Jo Basnett: Ceramic Artist

One thing is for certain Jo Basnett is a ceramic artist not a potter. There’s nothing wrong with being a potter of course, it’s just that she is most definitely creating objects of beauty to be admired rather than to be used.

Jo is relatively new to the concept of promoting herself as an artist and is quite modest about her work, but her warm smile broadens when she admits that it has started attracting attention and people want to buy her pieces.

The reason for her reticence was that she had to make sure her work was exactly as she wanted it.

“That’ll do is not good enough for me. My work has to reflect what I want and where I want to go,” she said.

Jo is buoyed by the response from her peers at the New Mills Gallery and especially her friend, the painter Ruth Marsden, who appeared in last month’s issue of artsbeat.

Together the pals were one of the most popular stops during the Derbyshire Open Arts weekend in May (although that was probably as much to do with the gorgeous cake on offer as their own work).

Ruth has also painted a series of pictures of Jo at work on her wheel in her summerhouse style studio in the substantial garden of her Furness Vale home.

The artist along with her dog was busy in the studio when I arrived and she beckoned me up the path with a cheery wave.

“Come on up and I’ll show you around,” she cried.

There’s no doubting that she’s an outdoors woman and her work takes inspiration from the shapes and colours of the Peak District landscape.

All Jo’s pieces are thrown using stoneware clay, bisque fired and then barrel fired. Beside her studio are all manner of barrel shaped containers she uses in her craft including the inside of a washing machine.

“We used to use it as a fire-pit in the garden, they are brilliant for that, but now I have acquisitioned it for my work,” she said with a satisfied grin.

Inside the studio are shelves of work at different stages of progress and, of course, her precious potter’s wheel where she turns lumps of clay into art forms.

“No glazes are used in my current work which has evolved into something that feels unique, with a quality of natural earth but with a contemporary twist,” she said.

Jo, 57, who is originally from Norfolk, trained as a graphic designer following a Foundation course in art and design at Great Yarmouth but by then she had already also discovered a passion for pottery.

“For me it was love at first touch. I just loved it instantly and everything else went out of the window.

“I had a connection the first day I started throwing clay and there was no other choice for me after that.”

She moved to the Midlands to spend three years studying the craft at Derby because of the proximity to the Stoke Potteries and of course Derby’s own connections with the industry. She says she had visions of herself one day living on a remote hill immersed in her art.

But, as with many dreams, reality was quite different, and bringing up a family and earning a living took precedence. There was a long stretch during which she didn’t have a chance to think about the artistic side of what she was doing.

Five years ago she moved to her current home, which had the space to accommodate her studio, and a year or so ago she decided to put more of herself into her creations.

“In the past I thought I had to do this and that, because I could not afford for things to go wrong. There was no place for experimenting.

“I am a new person with the clay now. When I came back to it I decided to put my art into my pots and now my head is just full of the scope of what I can do. I really am quite excited by it and very passionate about my work.”