Russell Hackney

i. I work as a: ceramicist/designer/maker

ii. I do this creative work because
In one sense ceramics is in my DNA.

I am a third generation ‘potter’… born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, home of the ‘potteries’. Birthplace of Wedgwood, Spode and countless other factories.

My family still operates a pottery studio in the U.K, which my father began in 1974. His father worked in a pottery making factory all his life. My family home in the UK is full of pieces that my father modelled.

Apart from my history, I am drawn to the humility of the medium – its utilitarian history – and the connection one has, as a maker, with the material.

Creating is like ‘finding’ in a way. I have the curiosity to see what happens – if ‘I place that shape, that slight curve against that straight edge’.

I sometimes wonder if creative work is a way of communicating with the wider world what you have ‘found’, simply wanting to share something you have created/found to be interesting or beautiful, hoping they will be blessed by it.

iii. Personal qualities that help me in my work are
I think maybe resilience, patience and curiosity.

Ceramics has a speed, a rhythm that you have to be in tune with. Handling of clay has to be measured, thought through, it can’t be snatched, you need an unhurried touch.

Even when you have an urgent deadline to meet – you have to move at the speed allowed by the medium.

Resilience is needed because there are so many variants, things that can go ‘wrong’ in ceramics. So much of my practice is still based on trusting (not knowing ) –  for example, when the kiln is opened ‘have I been successful?’ and of course that’s not always the case and you have to just shake it off and keep going!

Also the fact that I’m quite ‘evangelical’ where good design/art is concerned: I believe good design enhances life.

iv. The greatest challenges around doing this work are
Apart from technical challenges, for me – believing in myself and my work is the ongoing challenge: ‘one day belief, the next day doubt’!

v. Creative childhood hobbies:
When I was a young boy I would draw intensely for long periods…particularly portraits. I would copy photographs and the more detail required the happier I was.

Quite often my family were in one half of the lounge watching tv whilst I was at the back with my head over an intricate drawing. I recall it being a happy, calm place for me. The revelation of getting ‘lost’ in the practice of making art has stayed with me – and in a sense I’ve needed that experience ever since.

I was also a keen writer/junior journalist – creating my own newspaper and sports magazine!

vi. Other creators who inspire you
For a body of work Hitomi Hosono’s ceramics are breathtaking to me. To my mind some of her work is technically unsurpassed. Her virtuosity spellbinds me but it is the beauty of her work that I fell in love with. I have a very strong emotional connection to her work.

I am moved & inspired by her commitment to the ‘pursuit of beauty’. My experience in ceramics tells me that she must have had so many setbacks in the making of her pieces – she is right ‘out on the ledge’ technically (her pieces can take 6 months to produce).

vii. Training that has helped me succeed in this career
I worked in the Stoke-on-Trent pottery industry for many years and had a wide ranging education in modelling, mould making and slip casting from my father and the head mouldmaker at the family business. I would model designs, shapes and embossment for large tableware and hotel ware manufacturers, who produced thousands of pieces for export around the world and this sometimes placed intense demands on me for the work to be ‘perfect’ – after all, whatever I created would be repeated countless times. I was happy to work with this understanding as it meant the work ‘mattered’.

When I left the family business and emigrated to Canada, for a while I felt that the technical training I had received was an obstacle for me in my practice – I understand now that a plate doesn’t have to be perfectly round! – but I have very much come to appreciate the skills that were passed onto me.

viii. The biggest myth about this type of work is
It’s always tricky when a person asks you “what do you do for a living?”

Upon replying “I make ceramics”, you can often sense the next question in that persons mind: “…and you can make a living at that?”

It is a myth that you can’t make a living in ceramics. Is it hard? Yep. But certainly not impossible.

ix. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you
Ask questions. Never be afraid or too embarrassed to ask a maker in the field for help.

Another good piece of advice – especially in an ‘Instagram culture’ is ‘ never envy the creativity of others, it will kill your own’. I forget where I heard that – but I really believe it to be true. Of course we all take in so many images and follow artists & makers, it’s enjoyable and inspiring often – but you must also look straight ahead and make the best work YOU can make.

x. A professional goal I have for the future
I think ultimately I’d love to take my cue from Hitomi Hosono: I would love to make some single minded pieces that were an ‘all out pursuit of beauty’, to really be out on the ledge of my own practice and emotional connection.

xi. If you want to see my work, go to

Instagram @rusperporcelain


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