Tom Kemp’s Instagram Tips

This is the original text of an article that I wrote for the London Potters Members Magazine June / July 2018, following a great LP day out in April …

Huge thanks are due to London Potters for organising an incredibly useful event at Turning Earth E10 in Walthamstow on the 7thApril. Around 20 or so potters were treated to a seminar with Tom Kemp who generously shared his experiences, successes and lessons from using social media to sell and promote his pottery online.


Turning Earth E10 Studios in Use

I travelled up from Carshalton with a small band of potters from Sutton College on train, tube and bus with our packed lunches. We were pleasantly surprised that what looked like a daunting journey on paper in fact turned out to be quite straightforward. Luckily we bumped into a fellow London Potter on the bus who told us where to jump out at the industrial estate that is now home to the large, bright and spacious factory that has been recently converted for ceramics classrooms, beautiful studios and well equipped professional facilities.

Tom Kemp creates porcelain ceramics incorporating a distinctive “quasi-writing” decorative technique. He is fascinated by writing and is self-taught in the history and practice of calligraphy. He has brought this to his pottery and in recent years made a name for himself through social media. He is now successful enough to have given up his previous full time job to be a ceramicist since June 2017. He generously shared his experience with us through a talk called “Finding your people” …

He started with an introduction on how to get onto the social media bandwagon. Tom was careful to pitch his talk at both people with very little experience in this area and also those who do know the ropes. There was something for everyone.

Social media allows anyone to reach and engage with a large audience, to make connections and spread the word. How you use social media is entirely up to you and depends on your goals and the style of communication you are most comfortable with. For example, your goals may include making more sales, gaining recognition, finding opportunities and interacting with other potters to find help, discuss problems and learn new techniques.

Tom has an analytical background and looked into the statistics and driving forces behind social media usage. He explained to us the power of the dopamine hit from getting “likes” that can make social media so addictive. Virtually all platforms are free to use but as we all now know from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, you are really paying through sharing your personal data. I think that so long as this is understood then it depends on your attitude in weighing up the pros and cons. I am happy to share my love of pottery but keep my private life to myself. Tom also showed us that you don’t need to be an extrovert to make this work for you.

Reaching your goals through social media is “a numbers game” he explained. On Instagram, Tom has about 153,000 followers today. Each post then averages 3000 likes, generating approximately 30 comments (he does try to answer them all) then 3 direct messages from people who are nearly always genuinely interested. So there is a funnelling effect from the number of followers through to real opportunities.

Tom has an online shop and he periodically announces that his “shop is opening” on Instagram. Statistically he then showed that his following generates around 2000 shop visits, then 30 cart-fillers and perhaps 15 buyers, who spend on average £200 each. He has learned some of his techniques from potters such as Jono Smart and Florian Gadsby who both promote and sell very successfully using this model. Their online shop remains open for a few days and is then shut but left displaying a clear message suggesting that visitors sign up to the email newsletter for advance news of the next shop opening. This builds an opted-in subscriber list of properly interested people that remains independent of the social media platform itself.

If you are wondering how Tom found his 153,000 followers, then here are some top tips I took away. Like any kind of marketing, it does take discipline and effort to make it really work.

Tom advised us to “tell the unfolding, never-ending story” of how your work is made, leading to the finished pieces, because people love to see craftsmanship in action. Tell people about you and your progress, and this in turn builds trustworthiness and therefore your “brand”. He’s found that people are now asking for a “Tom Kemp Vase”.

Be honest and help others, answer questions and share interesting and useful stuff. This all helps to build the trust and the sense that “if all those people like it, it must be good!”

Do also try and actively find people to engage with and learn from. There are lots of great teachers on Youtube such as Simon Leach, Hsin-Chuen Lin and Danielle “The Clay Lady”. Facebook is used very successfully by Kate Malone, while Adam Frew used it to help crowdfund the setup of his new studio. If you ever get stuck, just Google it and there are many people out there who will help you.

