Meet the Ceramic Potter – Victoria Leeks

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VL Ceramics
After 30 years working in Hong Kong, Victoria Leeks quit her job, returned home and embarked on a pottery venture. Here, she tells us how her love of ceramics began
‘I have always loved ceramics and wanted to make them. Wherever I went I bought some so I decided it would be a lovely idea for me to actually make them myself’
VL Ceramics

What were you doing before you set up your company, VL Ceramics?
I was a trained nursery nurse but I worked as a kindergarten teacher in Hong Kong. I went there in 1978 as I was fed up with the UK and I stayed until 1998. When I moved back to England I started ceramics classes and liked it so much I wanted to do more.

When did you realise you wanted to do ceramics seriously?
My sister suggested I call Sunderland University which I did – I went down for an interview that day and got accepted. That September I did my BA in Glass and Ceramics then followed it with an MA. Whether it was being a mature student or not I don’t know, but I absolutely loved university.

Had you ever done ceramics before?
No, I always liked to make things but at that stage it was more textiles, patchwork quilts and things like that. But I have always loved ceramics and wanted to make them. Wherever I went I bought some so I decided it would be a lovely idea for me to actually make them myself. 

What do you love most about your job?
I just love making. I made a piece today and make continually. I use a clay called porcelain paper clay and I slipcast it, which means I make a mould, pour liquid clay into it and leave it for about 20 minutes so that the water is absorbed into the mould and you’re left with the clay. Porcelain paper clay is much lighter than porcelain so when you fire it the paper burns off.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I get up and, if my husband’s not here, I walk the dogs, then I do some East Durham Artists Network work before getting into the studio and doing about three or four hours there. As the Network’s Secretary and outside exhibition organiser, I curate exhibitions as well as make for most exhibitions. I am also part of the Northern Potters Association and personally enter into outside exhibitions.

How do you get your work into exhibitions?
At the moment I am very lucky that I am a member of two art groups, so my work gets seen that way. But I do have my work in galleries, and it’s usually the galleries approaching me, saying they like my work and asking to display it.

Where do you see VL Ceramics in five years time?
I’m quite happy where I am at the moment. I don’t want to do it full-time because it’s a lot of work, and because I am getting on in age I am quite happy to just keep going.

Do you do commissions?
Yes, and my work sells quite well. Usually people see it in an exhibition or a gallery and buy them from there, but I have had commissions as well where people have wanted me to make a specific thing. An American friend of mine bought a piece from my site and when he was having a party asked if I would make more, so I made 12 and sent them over to the States.

Where do you find inspiration?
I would say history. I like to go to museums. So for instance for an Oriental project I’ve been researching masks. Last year we did a World War I exhibition, and again the history came into that too.

What’s your favourite piece?
It’s always the next piece. I like what I’m doing now and then the next time I make something I think, ‘Ooh I like that one!’ It’s literally whatever I am working on currently.

www.vlceramics.co.uk
Victoria’s ceramics are on display in The Art Block in Seaham and The DLI gallery in Durham

Published in: May 2015

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