Behind the Business: Kate Schuricht
What do you do for work?
I design and make my own range of raku and stoneware studio ceramics. I sell directly to collectors as well as through galleries and shops.
When did you find the work you love?
I first fell in love with clay during my degree course at Brighton University. I was studying 3D Design in Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics. Clay was fairly new to me and I was taken a bit by surprise by my reaction to it. I had always thought I would be some form of an artist but being a ceramic artist had never crossed my mind until my final year. The course was about to finish but my passion for clay had only just begun. I distinctly remember being bereft at the thought of having to stop making as the final show drew closer. The thought of not having all that equipment to use and all the facilities was really upsetting. I am sure that’s one of the things that drove me to set up my studio after my course finished.
How did you get to where you are now? What was your journey?
In many ways my journey to where I am now has been pretty direct. My course was very open and exploratory and had really inspired me so I knew that I wanted to carry on in the same vein.
I was selected for an International Ceramic residency in Japan that ran for 7 weeks after graduation, so I plunged straight into a clay immersion experience. I was mixing with ceramic artists and potters from all over the world and at various stages of their careers, from production throwers and sculptors to college tutors and conceptual artists, all making their living through clay. Being the youngest in the group, I saw so much to spur me on and was ready to pick up on all the tips and pearls of wisdom. I was also full of questions and the other artists were more than happy to share their experiences and advice.
We visited Japanese potters who dug their own clay, cut their own wood from their land and fired kilns they had built themselves like all the generations of potters before them. It was so idyllic and natural and such a contrast to my experience when I went back to the UK and set up my studio in a shared complex in central London!
Nevertheless, I took the passion that I had been surrounded by and channeled it into my new business. I started to set up my studio within 2 weeks of arriving back and paired it with a part time job at the Crafts Council, which I kept for 4 years before I went full time as a ceramic artist.
I stayed at Cockpit Arts for nearly 10 years before moving out of London to Kent in 2005 with my family. Here we built my studio in the garden in the middle of farmland with far reaching views….quite a contrast to living and working in London.
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?
Things started really quickly for my business. It was 1996 and the craft scene was booming. Before long, I was struggling to pace myself with the demand for my work. My business began to take over all areas of my life. I was working long hours and most weekends. It was such a buzz at the time that I didn’t mind at all. I had work in galleries and design stores all over the UK and in top USA department stores and museums. I had one freelancer and numerous work experience students working for me. Things were great. However, when I look back, I think I was really was on the verge of burning out. Marriage and the birth of my daughter in 2002 were a good reality check and a chance to reevaluate everything.
I am a ‘yes’ person, so saying ‘no’ or ‘not now’ to opportunities was really hard for me to do in my twenties. Now I am better at weighing things up, still slightly compelled to take things on but with better pricing awareness and a slightly more realistic sense of time scale. My advice to my younger self would be to always assume that things take much longer and cost much more to make than you estimate.
How do you stay feeling creative and inspired?
Keeping up to date with the work of other visual artists, doing group exhibitions and collaborations helps to keep my creativity flowing. It is always nice to have a break from working from home. Having a new perspective helps to keep me inspired. I also enjoy doing the occasional commission that takes me out of my comfort zone and stretches me. My interest in live music, theatre and film all feed in to my creativity as well.
What does a good work-life balance look like for you? And how do you maintain it?
This is always a tricky one for me as it seems to take continual effort to keep some kind of balance, particularly as I work from home. The benefits of being around and available for family has its impact on my business but the flexibility that working form home allows is very valuable to me. Working late at night and over the weekend to make up lost work time can be the cost, but I have equally scarcely had to miss a sports day, school play or special family event.
How does being a woman affect your work?
There are lots of women working in the art and craft field today, so that helps in many ways to shape the way that we experience things. Women before us have laid down the foundations for female artists and craftspeople and we are so lucky for that. Makers can often be very supportive of each other as we can better understand the sheer graft that is involved in making something by hand.
How do you stay motivated when work and life get tough?
Making with your hands can be a very meditative process, so for me, studio time can be a great antidote to other pressures and stresses. It is so rewarding to spend time on something and have a physical object to show for it. This can help to counter the sense of wasted time spent doing administration on the computer! Admittedly in the deepest of winter and on the darkest of days when the studio tap runs icy cold and the light is poor, then it can be very tough. The same goes for the height of summer when the kiln has been on overnight and the studio temperature soars to 39 degrees. A phone call, change of scene, a dog walk or a visit to the sea can be a fantastic help.
Having a good network of artist friends is something that I am really grateful for. They will invariably understand how I am feeling and offer advice and a listening ear when sales have been bad, a kiln firing has been a disaster or clients have been unreasonable.
How do you ensure you practise self care?
This is probably my weakest area. As my work hours and working week is so changeable, this can be really difficult. I really love what I do and enjoy immersing myself in projects, so self care often comes bottom of my list. When I am at my busiest, taking an hour out for a dog walk can be really frustrating but I usually feel much better for it and will work much more constructively as a result. I struggle to get to any classes after work and my weekends are busy with family commitments. This is something I will be aiming to work on in the 2019……(I am sure I said that last year)!
What does money mean to you?
I am not naturally very materialistic but I would say that money represents opportunity, freedom and security to me.
My favourite thing is when a fellow maker or artist proposes a swap. It is so exciting to come away from a show with a new acquisition in the knowledge that no money has changed hands and that your work has found a happy home. The same goes for work swaps when I exchange teaching hours and material costs for a course or a painting, for example. I can honestly say that around 1/3 of my paintings and objects in my house are swaps which I could never have afforded otherwise.
What one piece of money advice would you give to your younger self?
I would say to invest in machinery and equipment for the business as a top priority. There is always the tendency to want to make do and not spend the money. I think I would have spent a lot less on osteopathy for a bad back if I had bought the right equipment from the start!
What’s next for you?
I am trying for some new shows this year and aiming to apply for some societies that I have been considering for a while. No big leaps but some small hops. Perhaps some travel too, China perhaps, maybe even with a quick visit to Japan for old times’ sake.