Nest: Over the Rainbow with Amanda Banham and her Clay Club
Going back to the beginning: were you destined to take a creative path in life?
I was always drawing and making as a child, and that carried on into adulthood. Being a child of the 1970s, clay was featured on the curriculum a lot! When I left school, I worked as a florist and even milked cows for a while, but eventually did an illustration degree at Cambridge School of Art as a mature student. In my third year I combined this with ceramics and haven’t looked back.
How did you discover your talent for working clay - and what makes it your ideal medium?
I’ve loved clay since I was a child, but it took me about 40 years to realise you could do this as a job. . . While at university, I experimented with making things in wire, papier-mâché, textiles, glass and clay and found it was the clay that I fell in love with - I went on to work at Rachel Dormor’s ceramics studio in Cambridge during my degree. I think allowing myself to ‘play’ with lots of mediums was essential in finding my path to clay.
What inspires your designs? Tell us a bit about your process.
I’ve always enjoyed storytelling and my houses and rainbows stem from that. They are inspired by the houses in Saffron Walden, where I live, and Thaxted, a beautiful old Essex town with lots of colourful houses.
The screen-print illustrations I use on my bowls and plates are inspired by things in my life: for instance, my husband is a swimmer, so my swimmer screen-print is based on him. I also have three dogs and four children, so take much of my inspiration from them.
What's the reward of creating - and selling - your own ceramics? Is it a full-time enterprise?
I now work full-time making and selling my work. I used to teach quite a lot of classes, but have cut right back on that as demand for my own work doesn’t allow the time!
I use Instagram - @amandabanhamceramics - for sharing my work and my stories and there’s a huge sense of reward when people enjoy reading the captions and comment.
And, of course, a great reward is when people are happy to part with their hard-earned cash for something you have made. I feel proud that, after four years of doing this full-time, my business is in profit and I am contributing in a substantial way to our household income.
Where do you work? Give us a visual.
I work in my studio at the back of the house. It used to be my boys’ playroom when they were small and has large sliding doors that open up onto the garden.
I always listen either to audiobooks or Radio 4; I never miss Woman’s Hour or The Archers. I am surrounded by my enormous kiln, a smaller kiln, and my three dogs who enjoy the warmth!
Amanda’s work is available at Cambridge Contemporary Crafts on Cambridge’s Bene’t Street and via her website, clay-club.com, where you’ll also find a nationwide list of stockists. Prices start from £30 for bowls and plates, £35 for a rainbow and £40 for a house.