Polly Fern, In Their Shoes
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
Polly Fern is an illustrator and ceramicist. We chatted to her about Saltie tan lines, living in the countryside and keeping Canaries.
Polly Fern is an illustrator and ceramicist. She lives in Suffolk in a pink Georgian house and from a studio in her garden she creates her wonderful works of art; pictures, plates, vases, tiles and brooches, all imbued with a period, picture book charm. Even her name sounds like a character from a story! We chatted to her about Saltie tan lines, living in the countryside and keeping Canaries.
What came first, illustration or ceramics?
My background is in illustration and I studied a degree in the subject at Norwich University of the Arts. I’ve always been drawn to making physical objects that tell stories, so whilst studying I began exploring ceramics in my final year. Upon graduating I went straight into freelancing in Illustration and also joined a ceramic studio, where I spent a few years developing my work and getting a feel for what I wanted to make and what direction I wanted to take my work in. My boyfriend and I recently moved into our first home and we built a ceramic studio in the garden where I work from most days.
Your home, your style and your work all have a beautiful story book quality, do you read a lot and what is your favourite book?
I’m constantly making work and actually ashamedly don’t read as much as I would like. However I do always have my nose in old books about antiques or ceramics where I find inspiration for my work. I love discovering stories, but am more of a visual person so meeting and talking to people, discovering everyday stories and learning about people’s craft is where my interest lies.
How do you apply your intricate designs to your ceramic pieces?
I draw inspiration from many different periods thoughout the history of ceramics and they tend to eclectically merge as one with my Romantic Vases and Platters. All my works are inspired and informed by traditional ceramic shapes, but slab built to create a modern take on a traditional vessel. Each piece I make by hand and bisque fire. They are then dipped in a tin glaze and I paint each one using oxides and pigments. These loose paintings upon the ceramics make each piece an original work of art. Every piece is illustrated with a drawing inspired by places I visit, stories I discover there, and historical and childhood stories.
Would you describe yourself as a town or a country mouse?
I am definitely a country mouse. I live in a small town called Bungay which is in the heart of the Suffolk/Norfolk countryside. I love getting to know the locals and having antique and charity shops to trawl through. We have lots of lovely cafes and shops here. Most weeks I am coming home with arms full of old treasures from the many antique and second hand shops.
How do you style your Salt-Waters?
I find my Salt-Waters go with so much. I pretty much live in them in the Summer time and have a Saltie tan line all year round. They are great studio shoes to slip on and off, which is often why you see them featured on my feet in so many of my studio posts.
Tell us about a favourite corner of your home.
Since moving in earlier this year I have been taking my time working on the interiors in my home, so I’m always making new little corners I love. But I would say my favourite corner is where my Canaries live, I spend a lot of time with them as they are in my studio room where I do my illustration work and package all my shop orders. Olive is unusually tame for a Canary and is often flying and running around my work - as you can see from my stories and pictures on Instagram.
Where do you like to shop?
I spend so much time antique and garden shopping, it's an addiction! Especially since I moved into my home. Every time I go out somewhere I am coming across a new antique shop as there are loads around the countryside. I love discovering independent makers and brands on Instagram who, like me, are creating special and unique pieces from their home. I adore clothes and believe in investing in timeless pieces.
What would be your top tips for a day out in Norwich?
There are so many great things to do in Norwich and amazing new independent businesses opening all the time! I would start my day with a cardamon bun breakfast at Bread Source, have a look round the fantastic exhibitions at the Sainsbury Centre. The market is a fantastic place to go for lunch as it has such an amazing array of food. After that I would maybe pop by Looses Emporium to trawl through the antiques and in the evening I would go to The Bicycle Shop to meet friends for cocktails and tapas.
If you could spend the day in someone else's shoes, whose shoes would you choose and why?
It would most probably be someone who has a wealth of experience with antiques and ceramics, I love learning about them and would love to absorb all that knowledge.
What's in the Polly Fern pipeline?
After spending a few months at the start of this year building my studio in the garden I am now raring to make lots of new work and to catch up with ideas. I am working on many exciting plans and collaborations at the moment. I am doing my first solo Pop-Up shop and exhibition at the wonderful Pentreath & Hall in Bloomsbury in October (15th-19th) so at the moment I am planning my shop space and working on new collections I am launching there. I also have many exciting plans for Spring which I can’t wait to share!
At home, we have now finished the studio I am getting rather carried away with plans for the house. My dad is a cabinet maker so I am hoping to collaborate with him to design some cabinets for our tiny kitchen. I have also been making my own wallpapers and fabrics to furnish my home. I’m creating some tiles at the moment to add to the existing tiles in my bathroom. Interiors are another passion of mine and I love houses that have taken time to decorate, as they tell much more of a story!
You can find Polly's Instagram feed here and her website here. And don't forget to visit Polly at her Pop-Up at Pentreath and Hall from October 15th-19th.
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