Ceramic Commission Case Study: Punnydukes

I previously announced (very excitedly!)that the magical Adventureland of Punnydukes was to become one of my new stockists. As well as stocking my prints,patches, badges and stickers, the store also commissioned some new bespoke pieces from me too.

We partnered to create some mini ceramic Punnys. Punny is the mascot of Punnydukes. A teal wizard cat created by Katie Abey. In Katie’s distinctive style, he’s cute and witchy and everything Punnydukes. It was an honour to be asked and a brand new challenge, I’d never done a ceramic commission before.

It’s a risky job to take. Ceramics is unpredictable at the best of times. It’s a slow medium to create with as items need to dry before they can start multiple firing. As I work in a community studio there is often a bit of a kiln queue too. Being able to create pieces within a lead time that is comfortable for someone wanting to commission you, whilst also building in time for testers is tough. I decided to build an ambitious but doable lead time and set to work on the commission straight away.

The heat is on

My lead time banked on my pieces working without testers. I created a series of possible products I could create at a range of wholesale price points depending on size, detail, functionality and complexity. The product sketches ranged from figurines to jars. I like to be creative and give a range of options for clients to choose from. I ensured that the designs featured underglazes and glazes that I have used previously and am reasonably confident in how they would come out.

Famous last words?

Unfortunately yes. The glazes I were so confident in unfortunately did not come out how they previously had. The beauty and the curse of the art form. It appears that the glazes I had successfully used before had been suffering from being overused without being stirred. This leads to the ratio of the contents being skewered and so the effect of the glaze differed. It’s a science as well as an art afterall. The cherry blossom pink glaze I had chosen had come out much paler and more watery than I had planned. I just was t happy that it was up to my standard and so Iwas going to have to start again.

Bum bum bummmmmmm

Damn right it was suspenseful music time! I’d built myself enough lead time to potentially deal with an issue like this, but it would be really tight. There was every chance the order could end up late, and I have never sent out a late order before! Should I risk trying to get the order in on time or be honest about the challenge right now, that there’s a chance they might be late?

Of course, I chose the latter!

I’m just that kinda guy. I emailed, apologised, said the pieces might still be on time but there was a chance they could be late and I’ll throw in an extra figure for free by way of an apology. My very gracious clients told me not to worry. Being honest is ALWAYS the way to go.

I was back at the drawing the board. However, my brain is something of a Catherine wheel, and I never have an idea that has just one way to do it. I studied the first batch of Punnys, made notes on what to amend and cracked on it again. Second batch in the kiln and all fingers crossed. It’s a bit like Christmas waiting for your pieces to come out of the kiln, and a pleasant surprise they were when they did. The second batch was a success. Packaged up and hand delivered just a day or two after the original due date and with an extra Punny in tow to make up for the lost time.

The Punnys are now on sale in the beautiful, magical Punnydukes store. The clients were really pleased with their execution and I was really pleased with the effect of the glazes. Perhaps my favourite part happened just after I dropped the Punny’s off in person. I went to grab lunch and returned about an hour later to show some friends the shop. In that time they had already put them out for sale and sold one! The best compliment of all is a sale of course, and so my first ceramic commission seemed a real success to me.


A Hyperactive Artist’s Guide to Venice

I travel with two things, my belly and my appetite for culture. Holidays for me are beasts of undertaking. A combination of my hunger for beautiful things, collecting experiences and event planning make it so. My trips need research, before during and after for me to feel that I’ve gotten the most out of my travels. I’ve decided I’m this blog that I’ll share my little travel guides every now and then, as a hyperactive artist’s guide to Europe.

First stop, Venice

Venetian style isn’t something I tend to think of when contemplating styles that resonate with me. I find appeal in lowbrow art. The majesty of Venetian design is a world away from my usual style. It’s a city of grandiose statements. Whether the array of paper mache masks or the collages of pillaged architecture. Big, bold and flaunted. My trip to Italy was most certainly guided by my belly more than my artistic notions.

However, for the past 8 years since I last visited the city I have continued to remember Venice as home to one of my favourite galleries in Europe. The Peggy Guggenheim collection. The gallery exhibits an impressive collection of art which belonged to its late namesake. Born into two power families of absaurd wealth and an insatiable passion for art, the American heiress collected pieces at a target rate of a painting a day. Peggy married artist Max Ernst and exhibited works in galleries in the beginnings of the careers of heavyweights including Rothko and Pollock.

