Hi! I’m Diana Parkhouse. I live and work in Nottingham, England, where I make ceramics for my shop in my garden studio. I was born in Australia and moved to the UK in 2006 for the wonderful weather. Okay, not really. I moved here to be with my boyfriend (now husband), Nick, but I really do love the English and their weather!
When I lived in Australia, I worked in the animal services industry. Once I moved to the UK and became eligible to work here, there was a down-turn in the economy and I found it really hard to find a job. When I finally found one, it was working part time at a local take-away. Like so many people, art and creating has been an outlet for me since childhood, but I never thought I could make a living from it. Once the conditions of my part-time job were about to change, it gave me the incentive to turn my hobby into a more satisfying career. I was nervous about the transition, but it has worked out. Now I struggle to imagine working as an employee again.
Since I run my own shop, I don’t have the constraints of a marketing team breathing down my neck, pressuring me to design something that is marketable to millions of people. That means I am able to design objects that will be loved dearly by the comparative few. Like so many handmade products on Etsy, you simply won’t find what I make anywhere else. In that way, makers on Etsy are not really competing with big corporations; corporations simply can’t do what we do and be viable. Yes, you can buy a ring dish from a department store, but you can’t buy a personalized one made by hand especially for you.
Each of my ceramic creations begins as wet porcelain clay. I hand form everything from scratch and stamp any personalization into the clay while it is still wet. After the first firing, I apply glazes. Then after a second trip to the kiln to mature the glaze, I package up the orders and send them on their way to their new homes. I handle this entire process myself for most of the year, but during very busy periods (like Christmas), Nick pitches in to help with dispatch. He does a very fine job of it, I must say!
More than ever before, people today think long and hard about how and where they spend their money. Shoppers are simply not comfortable with products that are made at a cost to the environment or the communities of emerging economies. We have all been educated about sweatshops, and understand the importance of fair trade. To me, conscious consumerism is tied strongly to being environmentally and socially responsible with our purchases. We must care about the chain of supply behind any one product. For many, buying handmade directly from the maker ensures that they are supporting the global economy in a way that no one gets hurt in the process.
I found Etsy several years ago through links in craft articles on the internet. I was immediately taken by this fantastic user-friendly platform for selling handmade goods and vintage items directly to the public. Etsy helped me to make a living out of my crafts, giving me the freedom to leave my part-time job and begin working full time from home. It allowed me and my family a more flexible approach to our day-to-day life. Sometimes it can be hard work, but it is very rewarding both emotionally and financially.
My day-to-day life is so very different now compared to when I was working in more traditional roles. Now I feel like I am master of my own destiny, rather than a slave to the whims of other people. It has made me stronger, wiser, and more focused on success, and it has helped me define what success means to me as an individual. In building my creative small business, I have inadvertently validated a large part of who I am. By making a living from what comes from my hands, I have found a path that feels more valid and real than any “real job” I have ever been employed to do by someone else. As an added bonus, I don’t have to suffer through any more mind-numbing office politics or power struggles. The only arguments I have now are with my pets over who really owns the packaging ribbon.
All photographs by Diana Parkhouse.