John Newdigate | Episode 256
John Newdigate has worked as a professional artist and ceramist since 1991, exploring the properties of many different materials, including metal, paper, fibre, plastic, paint and clay. In ceramics John has specialised in high-fired translucent carved porcelain and reduction-fired celadon glazes. John’s work is mostly functional, as it enriches day-to-day life, bringing art and design, imagination and inspiration into otherwise ordinary moments. John does not believe in being different for difference´s sake; instead he has respect for tradition, without being bound to it. The most important theme in John’s work, and his constant inspiration, is the ever-changing sea, which has always fascinated John – not just the creatures in it, but also the interplay of light and water. From the ordered chaos of white horses on a choppy sea to the synergy of a school of anchovies, there seems to be enough inspiration in and around the sea and its shores to last many lifetimes.
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What is the single most important thing that you would attribute your success to?
It is always risky to sound as if one is blowing one’s own trumpet but I think what does put me apart is that I have a very, very active imagination and I am very creative, so I am always thinking of new ideas and imagining new things and wanting to make them. Also I was just very, very lucky to be born as a very active person. I can’t bear the thought of a holiday lying on a deck chair on the beach. It would be hell for me. I would probably enjoy it for a day and a half but after that I would get bored out of my skull. So I am very, very hard working and I just always have been. I think it is hard work and creativity would be the two things because I can’t narrow it down to just one.
How do you advertise your work?
Living in a small town, that’s another huge thing that changed. When I first moved out to the countryside I didn’t even have a computer. I didn’t even have a telephone initially, never mind a computer, Facebook, internet, all these social media, Instagram and all that. So it is almost made to order that the universe conspired to provide these incredible tools that I use to…not promote myself, but maybe explain myself. Before these things you had to ingratiate yourself to these power brokers and I am not really good at that and it was very difficult for me to make any headway. Since social media has come around it has really taken a big chunk of power away from those people and has placed it really within the individual’s hands. So I use social media to , not directly, I think it is a big mistake to push your work, it’s more the back story and who you are and what inspires you. I find if people are relentlessly promoting themselves I get really bored with it and I stop following them and I wouldn’t want people to do that to me, so I am really careful about self promotion.
How do you keep from being trendy and yet still be fresh?
I completely ignore trained forecasters and people who can say what they are doing. Sometimes if you completely ignore something it means you might even do what they are saying because you are completely ignoring them. If you actively don’t do what they are suggesting then you are actually still being controlled by them. So I tend to pay absolutely no attention to that. Rather, do what ever it is you do and wait for fashion to catch up to you, because it will eventually.
Have you ever had to turn down a client?
Often. The worst thing is if someone contacts you to say: I had a beautiful piece of yours and a child was kicking a ball in the house and they broke it. Could you make me another? I never, ever do that. I just say, I am sorry if you’ve got the kind of house where children kick balls inside then I’d rather not. I’d rather you didn’t have my work quite honestly. This particular piece was my best ever that I had made. Ceramics is wonderful material because it can last thousands of years and lots of it has with a reasonable amount of care.
Where does confidence and courage come from for you?
Luckily I do have a very deep sense of conviction of my ability, but it does get challenged. It gets challenged constantly and occasionally one can feel vulnerable. To be over confident is also not a good idea. I think that insecurity can drive one and also get one to question one’s choices and decisions. If you think everything you ever made is just wonderful then I don’t think you would produce very good work. I think the work has to speak for itself.
What is one thing that people misunderstand about you and what is one thing that they totally nail?
I would think what they misunderstand wold be maybe my intentions. I think that people don’t realize that it’s really just to get thoughts out into the real world. Of course I have to earn a living, but most important thing is how I arrange my life so I can get these ideas out into the world. And then what they nail, is that I am very creative and maybe lack a bit of creative discipline. I think that is something that I am not very good at. Sometimes my work can a look a bit all over the place and go off on a tangent. I can also be quite unaware of what people think about me, I live quite a quiet life.