Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, videos and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Polly Fern

Published:

Polly Fern

I live on the Suffolk Norfolk border in a pink Georgian house by the river. My boyfriend and I (with help from friends) built my dedicated ceramic studio in our garden. I previously shared a studio space with other artists, but soon outgrew the studio. Once we found and moved to our house, I felt it was the right time to create my own space.

I grew up in Norfolk; as a young girl I was fortunate to grow up in a beautiful house surrounded by farmlands that my grandparents farmed when my mum was younger. My family then moved to a cottage just down the road, so the Norfolk landscape has always inspired my ceramic works.

Polly Fern

For as long as I can remember, I have always been creative and could always be found making things as a child. Looking back, I think the first time that I really got immersed in creating was when I was studying my GCSE Art in high school. I remember every single evening after school I would rush home and start drawing in my sketchbook—my days were filled with an outpouring of drawing and creating objects!

I remember drawing this series of gothic characters and, as we had so many animals growing up, I would transform them through my illustrations into these hilarious characters with names such as ‘Peachy’ for a pink frog I found in our garden!

Polly Fern

In those days, I had no idea that being an illustrator was a ‘real job,’ so I only started to take it seriously when I went to apply for university and realized it was a standalone course. I initially applied for Fine Art, but once my friend pointed out the Illustration course, all the pieces seemed to fall into place.

In my final year of university, I wanted to share my illustrated stories through objects and not just on paper, so I set about finding out how I could make ceramics. At the beginning, I took an evening class every Wednesday, where I would spend a couple of hours making what I wanted. When it came to my end-of-year show, all my work was ceramic—which was unusual for an illustration degree show!

Polly Fern

As soon as I graduated, I went straight into freelancing in illustration and then joined the ceramic studio, where I spent a lot of time developing my practice. I worked and worked until I was happy with the ceramics and confident enough to start selling them. I had already opened an online shop whilst still in university where I sold original artworks and prints, and then this evolved to selling my illustrated ceramics too.

I see home-making as an extension of my creativity, and being a creative is my whole life!

I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love and have a creative business. When I’m not working I love antiquing, gardening and interiors. I recently moved into my first home, so I am constantly planning, painting, decorating and on the hunt for antiques!

Polly Fern

I am very fortunate to have two creative spaces; one is inside our house where I keep my paintings, do my illustration work and package all my shop orders. I call this my ‘clean’ workspace.

My second workspace is the studio that we built outside in the garden. It’s a timber-framed building and it’s where my kiln is housed and where I create all my ceramics. Ceramics can be extremely messy, so I’ve made this a calm space, with plaster pink walls and simple shelving. The tile linoleum floor is easy to clean when I’m constantly spilling glazes and clays. The ceiling has two skylights for as much natural light as possible; these really transform it from being a shed to a proper building.

Polly Fern

I feel like my work today is an accumulation of skills over a long period of time, particularly my process. It has genuinely taken me years to develop my way of working. I remember back to when I first made ceramics at Yarmouth College; I made a bird box and learnt the technique of paper resist from my tutor.

Years later I was able to take this technique of ‘paper resist’ and push the method further, creating more detailed paper cutting techniques to bring to life my intricate characters and designs. This was the first technique I felt I really owned, and it defined me and my identity as an artist. Since graduating, I have freelanced in illustration and developed my ceramics further; I am always working to refine my making process with my tin-glazed Romantic Vases and Platters.

I take newspaper cuttings of my designs and then collage them onto clay. Then I paint over the paper with a pigmented slip. Once the slip has dried a little, I peel the design away to reveal the resisted characters. The next step is then to work back into the piece by painting and drawing into the clay, making each piece unique.

Tin-Glazed Ceramics are inspired and informed by traditional ceramic shapes, but slab built to create a modern take on a traditional vessel. Each piece is handmade and bisque fired. They are then dipped in a tin glaze, with each one painted upon using oxides and pigments. These ‘loose’ paintings upon the ceramics make each piece an original work of art.

Polly Fern
This is not particularly sentimental, but my favorite item in my studio is probably my box of test tiles! It’s like a treasure chest to me, as it’s where all my ideas develop. I create these little miniature ceramic tiles and then decorate them as though they are my sketchbook. These will later be developed and transformed into my Romantic Vases and Platters.

I would like to think of my work and creative style as timeless. I draw inspiration from many different periods throughout the history of ceramics, but I like to put a more modern spin on my pieces. The different styles and techniques tend to eclectically merge as one with my Romantic Vases and Platters.

My main inspiration for my designs and illustrations comes from discovering stories; these can be local garden stories or historical stories I discover when visiting places. I am very much inspired by Victorian Transferware, and when I am in Holt in North Norfolk, I always pop into a shop called Richard Scott Antiques. Richard has collected Victorian Transferware for many years and he’s always got interesting pieces on display.

