Vanessa Hogge on self-employment, career changes and staying true to your passion

Organic and ornate, spontaneous and stylised, Vanessa Hogge crafts her beautiful decorative wallflowers and vessels in her studio at Cockpit Arts Holborn, breathing new life into her clay in the form of dahlias, chrysanthemums, daisies, hydrangeas and daphne.

Working predominantly in porcelain, she takes an instinctive, visceral approach to each piece, painstakingly sculpting every petal and anther by hand, so that no two flowers are identical. We recently interviewed Vanessa for our magazine Creative Boom. Here's a snippet of what we chatted about.

What has been your career path to this point – would you also mind talking about how you fit it in with family life – are your children grown up now?

"I'm afraid I gave up being a ceramicist when my children came along (in '93 and '95). I had some good orders in – had supplied Paul Smith shops in London, Tokyo and New York with large sunflower vases but it just proved too difficult to juggle a job, children and being a self-employed ceramicist.

"I married a furniture designer so we were both 'creative' and without proper jobs! Very hard to survive and sadly we both got jobs, albeit in the creative industry, but not as makers in the end! So I became an interiors stylist and worked freelance for a number of years for various publications including Homes & Gardens. I grew increasingly interested in graphic design and laying out pages beautifully as opposed to creating the images for the pages.

"I retrained and worked for a number of years as a designer for various agencies until 2015 when a bag of clay in my shed caught my eye and I remembered that it was my true passion and what I actually trained to do! The children had both disappeared off to university so with more time and a whole lot of life experience I started my ceramic career again. I think there is so much to be said for having experienced other careers – the styling and graphic design experience stand me in very good stead now."

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Is it easier to be a maker compared to when you first started in the early '90s? What's changed?

"It's so much easier and fun now compared to then. The whole social media revolution is so enabling – to be able to take a quick photo of your work and share it with thousands instantly is so enabling for a business/craftsperson."

How did you know that it was ceramics you wanted to go into and not another art form?

"I love decorative textiles, surface pattern and painters who portray flowers – Georgia o’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo and Marianne North, for example – they are great influencers but to work in 3D and in particular clay is the most luscious experience.

"There is no medium like it. Especially porcelain which I predominantly work with – silky smooth and soft to the touch, but very strong and stone like once it's fired. It's unpredictable, so much can go wrong with firings and glazes which all adds to the thrill. And I know it's a cliche but I still get such a buzz every single time I open the kiln – that thrill never leaves you."

See the full interview on Creative Boom. To find out more about Vanessa and her work, visit vanessahogge.com. Or you can follow her adventures on Instagram @VanessaHogge.

Katy Cowan

Manchester, England,