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Characterful Ceramics: A Conversation with Brimble Studio

Ceramicist Jo Brimble chats to us about how her business came to existence, and how humour and storytelling shape her work.

By Grace O'Sullivan, The Croft Co-Editor in Chief and Second Year English

THE CROFT/ In Marie Kondo's philosophy, we are told that all the items we invite into our house should bring spark some form of joy. The works of Brimble Studio seem to have clocked this perfectly; I find it impossible to look at one of their ceramic pieces without wanting to smile.

I'm curious, then, as to whether the joyful nature that the pieces evoke are mirrored in the creation process. Jo Brimble, the workforce behind Brimble Studio, cautions that 'ceramics (...) are definitely not for the faint hearted! [It] can be a very frustrating medium, as you never know when it may crack during dying, or have an unexpected glazing or firing issue. But, it teaches you patience - and not to be too precious!'

Each piece from the Studio is so delicate, inflected with a distinct personality. Since studying illustration, Jo has always been interested in 'bringing a narrative to the work' she does. I'm curious as to whether this careful narrative building makes it easy to get emotionally attached to the products. 'Oh yes, so often I think I really want to keep them but that usually is a good indication that it will be popular. I create a back story with every character I create, which brings them to life even more and often makes me laugh. The sillier the better!'

© Jo Brimble

She describes the starting point, of having a 'head constantly full of ideas begging to come out' - which she partially attributes to having ADHD. Despite the temperamental nature of the craft, Jo confirms the importance of this studio time for her mental health.

As well as being positive for the mind, Brimble Studio is also environmentally positive. It is a zero energy workspace - 'our energy provider uses 100% renewable energy for all its electricity and My studio runs off electricity alone. I think it’s important to make sustainable decisions for your business as much as you can. No business is going to be 100% perfect within a sustainable conversation but that doesn’t mean you don’t try. I make sure all my packaging is biodegradable and some is also made of recycled content as well.'

Brimble Studio began in 2020, after redundancy prompted the start of a new business venture. Though this may not have been the planned route into this , Jo reflects that, 'careers aren’t one straight line, they're more like a squiggly line, with ups and downs, even starting again at times. And that’s ok.'

'I remember an illustrator I really admired came to speak to us when I was at uni and he told us he’d been a postman for years before his illustration career.'

© Jo Brimble

As a magazine appealing to creatives that don't come from an arts educated background, this unconventional journey is refreshing to hear. 'As much as I loved going to uni and studying illustration, I don’t think it is essential to being creative or, if you want to, starting your own creative business. I was too young to be able to start my business straight out of uni and know what my unique style looked like.'

'I was so lucky to have gone to a comprehensive school that had a huge art department and really valued this subject. I think being creative is such an important subject for mental health but also creative thinking allows you to come up with different ways of solving problems. This is crucial in almost any industry!'

Having begun to practice art in a supportive environment, 'I was so lucky to have gone to a comprehensive school that had a huge art department and really valued this subject', I ask if Bristol feels similarly supportive for someone with a creative appetite. The answer is yes, because of 'the mix of industries here; conceptual fine art, retail businesses, illustrators, film and TV, musicians and more. All have a place and offer different things, anything can spark an idea!'

© Jo Brimble

'So many people who end up gravitating this way that are creative, whether it’s art or music which has created a really unique vibe. Then when you’re surrounded by creative people and have a good creative community it helps push ideas further, inspiring you but also creates an environment where things seem more possible.'

I always feel that while we are taught the steps to becoming an employable person, our systems fail to teach us how to pioneer our own businesses. So, I ask Jo for her wisdom. 'I think the best thing to do is to work for a small business where you will learn to do multiple roles, then work for a large business in the same sort of industry. You’ll learn about how that industry looks scaled up. Both will give you a great understanding of all the different hats you’ll have to wear as a small creative business owner. Marketing, social media, customer service, buying, merchandising, production, budgets, how to price your work. This isn’t something I could’ve done straight out of uni, this is experience I gained in the work I did before I started my own business.'

And, finally - 'don’t think you’ll have all the answers straight away. Even when I started my business in my late thirties, I thought I’d know everything, but have learnt and continue to learn so much all the time.'

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Please check out Jo's gorgeous pieces on Instagram - @brimblestudio - or on the website, whether you need a Christmas present or just some visuals to make you smile. We're so happy to have been able to have this conversation!

Featured Image: Jo Brimble

Do you look for character in the decorations you buy?