22 November 2021
Meet the Maker: Katch Skinner
In our Meet the Maker blog series, we profile the independent creative businesses behind some of our product ranges in the British Library Shop (both online and at our St Pancras, London site). This month, we meet Katch Skinner, who hand makes unique ceramic items with character.
Based at Northlight Art Studios in Hebden Bridge, a not-for-profit cooperative, Katch started making ceramics as a spare time project before stepping up production after winning a Liberty open call in 2018. Katch is inspired by the idea of adding personality or history to otherwise everyday items.
‘My auntie used to have these amazing ceramic mugs with feet on, which always fascinated me – that idea of taking something from the mundane and giving it a narrative is the starting point of a lot of my work. I also have a love for Staffordshire ware and commemorative ware and how it’s used to document historical events, from political satire to holiday souvenirs.’
As well as egg cups and domestic ware, Katch also produces exhibition-related pieces for museum and gallery shops, as well as one-off items for exhibitions and commissions. Everything is made completely from scratch – the process starts with the design, before sculpting, mould making, casting, fettling, painting, firing and glazing. This level of handcrafting rather than mass-producing is what gives the pieces their uniqueness, with each item appearing to have its own personality.
‘For a little cup like 'Mary, Queen of Scots', once the mould is made, it can then take over a week to make a cup: it is slip cast, fettled and needs about a day or two to dry before underglaze and sgraffito are applied. This is then fired to bisque which takes around two days in the kiln. This then has to be glazed and re-fired to an earthenware temperature, taking another two days.’
We are delighted to be stocking four of Katch’s egg cup designs at the British Library Shop, with 'Brontë' and 'Austen' as part of our main range, and 'Elizabeth I' and 'Mary, Queen of Scots', as part of our Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens exhibition range. Though they are designed as egg cups, they can have lots of functions such as salt pots, jewellery dishes, small planters, and more. Buying and Merchandising Manager Maxine says:
‘The British Library Shop has always prided itself on supporting designer-makers and working with small businesses to offer products that are unique, innovative and design-led. When I first came across Katch Skinner’s ceramics, they ticked every box for us and we were sure our customers would agree.’
Having run ceramics classes at Northlight for about seven years, Katch has this year taken a step back from teaching to focus more on producing work – such as a fun project designing exclusive 'Queen' and 'Corgi' egg cups for the National Portrait Gallery. Katch is currently working on a project about local folklore, with plans to exhibit the resulting narrative pots and plates in the places where the stories are from, and hopes for a bigger studio to enable production of larger items.
Katch’s advice for anyone starting out with their own business?
‘I have made lots of mistakes – communication is the key with new stockists. Make sure people understand your processes – with my work being handmade I just make to order so turn-around can be from one month to over a year depending on the items. If people understand how you make your work it leads to better partnerships and fewer disappointments.’
Browse the British Library Shop’s Katch Skinner range
Visit Katch’s website
Follow Katch on Instagram