A studio to call her own

For more information about Donnas and her work visit www.petersonpotterystudio.co.uk or pop in to Peterson Pottery Studio, ‘Clay Cottage’, 48-50 Wellington Street, Grimsby, Lincolnshire DN32 7DZ. Email donnathepotter@gmail.com

Featured in:
November 2019

Sculptor, potter and ceramic artist Donnas Peterson tells Kate Chapman she has always been passionate about artwork and making things and she’s delighted with her latest creation – her very own independent pottery studio in Grimsby.

Having her own creative space to work and teach others her craft has been a lifelong dream for Donnas, who was born and bred in the town, and now after transforming a derelict building she finally has a studio to call her own.

Peterson Pottery Studio – aptly named Clay Cottage by Donnas – is the first of its kind in Grimsby and is the perfect space to show off her stunning pieces, which include sculptures of animals as well as thrown works such as bowls, cups, vases and more.

Visitors are welcome and can often watch her work at the potter’s wheel, browse the gallery where a diverse selection of handmade wares are for sale or get their own hands dirty by signing up to one of her workshops.

“I’ve always been on the lookout for somewhere to set up a studio, but life always seemed to get in the way, now my two sons have grown up and flown the nest I decided the time was finally right,” says Donnas, who is completely self-taught.

“Eventually I found this place, it was an absolute wreck but a perfect size. It had been derelict for about fifty years, but I could see it had potential, so armed with more enthusiasm than money I got stuck in!

“It’s taken a couple of years but now there’s just the upstairs to finish. Through hard work and perseverance this has always been my dream and now I’m proud to say it’s a reality.”

Donnas has always been fascinated by making things and drawing; even as a child she was always armed with a sketchbook and pencil.

“I was quite shy at school, I always tended to keep my head down, but one could usually find me in the art room,” she says. “My first job on leaving school came about when the headmaster suggested I apply for work at a pottery some fifteen miles away.”

Donnas got the job, and this set the seed for her lifelong dream of one day opening her own pottery. After a couple of years, keen to expand on her artistic abilities, she took other art-related jobs including positions in Holland and in a studio in Sheffield creating limited edition figurines.

She then changed direction and returned to her roots to settle in Grimsby, taking up teacher training with a mind to pass on her skills, although art remained her calling.

“It’s taken a couple of years but now there’s just the upstairs to finish. Through hard work and perseverance this has always been my dream and now I’m proud to say it’s a reality.”

Self-taught and determined, Donnas acquired a multitude of diverse artistic skills, even making her own multiple piece moulds to reproduce her famous collectable pie funnels, of which there are 40 different unique designs sold to worldwide collectors.

Nowadays she enjoys working alone, always has a commission on the go, and creates everything you see in her gallery showroom. She specialises in animal portraits, sculpture and ceramics and takes on commission work producing lifelike portraits of beloved pets as well as humans in clay form. She has also made moulds and castings for projects including manhole covers used in Dubai, tiles for fireplaces and 3D signs.

“I just love the versatility of clay – it’s just like playing with plasticine really, you can create so much with it, and in so many different ways.

“I tend to take a solid block of clay and form the shape of what it’s going to be before adding the detail and characteristics,” she says.

When she’s reached a certain point in her work Donnas cuts her pieces in half to remove excess clay from the centre before joining back together using her skills to hide the join.

“The piece is then left to dry which can sometimes take up to three weeks, then once bone dry, the sculpture is fired in the kiln. Larger pieces can take several weeks to complete, while smaller items like a cup thrown on the potter’s wheel can perhaps be made complete with a pulled handle in an hour.”

Taking her inspiration from all around her, Donnas describes her work as quirky, as she likes to add her own whimsical touches to each piece to make them all individual.

She loves creating animal sculptures and always harboured a desire to make something epic and in 2011 she fulfilled another lifelong dream by making a full-size sculpture of a donkey. Dudley the Donkey now stands proudly in the Pier Gardens, at Cleethorpes, where he has become quite an attraction.

“I used to visit Cleethorpes beach when I was younger and I was surprised to learn that no-one had done anything to commemorate the donkeys giving rides on the beach there, so I decided I’d make a life-size sculpture of one,” explains Donnas.

“It was all self-funded and originally I was going to present it as a surprise to the lady who worked the donkeys in recognition of her efforts over the years, but sadly she died before it was finished.

“Her son contacted the local council and they agreed to give it pride of place in the Pier Gardens – it’s still there to this day. It’s quite an attraction – everyone loves him and poses for photos with him. He’s actually the centre image on the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Monopoly board too!”

Donnas has also taught herself computer skills and created her own website to promote and sell her work while more recently she took on her first exhibition at Doddington Hall where she showcased her work and was delighted to make sales.

Although she enjoyed the event she is now focusing on her work in the studio and is keen to do more life-size pieces in the future.

Donnas welcomes visitors and offers pottery workshops, which are ideal for groups, especially ninth wedding anniversaries or couples who would like to experience their own Ghost moment on the potter’s wheel.

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