A DAY WITH... Alice from Alice Frost Ceramics

This year gave me the opportunity to rub shoulders with some women I find really, really inspiring. I now work as a freelance social media coordinator (who does a bit of photography and copywriting too) and while it's not without its challenges, I am grateful for the brilliant makers and businesswomen I now get to work with.

A Day With was a series that I initially saw as a chance to get to hear about the typical day of a creative lady, but it evolved into the chance to share a genuine, honest conversation with someone whose work I love. I knew Alice of Alice Frost Ceramics had to be my first interviewee. We're both ceramic lovers with a hometown and dungaree obsession in common, and every time I share a shot of her face pots on my Instagram, someone will comment or message me to say they love them.

This month I was lucky enough to shoot Alice in her wonderful Northampton studio, as she hired me to take some photos for her upcoming portfolio site. We were both pretty poorly with bugs but I am still so happy with how our shots came out. Without further ado, here is our conversation and a glimpse of some of the photos from the day.

As this series is called A Day With, are you a morning person or a night owl?

[As soon as I’ve said the words “Morning person”] Morning. Definitely a morning person! I grew up in a farming family in the middle of nowhere, so getting up early is just part of our routine. I’d say the latest I’ve ever got up is about 8 o’clock! There’s something so peaceful about early starts… I think my perfect workday would be 6am to 1pm, because come late afternoon I am absolutely useless. That can make working in the studio tricky, as I can only spend one full day a week in the studio, and on weekdays I can only come here in the evenings. I feel like that shows how much I love all this because I would never come here of an evening if I didn't!

What was it that inspired you to start ceramics?

In a way, it was a bit of everything… I started my first job at 16, began an agricultural degree, lost all my hair [from alopecia], started working in a shop, and eventually I started working in a shoe factory [Northampton is famous for its shoes]. After six months there I realised all I was doing was getting up, going to work, then coming home and I started to wonder, Is this it? Is this the rest of my whole life? [We laugh] And because I was was still only 16, as well…

That’s a big realisation, at that age!

Yeah! And at this stage all my friends were still at school, doing their A-levels, or they were at uni and I just felt like I was all on my own, doing nothing.

Was it your quarter life crisis?

Yes, it literally was! So, through all this I realised I wanted a hobby. I’d always loved art all the way through school; my mum is an artist, and my nan’s incredible at sewing, so we have this real artistic streak through our family. I tried a few different classes and courses, but I’d always had this feeling about ceramics. I found that I loved it and ended up going to 2 or 3 classes a week, taking clay home with me every time... I’m sure my teacher hated me! When I started I thought that potting was about just using the wheel, but we learnt all about coiling, slab building and hand building. Now everything I make is built by hand, from clay to finish.

Whose work inspired you most?

I used to go on Instagram, finding and following all these amazing artists, which led me to Kinska… Hers are the face pieces you can see [Alice points to a few that are nestled around the workspace.] She held an open studio, and I went down to London to visit it. I realised then that I wanted my own studio space, but thought there was no way that Northampton would have something like that!

[Laughing] Oh gosh, yes!

Right? You know Northampton… always ten paces behind anything! When I got home, I Google searched for studios here and found a few options… and this place came up. I emailed Mark [the owner] and the rest is history!

What is it you find most challenging about your work?

Being self critical… Back at school, as soon as I wrote something I could never read it back because I hated looking at my own work! It’s the same now: if I leave something I never want to go back to it because I start overthinking, not sure if I like it or if I hate it… and then when I see people’s responses I wonder why I ever beat myself up about it!

Every single person - every writer, photographer, maker - that I’ve talked to about this is just the same! I wonder whether we need some of that criticism to push ourselves out of staying comfortable, and to make us try new things.

Yes, and in same ways I like the fact that I’m never 100% happy, because if I were then what would there be to aim for? What’s next?

So are you thinking of transitioning to having a shop somewhere, or going online?

It sounds funny, but it wasn’t until I changed my Instagram name [to @alicefrostceramics] and mentioned that I was going to sell my pieces that I realised people really were interested in buying them. I set up stall at the recent Night Market event and was amazed by the response, so I’m definitely looking into setting up an Etsy shop or something similar in the new year. I’m absolutely chuffed that I’ve got a few pieces available to buy in Magee Street Bakery too, and hopefully a couple of other places as of January, alongside my Etsy shop… but I’ve got to figure out the postage first!

[Laughs] It’s always the logistics stuff that slows you down, isn’t it? I would have gone freelance way sooner if I had just realised my expectations were far worse than the reality of doing it!

Exactly, exactly… People used to tell me I should sell my pieces but I’d just say no: I have to get business cards, a site, photography, and that would put me off… But once you start just doing it, it happens and it comes naturally, and it's always so much easier than anticipating it all.

Definitely… I’ve found that yes, it is hard work, but that unlike anything else I have tried, this is hard work that is really satisfying to me…

Totally… My days are super long as I leave for the gym at half five and get home from the studio, knackered, at ten most nights. Most of the time I’m physically exhausted, but I can’t complain because this is all so personal, so important to me. [She gestures to the studio] This space is tiny, I know, but it’s literally ten square metres of myself. It can be nerve-wracking inviting people into this room because every single thing here is me… and I always think, “What if they hate it?!”

I know… but then you realise that you don’t want everyone to look at your work and think it’s just all right; you want your little crew of people who completely get it, 100%, and love it.

And the people who do get it really do connect with it… and that’s lovely; I’m so pleased that that’s happened.

That’s been the beauty of the internet for me - meeting people who you just click with…

Yes, and that’s why Instagram has opened so much for me; not only having a kind of online portfolio, but all the business opportunities that are out there, as well as all the people you can meet too. It's so great to meet people and realise that it doesn't matter you don't know their school, their background, their life story - that you can just understand each other. It's really cool.

Thank you so, so much to Alice for letting me interview her... You can find her Instagram here and stay tuned for her website in the new year! 

I hope you guys are looking forward to this series as much as I am; I am really hoping that I get the chance to meet and interview some more amazing ladies in the new year... Exciting stuff!