Polly Fern

I particularly find the borders and motifs upon Victorian Transferware plates a big influence upon my own ceramics. I love how they used the relief details and motifs with a white glaze upon the clay to highlight the relief in a subtle way. I tend to maintain these decorative relief borders throughout all my pieces by using a slip trailer to pipe them on, and finish using a simple white tin glaze to coat the details.

I like to paint characters or animals from memory rather than a photograph, as the characters tend to become their own species and feature as ongoing motifs throughout all my work.

I also enjoy the limited enamel color palettes used to spot paint upon the central black transfer drawings. My own color palettes are often informed by these, especially with my use of chromium green oxide. I tend to restrict my color palettes per piece to three to four colors. The characters amongst the Victorian Staffordshire figurines have always had a big influence upon my work. I fondly remember my grandmother owning them; they were always present when I was growing up. What I particularly find quite charming about them is how the characters are all taken from molds and are duplicated hundreds of times, but they are all hand painted; I enjoy the variation within the same characters. I love how they have strange expressions upon their faces, or how something has been painted by someone so many times that the detail starts to look not quite right—a little off, unusual and comical. This is something that I try to maintain within my own work.

Polly Fern

My biggest challenge today is having enough space! The more work I create, the more space I need, so I find that I easily outgrow my studio. I am also thinking about the idea of working in a space which is not attached to my home, but I am torn, as I love the convenience of working from home.

Each piece is illustrated with a drawing inspired by places and historical and childhood stories.

I think the biggest challenge with creating sometimes is making people aware of the amount of time and work that goes into everything, particularly with ceramics. The process is so lengthy, and often things can go dramatically wrong during the firing!

Polly Fern

There can also be a pressure to be making new pieces of work all the time when running a creative business. I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s not always possible to do this, and I have to take a step back to try and spend time outside of the space of being creative to let more inspiration in.

The simplicity and storytelling element within the transfers are a particular influence for me as an illustrator, as I am always wanting to illustrate characters or tell stories through my pieces.

Personally, my biggest accomplishment so far has been moving into my first home and building my garden studio. Creatively, my biggest accomplishment has been my Pop-Up Shop at Pentreath & Hall in October 2019. It came at just the right time for me and was a vast collection of work that took many many months to create. There were so many different aspects to the event that I had to pull together for the final show. I feel really proud of the collection and how the shop looked; it all came together beautifully!

Polly Fern

Polly Fern

I live on the Suffolk Norfolk border in a pink Georgian house by the river. My boyfriend and I (with help from friends) built my dedicated ceramic studio in our garden. I previously shared a studio space with other artists, but soon outgrew the studio. Once we found and moved to our house, I felt it was the right time to create my own space.

I grew up in Norfolk; as a young girl I was fortunate to grow up in a beautiful house surrounded by farmlands that my grandparents farmed when my mum was younger. My family then moved to a cottage just down the road, so the Norfolk landscape has always inspired my ceramic works.

Polly Fern

For as long as I can remember, I have always been creative and could always be found making things as a child. Looking back, I think the first time that I really got immersed in creating was when I was studying my GCSE Art in high school. I remember every single evening after school I would rush home and start drawing in my sketchbook—my days were filled with an outpouring of drawing and creating objects!

I remember drawing this series of gothic characters and, as we had so many animals growing up, I would transform them through my illustrations into these hilarious characters with names such as ‘Peachy’ for a pink frog I found in our garden!

Polly Fern

In those days, I had no idea that being an illustrator was a ‘real job,’ so I only started to take it seriously when I went to apply for university and realized it was a standalone course. I initially applied for Fine Art, but once my friend pointed out the Illustration course, all the pieces seemed to fall into place.

In my final year of university, I wanted to share my illustrated stories through objects and not just on paper, so I set about finding out how I could make ceramics. At the beginning, I took an evening class every Wednesday, where I would spend a couple of hours making what I wanted. When it came to my end-of-year show, all my work was ceramic—which was unusual for an illustration degree show!

Polly Fern

As soon as I graduated, I went straight into freelancing in illustration and then joined the ceramic studio, where I spent a lot of time developing my practice. I worked and worked until I was happy with the ceramics and confident enough to start selling them. I had already opened an online shop whilst still in university where I sold original artworks and prints, and then this evolved to selling my illustrated ceramics too.

I see home-making as an extension of my creativity, and being a creative is my whole life!

I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love and have a creative business. When I’m not working I love antiquing, gardening and interiors. I recently moved into my first home, so I am constantly planning, painting, decorating and on the hunt for antiques!

Polly Fern

I am very fortunate to have two creative spaces; one is inside our house where I keep my paintings, do my illustration work and package all my shop orders. I call this my ‘clean’ workspace.