Most social media platforms are actually quite similar but learn one of them really well and you can normally link from there to others automatically. You need to be relentless and consistent with your posting and continuously “tag, tag, tag”! If you are so minded, you can learn how to use the analytical tools that come with your platform of choice to learn more about your posts and followers.

It’s very important to have your own website to direct all your social media engagement towards, and it’s not hard to create one these days. Tom uses SquareSpace, but various others are available such as Wix, Duda and Weebly.

Tom’s own magic social media moment was when he posted a brief “how it’s done” video of writing on porcelain that was shared extensively and virally. His follower numbers then shot up by 1500 in a single day and grew rapidly from there. He used the analogy of a room full of mousetraps, where setting off the first mousetrap triggers an explosive effect in setting off all the others in rapid succession.

The main practical point that I took away is to make a concerted effort to direct my Instagram followers to subscribe to my mailing list. Instagram has worked really well for me already as it has helped me to be found by galleries, as well as generated direct sales, commissions and more. I now want to try and generate more direct sales through building up my mailing list and improving my online shop.

This article is just a taster of a great day out. I’m sure that everyone who attended would like to extend a heartfelt thank you again to Tom for sharing his invaluable experience with us and of course to Luyi Brown at London Potters for making this happen.

A Flying Visit to York

Last weekend I finally managed to board the train from Kings Cross to York for a one night stayover with my family. The main missions were to visit the Lotte Inch Gallery where my work has been showing and the fairly newly opened Centre of Ceramics Art (CoCA) nearly next door to Lotte. We also managed to fall in love with York; with just so much character, history, atmosphere and brilliant shopping & restaurants too (!) making our short stay feel frustratingly rushed. We can’t wait to get back there again.

Lotte Inch Gallery was positively buzzing with visitors on the Saturday who were also enjoying the York Open Studios trail that Lotte had helped to organise with Kiosk. The gallery is warm and welcoming in a quirky, timber beamed Tudor building with beautifully curated works in the Life Stills exhibition currently showing. 

I converted some of my recent gallery sales 🙂 into a pair of lovely James and Tilla Waters ceramic beakers from the gallery and then we wandered off to pay a visit to Kiosk, on recommendation from Lotte, for a most excellent pot of tea while also picking up a small Jono Smart vessel with a Sue Pryke ceramic spoon to add to my own collection. Kiosk is a very friendly, relaxed cafe on Fossgate that also stocks very high quality British Studio Ceramics. They’ve had a tough time though and had only just reopened the week before our visit, after being submerged during the flooding of York over Christmas. 

CoCA was everything I had hoped it would be. All of my studio pottery idols were represented there including Lucy Rie, Chris Keenan, Julian Stair, Edmund de Waal, Louisa Taylor and Grayson Perry. The space itself is magnificent as is the central installation Manifest of 10,000 bowls by Clare Twomey. I do hope my photographs below help to convey at least some of that…

Ceramic Art London 2016

On Friday morning I took a break from the wheel to head to Central St Martins near Kings Cross in London, a fabulous new venue for Ceramic Art London. Many of my favourite potters and ceramic artists show here each year along with new faces. I love talking to them and most are very friendly and more than happy to swap tips and ideas.

Below is a small selection of photos from the morning, followed by links to the artists …

Ali Tomlin Ceramics 

Jill Shaddock Ceramics

Jae Jun Lee Ceramics

Sue Pryke

Alison Gautrey Ceramics

IKUKO Iwamoto 

Kate Schuricht

Jin Eui Kim 

LandScape Magazine

In September I was delighted to be contacted by LandScape magazine who asked to feature the salt pots from my Etsy shop in their November / December magazine.

Last Thursday my slightly over excited husband dashed into WH Smiths in Victoria station, London to grab a freshly printed copy off the shelf. Below are some photos from the magazine, I’m in the “In the kitchen” section, “Flavour of the sea”.

LandScape magazine is beautifully photographed and presented and is quite a treasure in it’s own right. I particularly like the articles promoting traditional crafts such as the loom silk weaving in Suffolk and wood turning from Vicki Brand pictured below.

