Vicky Scotcher - Yeaveley-based ceramic artist and founder of Pottery Homes
PUBLISHED: 16:07 26 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:07 26 November 2014
Meet the ceramic artist who has established a successful one-woman business as a maker of personalised miniature buildings
Four years ago, when the younger of Vicky Scotcher’s two children started school, she began to apply her mind to the possibility of setting up her own business. After living with her family in Florida for three years, she did not wish to compromise on the family life that she was enjoying when back in rural Derbyshire with her husband Eugene and their children Charlie and Imogen. Ideally, she wanted to work from home and be free to pick up her children from school each day.
Vicky’s first thought was to set herself up as a garden designer, but she quickly discarded this seductive idea when she realised that she would be faced with lots of competition from others who were offering a similar service. Lessons learned from the degree she had taken in Product Design at Brunel University and from the years that she had spent working in marketing had taught her that the clue to success in a new business venture is to come up with a product or service that is unique.
Explaining why her thoughts had turned to a skill that she had acquired during her A-level art course and had continued to develop through evening classes in pottery, she said: ‘My mother-in-law used to collect examples of Lilliput Lane pottery, including accurate miniature models of well-known country cottages. When Eugene and I decided to give her a gift to express our gratitude for the support that she had given our family, I hit upon the idea of making her a miniature clay model of her own home, slightly larger than a Lilliput Lane model but equally exact as a replica.’
This unique gift was greeted with absolute delight, not only by her mother-in-law but also by her friends, who began asking for miniature models of their homes. It began to occur to Vicky that it might be possible to establish a successful one-woman business as a maker of personalised miniature buildings. And so it was that ‘Pottery Homes’ was born.
Using her well-developed marketing skills, Vicky vigorously set about promoting her new business. To demonstrate the sort of miniatures that she could make, she produced several example pieces, including models of the village church and the pub close to her home in Yeaveley, near Ashbourne. When she had enough exemplars, she set up an attractive website and made a portfolio comprising images of her models set alongside photographs of the buildings on which they were based.
Two initiatives that she undertook in Ashbourne have added to her profile. Her miniature replica of the façade of Ashbourne Town Hall received a rave review in the local paper when it was exhibited at the Ashbourne Show, and Catherine Caffrey, the owner of the Opus Gallery, was delighted to respond to Vicky’s request to display and take orders for her products.
Thanks to her unique personalised products, Vicky was selected as a finalist in a national competition organised by Country Homes and Interiors magazine for people running new rural businesses. The resulting publicity and the article that appeared in the magazine about Vicky and her Pottery Homes bought orders from people throughout the country, even from France.
Asked to explain the appeal of her pottery homes, the ceramicist said, ‘Some people want a way of making permanent the fond memories of a home where they used to live; others want to celebrate the house where they live now or to commemorate the changes that they have made to their house. For all my customers, a miniature replica of their house is guaranteed to stir the emotions, because their home is the place that is closest to their heart.’
Many of Vicky’s miniature replicas are bought as presents for Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries. As Vicky explained, those ordered as retirement gifts often represent buildings other than houses. She said, ‘For example, I was asked to make a model for a retiree of the headquarters of a company he had founded and built up throughout his working life. Similarly, I made a model of our local school on behalf of the PTA committee who wanted to present it as a retirement gift to the headteacher.’
In most cases, the recipients of Vicky’s miniatures are unaware that the model is being made, making it necessary for Vicky to go ‘undercover’ to conduct secret on-the-spot inspections of the property, allowing her to pace out the dimensions of the building and take careful note of detailed features. Virtually all her clients ask for faithfully detailed replicas, although most ask her to omit aerials, satellite dishes, flues and telephone wires.
In response to requests from places that are too far away to visit, Vicky has to rely on photographs that have been sent to her, supported by her inspection of the property on Google Earth. But with every order, she strives to achieve detailed accuracy and authenticity, including a perfect colour match, achieved by choosing appropriate clays. Requests that she has received for models of particularly grand houses, such as the halls at Casterne, Tissington and Ilam, have posed the most difficult challenges, not least in the need to create multiple miniature replicas of tall chimney stacks.
Her first pottery homes were always made in three-dimensions, but the difficulties she has faced when packing and safely sending three-dimensional models by post to distant clients has caused her to introduce some plaques or relief models restricted to illustrating the façade of a building.
These ‘façade miniatures’ are also appropriate for buildings that form part of a terrace, where only the frontage is visible from the street. As Vicky points out: ‘isolating the façade of a building from that of its neighbours often gives it a dignity that could be overlooked when it is viewed merely as one frontage amongst many others. For example, I have been surprised how much my model of the facade of the Opus Gallery in St John Street has ‘lifted’ the architecture of the building.’
Vicky spends as long as eight weeks fashioning a full three-dimensional mode, which is typically between 10 and 15 cms high and up to 25cms wide, and she needs between four and six weeks to produce plaques or relief models of façades. The work is often tedious and painstaking, but her efforts are rewarded by the look of delight on the faces of all the people who are given one of her pottery homes. For all of them, their miniature model will become a lasting reminder that there is no place like home.
Examples of Pottery Homes (07766075252) can be viewed on the website www.potteryhomes.co.uk Examples can be viewed in the flesh and purchased at the Opus Gallery, 34 St John Street, Ashbourne (01335 348989).