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With a mission to push the boundaries of clay, Emma loves to place ceramics in unexpected places - specialising in bespoke projects for hotels, homes and more. We take a peek inside her newly revamped studio just outside Henley-on-Thames.

Tell us a little about your work and your background.

I have always liked ceramics and 3D art forms. The biggest influence in my life was doing an MA in ceramics at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen (KADK), and then doing ceramics residencies in China and Denmark. I love traveling and culture and it's amazing to be able to transcend language with an art form.

My current practice is bespoke ceramic items for architects, hotels and residential clients - working on projects such as Birch Hotel and the amazing Native restaurant at Browns boutique in London. I love pushing ceramics into an object where you would not normally expect to see them, such as handrails, lighting and coat hooks. I do make tableware of course and sculptural vessels. But I really love designing for a client, especially when they are blown away with the result of our months’ of conversations.

Birch Hotel

What made you decide to start your creative business?

I was working as a product designer for two amazing women in Copenhagen at Halskov og Dalsgaard Design (I’ve had a number of female role models including my Mother throughout my life). In Copenhagen, I fell off my bike, broke both my arms. Although I had great friends to look after me, I missed the importance of family, so I decided to move home. Their support has meant that I can concentrate on moving forward and overcome hurdles involved with running any small business.

Native restaurant at Browns Ceramic sink Set of mugs

Where do you find inspiration?

EVERYWHERE! We are so lucky to be so close to London and the cultural diversity, as well as the fantastic museums and galleries. I also love countryside adventures. My dog (Jaffa) and I walked up Snowdon for sunrise while collecting a second-hand ceramic machine from Wales this year.

Colours, shapes, textures and fashions change all around us daily and I'm swamped with ideas. The problem is not having enough time to get them out of my head and translate them in a physical way. This year, I'm expanding my studio, so I can have help making the designs and give me more time to generate new ideas, projects and opportunities.

Describe your typical working day

Well, ceramics is all about timing so I have to work some weekends and evenings to meet deadlines. Sometimes things aren't dry enough to work with so you have to be patient and wait... which can be so hard, sometimes I don't wait - and then it's ruined! Just wait - be patient Emma - it's like my mantra! I also teach in the evenings and at the weekends.

But a normal weekday goes.....

7-9am: Gym or Dog walk with my friend - this allows me to be social before my work brain has woken up and taken over! Then COFFEE and breakfast - I'm vile if im not full of coffee! Emails, Instagram, Wordle.

9-12.30: slip casting, throwing, trimming, mixing glaze… all the physical work!

12.30-13.15 LUNCH! herbal tea - no more coffee! Sometimes if I'm alone and I'm "in the zone' it can be 6pm before I think about food.

13.15 - 17.00 - Emailing clients, putting together design proposals, I pitch for about five projects and get one. Followed by endless cleaning: floors and surfaces…

17.30-18.00 - Dog cuddles and rubbish TV to decompress. I'm sure I should say something wholesome - but no it's Schitts Creek, for about the fifth time! In the evenings, dinner with friends or family, and in the summer paddle boarding with my niece and dogs!

What has been the biggest highlight and biggest challenge to date?

Physically? Installing a 3-metre tiled concrete table by a client's pool, which nearly ended up involving a crane.. A huge effort, but seeing it in situ and hearing the client’s feedback that she's been dancing on it at summer dinner parties, that's a highlight!

Business-wise, I'm not good at social media, invoicing or updating my website. I'm hoping to have a brand overhaul, but there is so much making to be done that I don't have time. I think that's why I work with the same clients again and again. They know I'll go above and beyond, so the clients are happy. But this does mean I'm not expanding my network to new clients. I'd also like to get more involved locally, most of my clients are based in London. I'd like to work more with the Henley / Oxfordshire community, I'm hoping there's an exciting project in the works with Tonder and Tonder - watch this space.

Best nugget of wisdom you can share with your fellow Creative Ducks?

Just do it! Stealing this from Nike, but there are so many people making ceramics. However, there’s enough work to go round and we are all different. If you want to make candles but your neighbour is making candles, don't let it put you off! You don't have to be competition or 'better' - just support each other. Follow your passion and dream with kindness… and money will come at some point.

Ohhhh and open a separate business account before your first sale - it's so much easier. I only did this after a year and wasted time on excel spread sheets dividing everything. Admin doesn't make me happy but no job is 100% what you want to do, I usually reward admin work with chocolate!

Find out more at:

@emmalouisepayne (instagram)

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