My making journey.
A graduate from the Applied Art department of Ulster University, Jemma Millen Ceramics works from her studio in the beautiful countryside in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, where she creates handmade ceramics.
After graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Fine & Applied Art; specialising in Ceramics, Jemma works across a range of ceramics processes such as hand-building, throwing & slip-casting - creating sculptural and more recently everyday functional work for the home.
“The Meadow Plate homeware range is inspired by the floral spectacle of beautiful meadows and wildflowers found in the fields and glens near my home in the County Antrim countryside. Each piece of this range has a relief floral sprig - made from a real local flower - individually applied to the surface. The surface design aims to forever capture those peaceful meadow moments; to be kept and used at home. I often want to bring the outside-in, so I made this range as a small snap-shot of the beauty we can find locally.
Every piece is handmade from a rich, earthy terracotta clay and each surface is glazed with a crisp, white tin glaze; creating a beautiful contrast against the red ceramic. The clay is a smooth earthenware body which transforms from dark brown when greenware to light orange after bisque then finally a deep terracotta red after the final firing.
My trays, plates & serving boards are handmade using traditional hand-building skills starting with a slab of clay, which is formed over a drape mould to shape the piece. My floral sprigs are made from moulds I’ve produced from locally sourced flowers. Applying each sprig is a delicate and fiddly process as they can distort easily. The piece is dried slowly before it’s fired to 1000 °C, where the clay is first changed to ceramic. I apply the glaze and fire the ceramic for its last time where the surface transforms into a shiny, opaque white."
Jemma has been supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Follow Jemma on Instagram @jemmamillenceramics for a glimpse into her practice as a contemporary ceramicist or on Twitter & Facebook for updates on where her handmade ceramics are available.
Jemma is also co-host of Making Conversations Podcast alongside Silversmith Robyn Galway.
Let's be honest; ceramics is not an eco friendly craft and therefore my practice is not. Clay and glaze materials are mined from the earth and firing uses a lot of energy. I'd love my studio off-set by clean energy solutions, but I'm not in a position to have that.
So where are you going with this sustainability chat Jemma?
I do work hard to make sustainable choices in my work. All of my packaging is plastic free and 100% recyclable - even the brown parcel tape is made from natural adhesive and can be recycled alongside the boxes. All of my boxes are made with minimum 75% recycled fibres and are 100% recyclable too. I use 100% biodegradable & compostable packing peanuts when posting my work also; these are starch based and made from renewable sources and according to my dog, are absolutely delicious.
If you receive too many of these in an order from me, they dissolve in water to reduce space in composting bins.
I'm conscious of waste in my making too; recycling my clay, firing low temps & not too often, using lead-free glazes and using/selling seconds but I'm constantly investigating where I can make environmentally positive choices in my business and I love working with my excellent stockists and local businesses that share my values too.
I'm not a 100% carbon-free business (I'd love to meet a potter who is!) but I'm 100% as sustainable as I can be.