My husband likes the Polecat and wildlife articles though he’s complaining that he may now be set to work building a reclaimed brick path in our allotment over the Winter now, after inspiration from the magazine! (grumble, grumble)

Grayson Perry Mini Pilgrimage

The start and end of my Summer was bookended by everyone’s favourite transvestite potter, Grayson Perry. On our way up through Essex to Suffolk we stopped at the peaceful village of Wrabness where Grayson designed and built “Julie’s House” with FAT Architecture. 

We couldn’t go inside the house (which is sooo frustrating because it’s packed full of amazing art!) but a public footpath right next to the house gives good views of the temple-like structure. Afterwards we stopped in the village cafe where the very friendly locals provided a very decent sandwich and cup of tea and were more than delighted to talk about Grayson and how they all seemed to have played a part in the construction and the brief period of media excitement that followed the opening of Julie’s House earlier this year with accompanying Channel 4 documentary.


And on the way home we stopped in Margate for the day on the Kent coast and popped into the Turner Gallery to see the Provincial Punk exhibition that chronicles his artistic journey from the early days as an anti-elitist in Thatcherite Essex and London to his current role as an unlikely national treasure and one of my favourite artists. No photos allowed in the exhibition though! Apart from a case of broken Perry pottery in the entry hall (below). 

If you like Grayson then you must go to the Turner, and don’t miss the fabulous new Dreamland now reopened in Margate either.


CRAFTCO in Southwold

During our family holiday in Southwold this Summer I spent several hours lost in the inspirational, quirky world of CRAFTCO at the far end of the high street near a big Adnams beer shop. CRAFTCO is, as the name suggests, a collective for contemporary arts and crafts in East Anglia. Textiles, toys, jewellery, prints and of course ceramics from up to a hundred members of the collective are beautifully presented alongside ever changing exhibitions upstairs. 

My family all love the hand built, elaborate, painted, musical automata scattered around the shop. This time we got full value from the 20p we dropped into the crazy circus that carried on and and on and on until the lady in the shop unplugged it. 

We treated ourselves to some handmade mugs. Mine is by Irena Sibrijns and is pictured below. “The surface decoration is created with bodystains and oxides, using latex resist to layer the decoration in order, in order to achieve a depth of colour and definition to the drawing.” That’s what it says on the leaflet that came with the mug and I like the way CRAFTCO goes to such trouble to highlight the work of each of the makers. 

Very well worth a visit if you are ever in Southwold…





On The Map, in Sunbury

This morning we visited the Sunbury Embroidery Gallery with the family Mudge; Bill, Gina and Harriet. Bill is currently part of an exhibition there called On The Map, organised by Alban Low. A fantastic concept where a variety of artists have created maps with a difference. It’s a beautiful gallery, in a beautiful place. There’s a few snaps from it below. 

Notice the fox in the bottom right corner of Bill’s bright photo of a car (part of the photography from his ‘Wandling’ map) – that wasn’t staged – it just happened in the moment!



More Tea and Biscuits

Here’s a few mugs and jugs that we’ve collected over the last few years at Ceramic Art London …

The two in the front are by James and Tilla Waters. I’m now lusting after one of their teapots to match the mug at the front. Had to be sensible though so we’re saving up for the teapot and went for a Derek Wilson mug instead this year (back left). The milk jug is also by Derek.

Tea and biscuits with Rye Pottery

Recently I was very fortunate to be invited for tea and biscuits with Connie and David Beighton, to have a look at their extraordinary home full of Rye Pottery. Having bought one of my pieces at the Mine Gallery in Carshalton, they thought it very similar to some Rye Pottery in their collection. They got in touch and I discovered a whole new world of pottery! Here are some photos from my visit …

The pot at the back on the left is mine, the rest are Rye Pottery. Mine is carved porcelain through slip, the Rye is stoneware clay slipped and carved as well but with a drip of white glaze in each cut.