We first fell in love with Pollyanna Johnson’s humorous slogans and intricately painted ceramics after discovering her on Instagram in the first phase of our interior design project. We wanted to create bespoke room signage that emulated the playful feel of the scheme, and Pollyanna’s 17th century-inspired female portraits fit perfectly with the Georgian architecture of Kin House. In the latest edition of our Meet The Maker series, we chat to Pollyanna about her inspiration and creative process.
Tell us about yourself and how it all began?
I currently live and work on a cliff in the Sussex Downs, with my partner, baby and Jack Russell, Vincent Van Dog. I studied for a Masters at the Royal Drawing School and had mainly been drawing and painting before lockdown, when my partner started exploring ceramics and gave me some plates to paint.
What’s the process of creating your ceramics?
I see myself as a painter who uses ceramics as the canvas; it’s the painting part that I really enjoy. I spend a few days in my studio making ceramic pieces, and then pair them with portraits of women and text in my cosy study that looks out to sea. The text is usually inspired by experiences, like a man shouting “Cheer up love, might never happen” at me. I will then choose a woman from a painting whose face gives a suitable response to this cat call.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the way my ceramics can be a retaliation to things that anger me. I also love getting lost in the details of a painting.
Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?
The ceramic collection at the V&A is incredible, and I love the 18th century delftware in particular. My husband is also an artist and we’re constantly swapping images of art and ceramics.
Describe your designs in three words?
Tongue in cheek.
What’s your favourite saying?
“Cheer up love, it might never happen”, because it is ridiculous.
Do you listen to anything while you’re creating?
I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks. I love listening to Laura Bate’s work as she is so eloquent, and all her facts about inequality and feminism fuel my fire. I’ve recently been relistening to my sister’s radio series ‘The Hotel’ on the BBC.
What’s your favourite design?
By the time I’ve finished a piece I’m already thinking about the next design. I love my ‘Pinch the Nipple’ tea caddy with red stripes – a design my house is filled with.
You’ve created some beautiful room name plaques for Kin House. If your own house had a ceramic plaque, what would it say?
While my sister, Daisy Johnson, was writing her novel she framed a sign that sat on her desk which said ”I think this book is going to be fucking good”. I love that idea, or it might just say, “Don’t tell me to fucking smile”, which is something that features regularly on my ceramics, having encountered this numerous times on the street.
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