• Jemma Leigh Conway

Libby Ballard Ceramics

Libby Ballard has always been creative and has had quite a natural process of becoming the ceramicist that she is today with her independent business, Libby Ballard Ceramics. After completing her Art Foundation at Farnham UCA, she wanted to follow the path of being a maker, although unsure of what kind. Having a slight inkling that she may become a jeweller, Libby went on to study Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics at Brighton University, where she first fell in love with ceramics.

After leaving university, she moved London and wanting to gain as much experience as possible, started working for 3 different ceramicists over a few years, as well as working as a ceramic technician at an adult education centre. By working across different artists over a period of time, it gave Libby time to develop her own ideas and further her skills whilst working. In April 2016, she had come to a point where she was getting pretty busy selling her own work, but with a small table space to work from, the ever rising London prices of studio and living costs and trying to work all hours to pay for it all, Libby decided it was time to grow her own business with more space and freedom to do so. She found an artist in residence space at The Pound Arts Centre in Corsham, Wiltshire and made the move from city to countryside. After a year at The Pound, Libby was able to take the leap into her business being full time. She stayed for a further 3 years before moving to Ridgeway Studios in Bristol, which is a larger space again, where she has been for the past year. Having just bought her first home, Libby is renovating the garage into a studio in order to run her business from there once complete.

When there isn’t a global pandemic happening, Libby runs private throwing classes where people can pay per session. She runs these classes on weekdays, weekends and evenings. After the lockdown is lifted and daily life resumes, Libby hopes to be able to hold these classes in her newly renovated studio at home.

Although Libby is a one woman business, she currently has a freelancer who comes in 1 day a week, but soon she hopes to be able to hire a more permanent position or have a few different apprentices or work experience students to assist with day to day studio tasks. In the future, she plans to have a small team to help grow further in order to sell more wholesale orders, direct sales and direct to restaurants.

Her work is inspired by the coast and the outdoors and with her inspiration, she experiments with new shapes, working on a trial and error basis. With comfort in her products being very important, Libby tends to create new designs with what comes naturally to a collection and how she could put her own unique spin on a traditionally staple piece. For examples, she can’t reinvent the mug, but she can sure try and make the most beautiful and comfortable mug in keeping with her style. When asked her favourite piece she’s made to date, Libby tells me that she worked on a special project for her best friend’s wedding, where she made 150 mini planters to hold cacti and succulents as table decorations but also wedding favours.

I asked Libby how she has found the learning process from the beginning, in which she states that each day for her is a learning curve; ‘You think you have cracked 1 thing then the next day there are more things to solve, more things to respond to and more products to create.’ She then goes on to say that that is what makes owning and running your own business so exciting and rewarding, the learning process never really stops. When the start of the current lockdown happened, a lot of businesses had to really learn how to adapt it’s day to day running to remain a business still, all whilst still maintaining a safe working environment, including Libby Ballard ceramics.

Her advice for young brands and businesses just starting out in the world of independents was honest, saying, ‘It’s bloomin’ hard work and you have got to be super dedicated but it is so worth it when you get lovely feedback from customers saying that your pieces have become their favourite piece in there home to use!’ Through her own hard work and determination, Libby has a number of super loyal customers who regularly place orders, ‘having that repeat custom just makes me feel like I must be doing something right! That is just the best!’ And with owning one of Libby’s mugs of my own, I have to agree!

Libby Ballard Ceramics can be found on her own website and Etsy shop, Not On The High Street and via her stockists.

Website: https://www.libbyballard.co.uk

Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LibbyBallardCeramics

Not On The High Street: https://www.notonthehighstreet.com/libbyballardceramics

Stockists: https://www.libbyballard.co.uk/stockists

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