Meeting with Amy Jayne Hughes

I met with Amy Jayne Hughes as part of the optional studio visit brief set before the summer holidays. I have followed Amy's work for a long time and aspire to be where she is in her career. We both share a love for vessels, for and texture and their relations to decoration. Amy draws her form inspiration from 18th century ceramics but the surfaces are influenced by her drawings.

My goal going into our meeting was to find out how she got to where she is and the steps I need to take to get to a similar place. I prepared a few questions but ultimately just let the conversation flow.

Firstly, I asked what influences her work, aside from 18th century ceramics and her drawing. She responded that she likes evoking feeling with a line and aims to translate this over to ceramics, or see if the same drawing effect is achievable in ceramics. She listed many artists and printmakers that influence her style and work, including Matisse and Hockney. She likes layers (another thing we have in common) and enjoys artists, like Matisse, who collage and layer materials and paints.

This led to me asking about the development of her work, earlier in her career she created ceramics that had very sketchy illustrations whereas her more resent pots have been quite abstract with bold colours. Does this represent a development of her drawing style? Amy replied that her early stuff neglected colour despite her love of it. Within her recent works she was aiming to inject colour back into her practice. The most recent of her works were also developed during the covid lockdowns for herself rather than as a commission etc, so she felt she had greater freedom to do whatever she wanted without worry of failing or making anything 'wrong'. I also asked about where she derives her colour palettes from, to which she said she often does drawings and sees which colours work together and which she likes. The colours she used for After Alhambra were also nods to the faded colours on the 18th century ceramic she was inspired by, using this colour across multiple pieces so they sit well together and people could possibly buy a few.

Below: Amy Jayne Hughes 'Ultramarine Sketch Vase' 2015 (left) and 'After Alhambra' 2020 (right)

Following this, I moved more to asking about how she started her practice. how did she get her name out there and what were her next steps after graduating from the RCA? Amy and her cohort sold more work than expected at their grad show and collectively put this money to setting up a studio together with second-hand equipment. They would host a birthday party for the studio annually so people could come and view the studio and work without an agenda or pressure, which was a great way to network.

Amy also gave me a great amount of advice for getting started:

  • Be adaptive. The instagram algorithm changes all the time so don't rely on one platform for your work to be successful, don't rely on anything you can't control for the success of your work. In person relationships are very valuable, you need this as well as online etc.

  • Longevity - lots of people give up as the first 5 years are super tough. keep going and stay relevant and in peoples minds - contact them etc.

  • Applications - write as many as you can, apply to 99 might get 1

  • Galleries - only apply to those right for you and your work. Waste of your time and theirs by applying to places that your work doesn't situate well in.

  • Lots of places offer funding, e.g. arts council, find them and apply

  • Look for internships, work experience, think about where you want your pieces to end up - helpful to have knowledge of being on both sides of a transaction.

Personal advice:

  • Message Preston Fitzgerald about MA show, he is likely to turn up and is a great contact to have

  • Email galleries like vessel also about grad collection

  • Designers guild - big supporters of MA work - also invite to grad show

  • Don't do trade shows if they're not right for your work, if you need to make money one year making mugs at a trade show then do it, but only if worthwhile.

  • The new craftsman, craft potters association, contemporary applied arts, mint gallery - all places to look into.

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