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Meet Alice Johnson, founder of Pottery Pets



The London-based ceramicist, Alice Johnson, founded Pottery Pets in 2015 – making bespoke, customised sculptures of people’s pets. Each ceramic figure aims to capture the personality and individuality of every pet, with a playful use of colour, shape and form. After commissioning Alice Johnson for a recent gift, Anna – founder of It's A Dog's Life – fell in love with her work. We spoke to Alice to learn a bit more about the heartfelt and considered process behind every pet she makes...


Tell us a bit about your background? How was Pottery Pets born?


I studied illustration at Brighton University and didn’t love computer-based work, so started doing a lot more 3D analogue work – especially with air drying clay. The Pets were born one summer (2015, I think) when I made my two spaniels at the time (sadly no longer with us), and then I started making friends' pets out of air drying clay. When I had finished uni I started experimenting with proper ceramics and set up the Instagram, and it just snowballed from there. The aim is to always capture an essence of the pet through the eyes of the customer and myself. I feel very lucky that this is my job.



Talk us through the pet-making process.


Each pet is completely bespoke. During the consultation with the customer, we go into a lot of detail about how they want their pet represented – the position, a plinth, any accessories, and so on. I ask for lots of photos, and ask for anything they want me to capture specifically – and then the creative process begins.


I have to make them in batches so I can fill the kiln – they have to be completely dry before they are fired, if not it can cause cracking or even explosions… the drama! This part takes the longest, especially in winter, when it's so cold in the studio. After firing them once, I paint them with underglaze paints. I find most of the character and 'life' comes at the painting stage.


Once painted, they are dunked into transparent glaze which makes them nice and shiny, and the colours more zingy. They then have a second firing. I think the owners really like to be part of the making process, and always appreciate the patience it takes to make them.


When they are done, they have a photoshoot where I’ll take photos of each pet and send the finished article to the owners. Then to wrapping, packing and posting – I'm terrified of one day sending the wrong pet to the wrong person!


The whole process from start to finish takes about 8-12 weeks. My New Year’s resolution was to be less optimistic with my time management, so I've added a few extra weeks to the lead time! I also offer 'IOU' drawings for when someone wants a pet before I am able to complete it, a keepsake for the recipient to open and keep them excited.



What makes Pottery Pets so unique and special to your customers?


Essentially, real life pets are the best – I sadly don’t have my own currently, but when I see a dog on the train or a cat out-and-about to say 'psssst psssst psssst!' to, it makes my day! I do dog sit occasionally and find that people are so much friendlier when you have a dog – it breaks down a barrier and opens conversation. I was in such a bad mood the other morning and then met a lovely dog called Irvin on the train who came and said hello – honestly, cheered me up tenfold. Pets are so important – they mean so much to us. Not to be too melodramatic, but they really can change people's lives. With Pottery Pets, it's a way to have that pet forever.


We live in a culture of heavy consumerism, and often with an 'onto the next' attitude (something I am definitely guilty of), but I hope Pottery Pets are something that people will treasure their entire life, and I love the thought of them being handed down through the generations: “This was Grandma’s cat”, a way to spark stories. I aim to gauge just the right amount of sentimentality within what I do, and hope that comes across.


Have you a favourite story behind a pottery pet?


They all have such lovely stories; some people will go into more detail than others about their personalities. But it has to be the rescue ones for me. There always seems to be such a gentleness and wiseness in their eyes, which I really try to capture.


⁠You made a Pottery Pet of Pixie Geldoff’s beloved chi! Who is your dream celebrity pet to recreate?


Nick Grimshaw’s dogs, Stinky and Pig, and Demi Moore’s chihuahua, Pilaf! Such great names.


Any plans for the future – expanding your ranges?


Pottery Properties! People’s houses in ceramic that double up as vases. I've finally started on this project, so watch this space...


I am also desperate to make a life size pet – sadly not a Great Dane as it wouldn’t fit in the kiln – maybe more like a chihuahua! Get in touch if your pet fits the bill!



What are the challenges of being an independent business owner? Any advice for those in similar situations?


I feel extremely lucky to be my own boss, but there are pros and cons that come with this. Being independent is great, but sometimes being on your own can be quite overwhelming and I can feel the pressure. I love the freedom it gives to work on your own schedule, although can often feel a juggling act!


It's a balance of admin, emails and making, which I often find hard to juggle. If I am in 'making mode', for example, emails can fall by the wayside and visa vera. I am a one-woman band – I always do my best, and I'm so grateful I get to do what I love.


Want to commission your own Pottery Pet? Get in touch with Alice and give her a follow on Instagram!

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