With her passion for nature and unique sense of decoration, Charlotte Hupfield has created an eye catching style of ceramic wares that sit perfectly in the home.
Charlotte has always loved art and being creative. Her journey began when she found herself fascinated with the qualities of clay as a material at school about ten years ago. From there she continued through college and then onto Coventry university where she experimented with a range of materials and specialised in ceramics, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Surface Decoration.
Charlotte's inspiration comes from everything natural and organic – especially close up surfaces such as tree bark, rocks, and plants: "Whilst concealed amongst these natural surroundings in the landscape, I feel relaxed and at home. I find it amazing to see the changes in rocks and coves caused by weathering and erosion from the sea, bumpy and colourful linear patterns found within fields and hills, and the surfaces in nature where no two marks are ever the same – it is this particular aspect that my ceramics connects to."
You will find collections of Charlotte's designs ranging from dandelions to clouds, and leaves to coastal scenes.
She started off sharing a kiln with a local potter in 2008, and then got given a small kiln from a friend in 2010. This was great for a while, but soon became too small for Charlotte's needs and so she invested in a bigger kiln in 2011 which she now uses to develop and broaden her work from her studio at home. Charlotte's designs come from initial sketchbook drawings which she then transfers onto the ceramic surface of her forms. The one-off products that she creates range from bowls, vases, hanging decorations, coasters, ceramic art and accessories, and also new to her range are her quirky ceramic houses and decorative ceramic curves. She also takes on commissions and special custom orders.
In 2011 Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics became an 'SBS' (Small Business Sunday) winner, as chosen by TV Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis. This is an initiative on Twitter set up by Theo that runs weekly, and has given Charlotte a real confidence boost since she gained over 800 more Twitter followers and received extra exposure online. "Within a day my website jumped to thousands of visitors and I was bombarded with messages, enquiries and new orders. It is great to bump into people at events who say they recognise me from being an SBS winner - It makes me feel a little bit famous!"
Charlotte decided to start selling her work to the public soon after graduating from Coventry university in 2008 when she had exhibited a selection of pieces in a local gallery as a university project and sold almost every piece. It is a fantastic feeling, knowing that people like the things I make enough to buy them to display in their homes or to give as gifts. Ceramics is my passion and I am grateful to be able to share it with others. I think as well as my pieces being one-offs from a small creative business that cannot be found on the High Street, people are also drawn to the fact that my ceramics are functional as well as decorative."
Traditional techniques such as slab building and using the 'pinch pot' method are frequent throughout Charlotte's making processes, and her vases are individually slip cast from her own homemade plaster moulds.
The decorating process is Charlotte's favourite part to creating her work. She has spent some time developing her own series of glazes which are applied in layers to create different effects. The results are very rarely the same, making each piece unique. Charlotte says: "I always get excited opening the kiln after a glaze firing, it's like peering inside a sweet shop!"
Melting recycled glass onto the ceramic surface has been a popular signature element throughout Charlotte's work. She says: "I tried melting glass into the base of a bowl as an experiment and took it to one of my first ever craft fairs a few years ago. The bowl was the first piece to sell and since it had a few people fighting over it, I realised that I needed to make more!"
Charlotte's work doesn't always turn out to plan, in fact she often has what she calls 'happy accidents'. Sometimes, when mistakes occur such as a glaze not running how it should, or the form of a piece being manipulated during firing, Charlotte will evaluate these pieces to decide if it still flows as a whole. Because each piece of her work is a unique one-off, it often works out well if a piece has slightly deformed in shape as this adds to the unique quality. "If I don't think a piece is suitable, I might break it up and mount part of a flat piece in a frame. I never throw defects away - I have a box full of pieces that I might look at differently and use for something else next time."
As well as selling her pieces online through her website shop, Charlotte often takes part in exhibitions and stocks galleries across the UK - From Scotland all the way down to Devon. "I find that galleries tend to find me now, rather than me looking for them. I have had to turn shops down in the past as I hadn't enough work to supply them, with craft fairs and markets coming up. One day, I might need an assistant to help me! I would love to have my own shop in the future."
Over the past couple of years, Charlotte Hupfield Ceramics has gone from strength to strength, having her work featured in 'The Workshop Guide to Ceramics' and a number of magazines. Receiving an award from BBC star Theo Paphitis has definitely boosted the business.
Charlotte recently moved into her first bought home with her partner Oliver, and their cat Molly. "I am so excited about my new studio in the garage - a space that I know I will be spending a lot of my time in."
You can browse Charlotte's work on her website www.charlottehupfieldceramics.com where she also sells individual pieces from an online shop. Her Facebook page is updated frequently with new work, updates from her workshop, exciting news and special giveaways: www.facebook.com/CharlotteHupfieldCeramics
Charlotte's business tips to share:
- If you have a passion for a particular 'dream' in life, don't stop until you reach that dream. Live your dream!
- Never give up!
- Don't be afraid to ask.