The Peggy Guggenheim collection houses an impressive selection of work in an equally impressive location. Based on the Grand Canal the Galleries surround a courtyard garden peppered with statues. The garden itself an oasis on a floating island and the art within it displayed serenely. The building that houses the rest of the collection is literally an unfinished palace.

The Galleries indoors are split into two with the permanent collection in part and temporary exhibits in the other. The temporary exhibit when I visited was a Dadaist artist. The name escapes me but frankly wasn’t too far up my street anyway. It’s the permanent collection that I was there to see.

What a load of Pollocks

The most impressive modern art collection I have ever seen is treasured within its walls. Cubism, surrealism and expressionism paintings and sculptures from a sea of the movements biggest names. Dali, Magritte, Kandinsky, Chagall, Klee, Picasso, Miro and a room full of Pollocks are the first few that flow from my memory. The gallery opens onto a small yard of sculptures upon the Grand Canal itself. A perfect spot to steal a quiet second of beautiful views with a few less tourist around.

Have you ever seen a view like this from a gallery before?

Hop on the water bus two minutes from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and after a transfer or two you can reach the island of Murano, famous for its glass. Through a sea of tourist trap glass shops the gem on the island is the glass museum. You can learn about the history of glass making on the island, and see some exquisite examples. My highlights were the glass octopus chandelier near the foyer and the incredibly detailed miniature cane pieces.

Although the museum gives you an insight into the process of how the pieces are made, it’s difficult to find anywhere that you can actually watch glass being blown. I’d recommend that you research this before you visit to ensure you have a plan if this is something that you want to do.

Running an Instagram Giveaway

I have been thinking for a while that once I hit 1,000 fans on Instagram that I’d like to do a giveaway. There are a combinations of reasons for this. Firstly, and most mushily, it’s a thankyou. When I set up my Instagram account it did that thing where it automatically finds followers for you from your Facebook friends. I think it got a grand total of 60 followers or thereabouts from this. It’s not very much when you look at other people’s personal accounts. Probably because I am such an old lady with regards to social media these days at the ripe old age of 32. What it does mean though is that the majority of my followers have followed me to follow my art.

That’s worth a thankyou right?

And a giveaway is just that.  Yet it’s about business too. Followers are more likely to stick with you if you incentivise them. These days you can read a lot of about new types of business models. One of these is the freemium economy. It’s the idea that freebies are a huge way to engage potential customers. It also creates value for money if you are willing to throw in extras for your customers. I do this throughout the year by offering free stickers with certain purchases from my store.

You had me at hello

Of course. A giveaway should help you to find new followers too. The trick is finding the right ones. You want to gain good reach for your post to engage people who might not know your work. By including interaction with your post as an integral part of entering the running to win the giveaway this should certainly improve the reach of your post. I’d avoid using hashtags like #giveaway if you don’t want to invite folk who might follow and unfollow once the competition ends, but if it improves your reach then that’s up to you. The giveaway will cost you the same to run whether you get 10 entries or 1000 but I’d just feel better about the winner being someone who I think would genuinely appreciate my work.

But what to giveaway?

This takes more thought than just picking a random item from your arsenal or something that hasn’t sold yet that you’ve had for a while. If you want your giveaway to have a high engagement, the prize has to be what people want. It also has to be worth whatever you are asking entrants to do for it. Following ten accounts, tagging five friends and sharing a post in their feed isn’t really worth it for a five pound mini print or a pack of stickers.

I’ve taken the approach of promoting a new product through my giveaway which is a great haul of a prize too. The product is my Mystery Hauls. Each one has unique contents which include at least a mini print, an A4 Print, original sketch, a badge pack, a sew on patch and a sticker. Phew! That’s just the minimum as well, each one will have extras within too. Each pack is worth at least £50. A Mystery Haul seemed the perfect value of prize for the engagement I was seeking for entry. Plus the chance to advertise a new product is great too.

Remember, it’s great to thank your fans and it helps to create a wonderful sense of community in Instagram. Just don’t give away anything that you can’t afford, and think about hidden costs too. Do you want to offer the prize worldwide? Would you cover the shopping cost if someone on the other side of the world won? The choice is up to you. Good luck!

A hyperactive artist’s guide to Bologna

Recently I visited Bologna for the first time. My other half had watched a Rick Stein show where he had visited and it had stuck with him. Very much a trip about food, I didn’t know much else about the terracotta city.


Our air bnb was ten minutes walk from Mambo, the Modern Art Museum in Bologna. The museum’s permanent collection charts the journey of Modern art in Italy from post Second World War and onwards. Displayed chronologically you take this journey through time as you physically walk through the gallery.

