Ceramacist Emily Stubbs is turning her home into a gallery for the York Open Studios event. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
When you’re a ceramicist working from home it helps to have an understanding partner. There will be mess, dust, kilns hidden in cupboards and little bits of clay on the floor that attach themselves to your shoe. The pay-off for Emily Stubbs’ other half, Rowan, is a house full of original art.
“He likes everything to be neat but he puts up with the dust and mess because he loves art as much as I do,” says Emily, who is busy preparing for the York Open Studios event when Rowan will see his home turned into a makeshift gallery.
The couple bought the terrace property in fashionable Bishopthorpe Road after renting it during an experiment to see if city life would suit them. They previously lived in rural East Yorkshire.
“We had saved up to buy a house in a village but then we had a panic because we had never lived in a city. We thought we should experience it so we rented this place and realised how much we enjoyed living in York. The landlord wanted to sell and we bought it 18 months ago,” says Emily.
Ownership gave them freedom to redecorate the house, though as first-time buyers they had a tight budget. The first thing they did was to get rid of the carpet and strip the floorboards. They also added some colour to the walls, which were all painted in magnolia. The kitchen now has a bright green wall, though Rowan wasn’t sure about the choice until he downloaded an app that allowed him to build an online replica of the room and become a virtual painter and decorator.
It encouraged him to go for a bright blue in the bedroom, which has added vibrancy thanks to the 49 vintage dresses stored on a rail in the alcove.
“I wanted to paint all the walls blue but I compromised,” says Emily, who is adventurous when it comes to bold colour.
The furniture is a combination of Ikea and vintage bargains from one of Emily’s favourite shops, the Banana Warehouse in York.
The dining table and six chairs were free from the neighbourhood community website streetlife.com and the red chest of drawers was from the Festival of Vintage at York racecourse.
“Owning the house felt very liberating as we couldn’t express ourselves with the décor at all before,” says Emily.
There is work by other artists everywhere, including a lamp made by David Howie from an old cine camera. The miniature grandfather clock was carved by Emily’s grandad and the walls are lined with favourite film posters and photographs along with pictures brought back from their travels. Emily’s own ceramics are colourful and help brighten the shelves and surfaces. Her style is decorative, colourful and abstract and reflects her time at Batley School of Art.
She hand-builds her ceramics with a combination of slab building and coiling, then she adds layers of colour with slip glaze. They cost from £80 to £200 and the quality of her work is reflected in the fact it was chosen for display at the CoCA, Centre of Ceramic Art, at York Art Gallery.
“I did an art foundation course first and tried lots of things there, including ceramics. As soon as I touched the clay it felt right. I went on to the Batley College of Art and had the most amazing teacher, Warren Dunn. Most of us of his course went on to make a career out of ceramics,” she says.
Emily began work in her home town of Holmfirth where she rented space in the Sculpture Lounge. It was there she met sculptor Brendan Hesmondhalgh and textile designer Victoria Robinson and joined them in establishing the Art Markets, the artist and makers fairs in Holmfirth and York.
Along with the markets and running her own ceramic practice, Emily also holds ceramic art classes in York and has just taken on a temporary studio at Bracken Hill through Axis, a charity that turns empty buildings into temporary, low-cost work spaces
Says Emily: “I still work from home as well but I am really enjoying the studio because it gets me out of the house.
“Working from home can be a bit isolating. Plus as I can leave everything out so there is no clearing away.”
She and Rowan are considering whether to stay in the city or return to the countryside.
“We love the city but I think we will probably end up back in the countryside eventually,” says Emily.
“The dream is to have a house and separate studio for me in the garden.”
* Emily is opening her home as part of the York Open Studios event. Over 100 artists and craftspeople are taking part in the event, which runs from April 15, 16, 17 April and April 23 and 24.
There are venues throughout the city, including homes and studios. Those taking part include painters, potters, jewellery makers, printmakers, wood carvers and sculptors.
Chair of the event Anne Hutchison says: “Pop into studios, have a chat and perhaps a cup of tea with the artists and uncover the stories behind their work.”
Full details from www.yorkopenstudios.co.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org for a guide. For details on Emily Stubbs’ work visit emilystubbs.com. For dates of the art markets in Holmfirth and York, artmarkets.co.uk