me really happy. Whilst they’re purely decorative ornaments, whenever I’m selling at a market, kids can’t help but seem to put them on their fingers and imagine they’re extravagant worm rings. 
  3. Women unite mugs – These mugs are all about women supporting women, with 20% profits going to women’s aid!

5. This year, with some Brits spending more time than ever at home, many have decided to pick up a new hobby. With this in mind, what advice would you give to anyone who would like to pick up ceramics as a wholesome hobby?

Oh, I’d definitely recommend getting into ceramics as a way of just relaxing and zoning out!

I’d maybe start by playing with air dry clay (Scola on Amazon is good!) just to experiment with techniques that allow you to have fun with modelling. If you’re stuck for ideas, have a look on Youtube are as there are plenty of tutorials.

There are also a couple of exciting places in the North East that teach ceramics, such as Bensham Grove and a new place in Jesmond called The Pottery Experience.

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