Artist Interview: Janet from Blue Magpie Design

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Q: Who are you?

A: My name is Janet. No known nicknames. (my friends might say otherwise !

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Q: Tell us about your personal life.

A: I came to Portugal from Scotland intending to stay for about one year. Then life happened and I never left.

I’m married, with two sons who have grown up and moved to London and Shanghai.

I have one black Labrador and her semi Labrador daughter and two very old hens who have recently remembered to start laying eggs again.

We live in an old, traditional farmhouse in the middle of  a field with lots of flowers, birds and animals. Our large and sprawling studio is in the same place. I now think that the more space you have to work in, the more disorganized things become.

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Q: Your shops are?

A:  My shops are Blue Magpie Design and Costa Sul.

Q: What are your Etsy Shops about?

A: Blue Magpie Design sells my ceramics and paintings. I also sell my work in a” bricks and mortar” shop in the nearest town which is Lagos in the South of Portugal.

I am selling my smaller works on Etsy as the larger ones are all very heavy.

It’s been quite a challenge trying to produce smaller, lighter weight pieces as I generally like to make quite large vases, bowls, sculptures and wall panels. The paintings are something I can do while I’m sitting in my shop waiting for customers, as I don’t like doing nothing!

 Costa Sul is my vintage shop, which is quite new.

 Q: Why did you decide to start your Shops?

A:  I can’t remember the first time that I noticed Etsy, but I spent several months looking at it before I decided to take the plunge! I called the shop “Blue Magpie Design” because there are dozens of blue magpies flying around my house and making a lot of noise!

 Q: What inspires you?

A: This is a hard question! I don’t always know where inspiration comes from. Can be from books, exhibitions, old buildings, museums other peoples’ work. Sometimes I get the feeling that I’ve run dry and don’t know what to do next!Luckily something usually comes to mind! Sometimes I get the feeling that I’ve run dry and don’t know what to do next! Luckily something usually comes to mind!

I tend to have too many ideas rather than too few and then don’t have enough time to carry them out.

Q: How do you make your products?

A: My ceramics are stoneware and porcelain fired to about 1280ºc in a gas kiln. I make all the glazes here from raw ingredients. A bit like making a large cake!

I like to work in phases, either a making phase or a glazing/painting phase.

I also work on several pieces at a time as making ceramics involves a lot of time waiting for the clay to harden up enough to continue working.

So when people ask me how long it takes to make something, it isn’t an easy question to answer.

I use under-glaze slips (liquid clay which has been colored) on wet clay when I’m decorating my work as it gives an immediate, free, painterly feel to the piece.

I also like to stamp, scratch and impress found objects, plants, old lace etc.

I love contrasts of dark and light, smooth and rough, patterned and plain.

When faced with a large area to decorate be it on paper or clay I tend to divide up the space with lines or squares. It makes it less scary.

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Q: When you are creating, you love to listen to?

A: Depends on my mood. Energetic and fast if I’m doing something physical like rolling out slabs of clay.

Q: Who is your Favorite Artist and why?

A: I could write a very long list here. In ceramics my biggest heroes would probably have to be Lucie Ree, Hans Coper and John Maltby.

I love the paintings of Paul Klee, Egon Schiele , Hundertwasser  and David Hockney.

Q: What do you love?

A:  Books, music, good food in good company.

Walks on the beach in winter. Traveling somewhere new.

Q: A funny fact about you is?

A: I like reggae music, Japanese sumo wrestling and curry, not necessarily at the same time!

Q: Where do you live?

A: I live just outside Lagos in the South West Of Portugal. It’s a town with a very long history, known as Lacobriga in Roman times. There is a very long beach “Meia Praia” which means “half beach” don’t know why as it’s one of the longest beaches in Portugal.

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Q: You could live on this food for the rest of your life:

A: Fruit.

Q: Favorite book you’ve recently read:

A: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a very moving story. I read several books a month but this one stuck in my mind.

Q: Favorite film you’ve recently seen:

A: The Kite Runner, which I saw after reading the book which is always better!

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Q: Give us a favorite recipe from your country:

A: Arroz De Pato. (Duck Rice )

Boil a duck (or two if they are small)

Remove all the meat and set aside.

Chop an onion and fry in olive oil until soft .

Chop 2-3 cloves of garlic and add to the onion,

Add some bacon or chorizo sausage (if desired)

Fry for a few more minutes.

Add a bay leaf.

Chop a small turnip into cubes and add.

For 4 people add two cups of rice and 4 cups of boiling water (use some of the water that you boiled the duck in )

When the mixture is boiling turn down to a minimum until almost cooked.

Transfer to a baking dish brush with beaten egg and put in a hot oven until brown and crunchy on top.

Serve with a salad of oranges and grated carrots.

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