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A Moment with Izzy McFarlane - Ceramic Artist

Izzy McFarlane is a ceramic artist based in Margate. Having studied printed textiles at Leeds Arts University, she bought a kick wheel in August 2020 and has been making ceramics ever since. She takes a lot of inspiration from architecture and mid century design, which is what drew us to her brilliant work. Izzy very kindly gifted a set of 4 mugs for our latest giveaway and we caught up with her to find more about her work, why she settled in Margate, and her proudest eBay bargain…

Let's start from the beginning. What’s your background and how did you get to where you are today?

My creative journey really began at UCA Canterbury on their amazing foundation course. This is when I found the direction I wanted to take my work in, I loved the design focus of textiles and working with such tactile materials, and it was at this point I started playing with colour and graphic shapes in my designs. I then went on to study Textile Design at Leeds Arts University specialising in screen print. It was here that I first tried working with clay, as I loved the idea of combining my 2D textile design with 3D elements so I spent a lot of time creating objects in the ceramics room. When the pandemic hit, all our work had to be created digitally which I definitely knew wasn’t for me, so I decided not to return for my final year and took a different direction instead!

What inspires you?

My work is very influenced by Mid Century design and Brutalist Architecture. I really love the strong, angular shapes found in these areas, and really enjoy juxtaposing the graphic shapes with soft colours. Since moving back to the sea I’ve been really inspired by the colours and shapes of the coastline, so I’m hoping to create more work looking at that soon.

You've only been making ceramics since 2020. What prompted this?

While taking what was initially a year out from university during the pandemic, I was searching for a creative outlet I could do at home. I was curious about pottery and had done a little at university but I hadn’t thrown on a wheel before and there weren’t any classes available at the time, so I found a very cheap kick wheel for sale and set it up at the back of my parents garden and instantly fell in love! I mostly self taught with Youtube videos, but got amazing guidance and kiln access at ClaySpace in Cliftonville. I’ve been potting everyday since!

How long have you lived in Margate and why did you choose to settle there?

I grew up in Ramsgate but always loved the artistic atmosphere of Margate, with Turner Contemporary at the heart of it for me. I moved to South East London for a year but found it difficult to connect with the kind of condensed creative community that’s in Margate, so decided to make the move back at the end of the summer and set up my studio here. 

We love the references to architecture in your work. What’s your favourite piece of architecture and why?

My favourite piece of architecture is definitely the Barbican (so much so I made a range of mugs named after it!). It’s an iconic landmark of brutalist design, and has such a rich art and design history I can’t help but be inspired by it. I also love the links between the functional nature of its design and the functionality of my own work. I believe that things should be both useful and beautiful. 

Can you describe your work in 3 words?

Sculptural, functional and joyful (I hope!)

How would you describe your day-to-day?

Most days I’m in my studio in the centre of Margate either throwing, trimming or glazing. I’m definitely someone who has to plan their time meticulously, so I make lists of everything I need to get done that week and work my way through. I try to take walks on my lunch break along the beach so I can see the sea before it gets dark. I have to make the most of any daylight I can get at the moment! It’s been nonstop with Christmas prep for the last few months, so I’m really looking forward to taking a slower pace in the new year and working on some new designs.

You’re often involved in makers markets and pop up events. Have you got any coming up?

I’ll be selling at the Christmas Independent Ceramics Market on 11th December at Rich Mix London Arts Centre, Tower Hamlets along with some other amazing artists, definitely worth a visit!

What does home mean to you?

Home is somewhere I feel creatively stimulated and supported, but also safe, calm and close to family. I feel I’ve found all these things in Margate, and I feel so lucky to have been able to make a home and place to work here.

What’s your top tip for living more sustainably?

My top tip would be to reuse what you already have. My studio is full of jam jars and plastic pots for glaze containers, not everything has to be pretty!

Name a forever item of clothing or accessory that you couldn't live without?

That’s a tough choice, but I think it’d have to be my suede fringe jacket. It’s my proudest eBay bargain, and just makes any outfit.

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