POTTERY / CERAMICS: Interview with SARAH FULLER at her studio and home in Antigua
There is something inherently lovely about having a studio and a zen place to craft and make beautiful things. This pottery studio sits at the waters edge in Antigua and the ceramics reflect the colours of the sea and the sky. When Sarah walks in, we realise that we met by chance a few days before in a stationary shop. This is life on a small island and what a gorgeous community to be part of.
Sarah first sailed to Antigua in 1978 and was working as a tour rep before Antigua Pottery came up for sale in the mid 1980's. Her wonderful story inspires me so much as although she has always loved creating and making things, she is self taught in the field of pottery.
When Sarah took over the pottery it was all lead based glazes. Now she uses local clay and although she imports some of the glazing materials, she makes her own recipes for the glazes.
I ask her when she took over the business, how long did it take before it could sustain her financially? "I carried on with my day job in the beginning" she says, "It was a couple of years before I thought it could go somewhere, before I saw the future potential, saw it morphing into my own thing. I essentially downsized it and made it more personal and then outsourced the sales to hotel gift shops". Now she employs between two and three people according to business needs all year round.
Her inspiration comes from the market and her strong entrepreneurial spirit shines through, "If something comes along, I'll go for it. I'm not afraid to take chances". She makes what sells. "People come to Antigua for the ocean and the beach" she says, so she paints in the colours of the sea. "Tourists want something small to bring home", so her plates and bowls and ornaments are perfect gifts and souvenirs.
Ten years ago she opened her shop on Redcliffe Quay in St. John's, where the local Antiguans, visitors and cruise ship passengers stop by for souvenirs. "We don't have a huge market here" she admits. "There is a local market for wall sconces - we glaze our pieces and they don't rust, so are very popular in Antigua, also artsy products as gifts".
Sarah also makes commissions for local businesses - wall hangings and driftwood mirrors decorated with ceramics. Her business has been an evolving process over the thirty years that she has had it. As a successful entrepreneur, Sarah says "I go wherever the market takes me". What she really enjoys is the design development, the painting and glazing.
Two lamps made by Sarah feature in the private collection of gifts offered by the Governor General to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England. How did she feel when they asked her? "Totally flattered and honoured .... and worried about the transportation!".
Where does she seek inspiration and what other artists does she admire? "Mike and Imogen from Cedars Pottery are brilliant, amazing and so professional. I get inspiration everywhere, from my natural surroundings, from beachcombing. Or there will be an idea from a person that sparks a whole series of things. For example if someone is interested in a hanging light, a basic design will morph into lots of things. The ideas just feed off each other".
Sarah's eyes light up as she shows me pieces in the design phase and ideas for development. The studio is full of possibilities. "I work in here for several hours a day, but it fluctuates according to the ever-changing demands of the business".
Island life, what does she love about her home? "Antigua teaches you to be more accepting, to go with the flow". Her favourite thing to do? "I love beachcombing on deserted beaches, the east coast of Antigua or especially wandering the beaches of Barbuda".
As someone who has made her life in Antigua as an entrepreneur and an artist, what advice would she give? "You need to believe in yourselves. Anybody can do anything. Have the courage to follow through on your convictions (especially artists), follow your heart as you have nothing to lose. To do something you love and to create is phenomenal".
Sarah invited me to her gorgeous and beloved home near by the sea, surrounded by gardens, a perfect harmony of life in paradise. It is here that you can see her passion for her craft as she lives surrounded by art and design. She offered me a soursop juice which was oh! So perfect.
Like many in Antigua, there are plenty of dogs to keep her family company and open living to attract the breezes and life amongst nature.
The climate in Antigua is a paradox of kindness and harshness. The warmth and breezes allow you to live without heating or cooling requirements but the salt and dust coming in the open living areas can quickly corrode and wear away creature comforts and anything metallic. Sarah's lights are ideally suited to longevity and add Caribbean style to her home.
I leave Sarah's home with an overwhelming sense of friendship and homeliness. Her designs and pottery are a part of Antigua today, a business that has evolved and been teased to adapt to the ever changing customer demands, a shop that is an establishment in Redcliffe Quay and designs in the collection of the Queen of England.
For more information, shop opening times and visits to the studio:
View Sarah Fuller's website Click Here.
You can contact Sarah here firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mention that you found her at The Garden of Poets when you see her.