JULIE Miles vowed when she became a ceramicist that she would make art her full-time career.
“With my family moving to Lancashire from the Potteries when I was 14 it makes me a bit of a ceramic cliché as I come from a long line of pottery workers from brick makers to tile painters,” she says.
“So I suppose it’s in the blood, but when I went to art college I wanted to be an embroiderer. I turned to clay as it was a material I could use to create outdoor work and also play with fire.”
And Julie, 43, from Blackburn, has not stopped working since. Based at Higherford Mill, in Barrowford, she works relentlessly for a “mixed economy” creating everything from stunning ceramic vases and jewellery through to huge brick landscape projects whilst working in local schools as an “artist in residence”.
Julie believes people are attracted to her work because they want a unique piece of art in their home. “It’s satisfying to know the background of an artist and the history behind a piece,” she says.
Inspired by landscape and nature, she incorporates individual leaves and flowers into her clay, picked from her own and other people's gardens. Her pieces – delicate vases, tealight holders, vessels and decorative flowers – are available in galleries around the country, and she accepts one-off commissions via her website.
“Or people bring things to me – they want their garden captured in a piece.” She even preserves wedding bouquets in porcelain.
“I'll make anything – as long as it's white,” she jokes.
“I don't like glaze and bright colours. Everything I do is based on nature, and I don't feel I can recreate the colours of nature in my work, so I'd rather keep it simple.”
She currently sells through notonthehighstreet.com, folksy.com and her paintings through etsy.com.
Julie’s homes pieces – what she calls her “bread-and-butter line” – give her the freedom to work on large-scale sculptures and on community projects. She has been using brick as a creative medium for a few years now working with schools to create large-scale sculptures for their outdoor spaces.
Her first the Brick Kiln on the Wayside Arts Trail in Burnley was short listed for the Brick Development Association Brick Awards 2006 in the Best Landscape category.
The giant brick Welcome to Huncoat sculpture is also one of her works.
“Witton Park in Blackburn has been an inspiration in my earlier work using trees and natural objects such as pine cones and seed heads. I am also interested in gardening which is coming out in my work through the slip dipped flowers and the watering cans.”
One of Julie’s proudest achievements was the Witches 400 anniversary exhibition at Clitheroe’s Platform Gallery for which she created a cloak made from 500 black ceramic feathers for the Pendle witch Alice Nutter.
One of her favourite pieces is a stunning hanging sculpture inspired by the wing beat of the Forest of Bowland hen harrier, which retails at around £5,000.
Animal sculpture has captured her imagination and hares, like those she has seen around Dunsop Bridge, are proving particularly popular, retailing at between £80 and £200.
“This is my life and my hobby,” says Julie.
“If I sit at home in front of the fire at home to relax, I will still be drawing. It’s what I love.”