Q1. Begin at the beginning…were you destined for the creative arts, does it run in the family?
Some days I wish it was true that I’d spent my youth drawing, painting and making. But I didn’t. I grew up in suburban Berkshire, without much contact with the art world. I don’t think I went to a gallery before I was 20 and didn’t enjoy one until I was at least 25. I didn’t learn to to enjoy learning until my mid 20s when I studied garden design. It changed my mind. I could feel the way I saw and the way I felt change, and pretty rapidly.
Q2. You’re a relative newby to pottery - when and how did you start working with clay?
I learned pottery at a wonderful place, Turning Earth in Shoreditch, London. Stuart Carey was my teacher and is now my friend. It started with a 10 week course in January 2014 and I was soon spending every spare minute I could there. We were supposed to have a 20 hour limit per week, but I helped with the cleaning, gardening, kiln loading, anything I could to earn extra hours. I was soon spending 50-60 hours there. Later that year I bought a kiln!
Q3. What does a typical Jono Smart day look like? Do you have a work-day routine that you follow?
Hmm. I want to say, yes but know I should say no. I’m hard working but not strictly disciplined. I tend to arrive at my studio between 9 and 10, drink coffee, think about the day ahead, panic a little, write a list down, feel better and then get to it. Pottery has its own work flow that dictates my working life. From the moment I throw a piece it begins to dry and needs constant awareness. Once I start a project it's difficult to take any days off until everything is fired. I try and be careful not to work more than 10-15 days in a row but it is sometimes necessary.
Q4. Where do you draw your ideas for new work from?
I’m still leaning on my background as inspiration. I feel very fortunate that during my time working in Garden Design I worked for a genuinely talented designer in Luciano Giubbilei. He could have worked in any type of design, from fashion to architecture and been brilliant. He taught me to live my work and to observe. I also got to work with and meet many British sculptors. I can feel the influence of being exposed to their work in my own.
Q5. Do you work on paper first or do you prefer to experiment in a trial & error way with the clay?
Back and forth between the two. It used to be paper first, then on to the wheel. Now it tends to be wheel first, and then paper for refining an idea. Surprises happen on the wheel, not really on paper. I’ve noticed that I’m now designing using words. I write myself a quick note outlining an idea and jump straight into working with clay.
Q6. Do potters get creative block? How do you over come the equivalent of the 'fear of the blank page’?
I find that I forget that other people don’t see my work anywhere near as much as I do. Whenever I’m feeling fatigued of my own ideas, I try and remember this. It only takes something small to get me buzzing again. A new colour, texture or adjustment to a form. Small experiments are always part of my work and keep it feeling fresh to me, even if I don’t show all the results.
Q7. What do you listen too when you’re working?
In short, SO much. In answering this, I realised I listened to 4 audiobooks just last week. I go through phases of binge listening to podcasts, listening to albums I loved as a kid or finding new music. These phases can take weeks or months to pass.
Q8. How do you switch off from the ‘noise’ of the world?
Since I set up my studio, I’ve discovered an attribute that I didn’t know I had. I am so focused. I can go weeks working without distraction. I have to be really careful to balance this with the rest of life. So it’s not so much a question of blocking out the noise from the rest of the world, but remembering to let some of it in.
Q9. Do you have a treasured possession?
There are pieces of pottery from people like Takashi Endo and Florian Gadsby that I love having in my life.
Q10. What’s in the pot at the end of the rainbow?!
First of all, lets be clear, this is a greyscale rainbow right? It changes. Right now I want to make tiny, perfect unusable pots. Pots that are more ideas of other pots rather than pots themselves.