My second workspace is the studio that we built outside in the garden. It’s a timber-framed building and it’s where my kiln is housed and where I create all my ceramics. Ceramics can be extremely messy, so I’ve made this a calm space, with plaster pink walls and simple shelving. The tile linoleum floor is easy to clean when I’m constantly spilling glazes and clays. The ceiling has two skylights for as much natural light as possible; these really transform it from being a shed to a proper building.

Polly Fern

I feel like my work today is an accumulation of skills over a long period of time, particularly my process. It has genuinely taken me years to develop my way of working. I remember back to when I first made ceramics at Yarmouth College; I made a bird box and learnt the technique of paper resist from my tutor.

Years later I was able to take this technique of ‘paper resist’ and push the method further, creating more detailed paper cutting techniques to bring to life my intricate characters and designs. This was the first technique I felt I really owned, and it defined me and my identity as an artist. Since graduating, I have freelanced in illustration and developed my ceramics further; I am always working to refine my making process with my tin-glazed Romantic Vases and Platters.

I take newspaper cuttings of my designs and then collage them onto clay. Then I paint over the paper with a pigmented slip. Once the slip has dried a little, I peel the design away to reveal the resisted characters. The next step is then to work back into the piece by painting and drawing into the clay, making each piece unique.

Tin-Glazed Ceramics are inspired and informed by traditional ceramic shapes, but slab built to create a modern take on a traditional vessel. Each piece is handmade and bisque fired. They are then dipped in a tin glaze, with each one painted upon using oxides and pigments. These ‘loose’ paintings upon the ceramics make each piece an original work of art.

Polly Fern
This is not particularly sentimental, but my favorite item in my studio is probably my box of test tiles! It’s like a treasure chest to me, as it’s where all my ideas develop. I create these little miniature ceramic tiles and then decorate them as though they are my sketchbook. These will later be developed and transformed into my Romantic Vases and Platters.

I would like to think of my work and creative style as timeless. I draw inspiration from many different periods throughout the history of ceramics, but I like to put a more modern spin on my pieces. The different styles and techniques tend to eclectically merge as one with my Romantic Vases and Platters.

My main inspiration for my designs and illustrations comes from discovering stories; these can be local garden stories or historical stories I discover when visiting places. I am very much inspired by Victorian Transferware, and when I am in Holt in North Norfolk, I always pop into a shop called Richard Scott Antiques. Richard has collected Victorian Transferware for many years and he’s always got interesting pieces on display.

Polly Fern

I particularly find the borders and motifs upon Victorian Transferware plates a big influence upon my own ceramics. I love how they used the relief details and motifs with a white glaze upon the clay to highlight the relief in a subtle way. I tend to maintain these decorative relief borders throughout all my pieces by using a slip trailer to pipe them on, and finish using a simple white tin glaze to coat the details.

I like to paint characters or animals from memory rather than a photograph, as the characters tend to become their own species and feature as ongoing motifs throughout all my work.

I also enjoy the limited enamel color palettes used to spot paint upon the central black transfer drawings. My own color palettes are often informed by these, especially with my use of chromium green oxide. I tend to restrict my color palettes per piece to three to four colors. The characters amongst the Victorian Staffordshire figurines have always had a big influence upon my work. I fondly remember my grandmother owning them; they were always present when I was growing up. What I particularly find quite charming about them is how the characters are all taken from molds and are duplicated hundreds of times, but they are all hand painted; I enjoy the variation within the same characters. I love how they have strange expressions upon their faces, or how something has been painted by someone so many times that the detail starts to look not quite right—a little off, unusual and comical. This is something that I try to maintain within my own work.

Polly Fern

My biggest challenge today is having enough space! The more work I create, the more space I need, so I find that I easily outgrow my studio. I am also thinking about the idea of working in a space which is not attached to my home, but I am torn, as I love the convenience of working from home.

Each piece is illustrated with a drawing inspired by places and historical and childhood stories.

I think the biggest challenge with creating sometimes is making people aware of the amount of time and work that goes into everything, particularly with ceramics. The process is so lengthy, and often things can go dramatically wrong during the firing!

Polly Fern

There can also be a pressure to be making new pieces of work all the time when running a creative business. I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s not always possible to do this, and I have to take a step back to try and spend time outside of the space of being creative to let more inspiration in.

The simplicity and storytelling element within the transfers are a particular influence for me as an illustrator, as I am always wanting to illustrate characters or tell stories through my pieces.

Personally, my biggest accomplishment so far has been moving into my first home and building my garden studio. Creatively, my biggest accomplishment has been my Pop-Up Shop at Pentreath & Hall in October 2019. It came at just the right time for me and was a vast collection of work that took many many months to create. There were so many different aspects to the event that I had to pull together for the final show. I feel really proud of the collection and how the shop looked; it all came together beautifully!

Polly Fern

Flowers Unlimited

Be inspired by the BloomTV and Women Create experts as they share the beauty, the possibilities, and the stories of creating with flowers.

GET INSPIRED