Ceramist Jo Millar talks about her personal journey and experience of creating work that develops her confidence and success as an artist.
"I recently read an excerpt from my diary where my 18-year-old self spoke back to me with the advice of my ceramics lecturer Felicity Aylieff: “Let your personality come out more in your work”. It’s taken me almost 30 years to realise it; I'm ‘making from the heart’, enjoying what I do, allowing my energy and my personality to speak unremittingly through physical objects made by my hand, without apology. To have the positive sense of self has taken a long time. I now know that letting my work speak its own language is a safe thing to do. Not everyone will like it, though many will, in the same way as I as a person evoke the same. My artistic journey could have been a whole lot easier if I’d taken Liz’s advice, but I was younger then.
"Gallery exposure and sales has been vital to my developing confidence and success. I can’t lie, I’m yet to have the fortuitous moment of a Charles Saatchi equivalent clapping eyes on my work and making it/me a huge success, but the support and regular exposure through exhibition has certainly been invaluable. Word of mouth, the positive reputation about my style and practise, and for some: the niggling, residing memory of the emotional pull experienced on first seeing a piece of my ceramics, brings a sale following the initial experience."
"We don’t tend to lavish gifts on ourselves, but more willingly give a ceramic object d’Art as a ‘pick me up’, a treat, or ‘just because’, knowing the recipient will love it, and smile. In gifting, we strategically play out a Heavenly Virtue as opposed to the Deadly Sin. Simple; but what a pity. Wouldn’t it be lovely to justify ‘an extravagance’ for oneself? A good many people play it safe when buying for themselves and buy confidently with daring zealousness. It is hard to justify lavishing gifts on oneself; for ourselves we settle for mass-produced, “same style”, cheaper things, the beige of the art world.
"But, you’re not beige! You visit galleries and admire talent; you recognise how much training, endeavour, learning, failing, crying, silent contemplation and sometimes very loud swearing goes into creating Art; or you might say “Four hundred pounds? I could do that”. But have you? There is the pull of the heart: the moment you see something that no-one else has, the emotional appeal that no-one else will understand, because: they are not you. they don’t have the same emotional response to the same work as you do."
"Either way, I don’t mind; I’m just delighted my work brings joy. If it touches someone enough to be given as a gift, or ordered as a commission, that’s satisfying, and it becomes validating. It’s different buying a ceramic piece: not too big, not too small, with function, or pure aesthetic, as opposed to a painting to fit a certain space. Ceramics are functional (or not), moveable, there is much more versatility with ceramics and sculpture.
"Buy a piece of ceramics based on the reason I make mine, unequivocally of the heart. Remember: Ceramics is for life, not just for Christmas. It can become a friend who journeys with you through life and therefore represents incredible value for money."