Retraining in her late 20s helped this resident artist find a home in ceramics

Local ceramicist, Sara Moorhouse, looks back on the twists and turns of her creative career ahead of the Winter Open Day at Fireworks Clay Studios

Ceramicist, Sara Moorhouse sits in front of shelves of her banded ceramics
Sara Moorhouse specialises in making colourful, banded bowls that are connected to landscape and the seasons

Sara Moorhouse is no stranger to shaking up her career path when things get stale.

At 29 she moved to Cardiff to retrain as a ceramicist, where she still lives and works.

It was there on a master’s course in ceramics that she first heard the question posed to all students working out if they felt comfortable in the art practice they were undertaking: “Are you feeling that?”

This question could have been asked to Moorhouse at many points along the road to the artist she is today.

Always interested in art, Moorhouse studied the subject at A level and took a foundation year in Art and Design, but her journey afterwards was far from straightforward.

Despite harbouring a love for ceramics, she turned away towards illustration during her first year at Wolverhampton University, focusing on illustrating children’s books.

“I was 19, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I was confused,” she explains as she struggled to decide on an artistic specialism.

Sara up close painting bands on a ceramic bowl
That she has a steady hand is one of the comments Sara Moorhouse hears the most

Moorhouse decided against the competitive world of children’s illustrations, following her undergraduate degree, and instead turned to teaching art where chance found her back in the presence of ceramics.

“You look like you can teach ceramics,” was the assumption she was met with in her first educational role.

Teaching kids aged 11 to 18, however, became too repetitive after six years in the job. After 2 or 3 years the crowd control coupled with the absence of creativity in the role started to get to her.

Quitting her job, Moorhouse found herself at a crossroads when a second stroke of chance revealed itself.

Her sister was moving to Cardiff to study a postgraduate degree in Theatre Design and told her to ring Cardiff University and see if they had a ceramics course.

So she did, and was told to attend an interview the following week. 

Moorhouse began a master’s in 2003: “It was very serendipitous; it felt just right.” 

Are you feeling that?

Even when finally reunited with ceramics, however, she struggled to find a home for herself within it.

She initially manipulated the shape, balance and structure of ceramics by throwing bowls on a potter’s wheel, then cutting them up and putting them back together in different ways.

“Are you feeling that?”

“Not really, no.”

So Moorhouse pivoted to utilising colour and the banding of bowls in ways influenced by landscapes and how they change with the seasons.

Her first collection, Arable Landscape, was based upon the gently rolling hills and fields of her home county, Nottinghamshire, and the way that light affected the perception of the landscape.

The Worksop native continued to develop Arable Landscape throughout her PhD and into her now 18-year-long residency at Fireworks Clay Studios where she will showcase pieces as part of their Winter Open Day next month.

Sat on a stool among her collections inspired by diverse regions like the cliffs of West Wales, the mountains of Switzerland, and even the surface of Saturn, Sara Moorhouse is an artist finally at home.

Sara sits by her well-lit workstation where she paints and throws ceramics
Sara Moorhouse uses a potter’s wheel to throw her bowls as well as paint them
What kind of advice would Sara give to people interested in giving ceramics a go?
  1. There are plenty of courses available in Cardiff and elsewhere, especially since The Great Pottery Throwdown first aired on TV in 2015
  2. Airdry clay does not need a kiln so you can craft ceramics from almost anywhere
  3. YouTube is a brilliant resource for tutorials, tips and tricks
  4. “You don’t need a degree to be a ceramicist, but you need time and practice. Just give it a go and get your hands dirty!”