My highlight from the gallery, however, was the Mika Rottenberg temporary exhibition. Mika’s video and installation work is surreal and slightly creepy. It reminds me of Freud’s The Uncanny. Human figures acting in an alien way. Inanimate objects become animated and live like humans. Each video well crafted and something hypnotic. Installation pieces included flailing ponytails and film montages viewed through the smoking mouth of a sex doll-like disembodied mouth. This was my first encounter with the Argentinian artist and I wouldn’t hesitate to view her work again.

University quarter

Bologna is home to the oldest university in the western world. Walking through this district of the terracotta city the earth timed walls become speckled with street art. From sticker tags to painted shop fronts there was much to admire on a stroll. The art enhanced the youthful vibe of this northern part of the city centre and carried strong political calls for equality.

The university itself holds many treasures if you know where to look. Several museums which are free to enter and open to the public are housed within its walls. I have always found museums a wealth of inspiration for my art. One thing I always enjoy on a free day is to go to a museum and draw.

Anatomy Museum

We first visited the Anatomia Umana Normale museum of abnormal anatomy. I’d read about it before the trip and felt intrigued. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought about completely grotesque the museum would be. Featuring waxworks of squirm inducing diseases and birth defects, we also saw mummified remains, skeletal specemins and preserved human foetuses. The macabre always appeals to me, but actual dead babies is a step too far.

Zoology and Anthropology Museums

The next museum we visited was the Zoological museum. Several floors of taxidermy specimens is my ideal sort of drawing space. The quality of these specimens however was awful. Poorly applied unnatural shades of painted slopped upon grey birds, reptile and fish. The gem of the museum were the floors of skeletons. There is an impressive number of specemens from a range of species. Even preserved organs too. I took some photos that I intend to draw now I am back in the U.K., as something about drawing skeletons always appeals to me. If I want in a rush to explore a city I’d have been happy to spend the afternoon there drawing. Above was the small anthropological museum which has interesting exhibits on the evolution of Man.

What I did struggle to find in the city was much work by local artist. There is an arts and crafts market but the selection is not wide and it feels very geared towards tourists. I always like to pick up handcrafted pieces on holiday but I struggled to find anything in Bologna apart from a delightful gift shop called Riceteria.

The real art in Bologna is of course the food. It would have been nice to have a few more galleries to walk the food belly off with though.

New Commission: Elmer’s Great North Parade

I’m really pleased to announce that I’ve been semester as an artist for the Great North Elmer parade. This Wild in Art project will run across Newcastle and the surrounding areas and raise money for St Oswold’s Hospice.


St Oswolds in one of several charities across the country celebrating our patchwork pal with Wild in Art this year. 2019 also marks the year that Elmer turns 30 years old. The recognisable character has been made famous through children’s books since 1989.


I just got De ja vu


No there’s not a glitch in The Matrix, Elmer will be my fourth sculpture with Wild in Art this year. The first was a Wallaby on the Isle of Man for Wallabies Gone a Wild. The second and third were both Gorillas for Go a Wild Gorillas with Durrell Zoo Jersey. Here’s hoping that I’ll feel like a seasoned pro by the time it’s pick up a paintbrush in Newcastle.


My design is fun, bright and bold and will be revealed when the trail launches in August. My design is called ‘it’s nice to be nice’ and focuses on just that. It celebrates diverse characters and the positive power of compliment giving.


I haven’t learnt who my corporate sponsors are yet, so I am nervous and intrigued to find out! Another new aspect of this campaign in comparison toothed Wild in Art projects I have done is that I have received an invitation to exhibit at a Fairwell Elmer event in November. I don’t know much about the event yet but will share when I do.


Wild about Wild in Art

I’ve really enjoyed being part of these arts trails this year. My portfolio of public artworks and mural works is growing. It’s work I love to do. I still feel naughty like I’m doing something wrong and vandalising! Being bake to follow the public on social media enjoying my work is really special too. My Wallabies statue was revealed to the public in May, and the experience so far has been great. Finding out where my Elmer will call home will be an excited moment too. The biggest moment of all these trails will be the auction nights though, where we find it how much more money they can raise for their partnered charity.


Fitting in the time for these trails and the travel and overnights associated is not easy. It’s worth it though. The chance to be part of it and to meet other artists has been invaluable.


Wallabies Gone Wild is on display now, Go Wild Gorillas launches at the end of July and Elmers Great North Parade will launch in August. Fingers crossed for more adventures with Wild in Art 2020