Meet The Maker: Joanna Ling, Ceramicist, London
From leading a successful thirty years career in the art world as the head of the Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotheby’s, to successfully launching her own handmade ceramic atelier, Joanna Ling‘s story is incredibly inspiring. From her dainty studio in the back of her garden in South West London, she produces unique, handmade, mostly bespoke, pieces. The rarity of her creations makes them even more special and precious. We sit down to discuss career moves later in life, her inspiration, and what she wishes for 2021.
Could you tell us three things about you?
I worked for Sotheby’s for over 30 years before starting my second career as a ceramicist.
I believe very strongly in getting as much as possible out of life and making the most of every opportunity that arises.
I was brought up in a small village in Hampshire and my love of the natural world has stayed with me and is now fuelled by daily walks in Richmond Park.
What is the story behind Joanna Ling Ceramics?
While still working for Sotheby’s, I began attending a ceramics evening class. I was hooked from the first moment. Soon after this, I submitted a bowl I had made to Sotheby’s annual Staff Exhibition. Much to my surprise and delight, it sold and I was commissioned to make more pieces by a Sotheby’s client. This gave me the confidence to start making professionally and in 2018 I set up my business designing and creating mainly bespoke ceramics – producing work for private clients and selected UK stockists. A highlight last year was making an exclusive range for the National Portrait Gallery shop to coincide with their major spring show – Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things. Having run the Cecil Beaton Archive at Sotheby’s for nearly 25 years it was a dream come true to combine two of my great passions.
Where do you create your ceramics?
From my garden studio in south west London. I feel incredibly lucky that I just have to walk down (my very small!) garden to get to work. It still feels such a treat after decades of commuting into the West End and it has been a real blessing during lockdown.
What is behind the inspiration of your first design?
I had a very inspirational tutor when I first started learning and she suggested I try making a small wave bowl. The organic quality of the shape appealed to me and it is something that I return to often. Even when throwing work on the wheel, I like to manipulate the pieces by hand afterward to give more of a natural shape. I also learned quickly that porcelain was my preferred clay because, although it can be fiendishly difficult to work with, I love the delicacy and translucence you can achieve with it.
Can you tell us three tips for a successful second career?
Use your transferable skills and contacts.
Choose something that you are passionate about.
Is there something about ceramics people might not know about?
How difficult it is and its unpredictability! There are so many stages for disaster to strike from creating the shape to glazing to firing. You never know until you open the kiln how a piece will turn out – it’s not always a good surprise!
Do you think the confinement has changed the way people see their homes/tables?
Yes definitely. Peoples’ homes have become their refuges and there is much more incentive to make them as beautiful and practical as possible. As people can’t dine out, making the kitchen or dining room table look special can so enhance the at home dining experience. There are so many wonderfully inspiring tablescapes to look at online – Instagram is packed with sumptuous tables laden with stunning ceramics, table linen, flowers, and candles – it is very tempting to try replicating them at home.
What are your tips for the perfect table setting?
Nothing too formal. An eclectic mix of new and vintage, pattern and plain. Lots of seasonal flowers and candles, candles candles! Just have fun with it.
Any wishes for 2021?
To see my friends and family without being on a windswept walk.
To cook and entertain at home.
To be able to welcome visitors to my studio again.
Joanna Ling Ceramics Candle Holder Tall, Set of 2Hotel Pacai £80
Hand-thrown porcelain candleholder. Each one will slightly vary in size and shape due to its handmade quality. In a world of mass production, Joanna feels it important to cherish the singular which is why every piece she creates is unique and handmade from her garden studio. Her designs tend towards minimalism and simplicity and therefore look at home in most interiors.
Joanna Ling Ceramics Candle Holder Small, Set of 2Hotel Pacai £70
Hand thrown porcelain candleholder. Each one will slightly vary in size and shape due to its handmade quality. In a world of mass production, Joanna feels it important to cherish the singular which is why every piece she creates is unique and handmade from her garden studio. Her designs tend towards minimalism and simplicity and therefore look at home in most interiors.