Frances Palmer knows how to create magic at her potter’s wheel, but she applies that same passion to her cutting gardens (especially dahlias), floral arrangements, and photography. Her new book Life in the Studio: Inspiration and Lessons on Creativity (Artisan, 2020) left us breathless with delight. It is instructional, gorgeous, and generous—Frances shares her very personal journey with us, giving a true understanding of her craft and process and happily embracing the unpredictability of her chosen pursuits.
Her goal is to “encourage others to follow their own artistic paths.” Frances readily admits that her approach is not the only way: “It is my hope that in distilling strategies developed over nearly three decades of creative pursuits, I will be able to offer insight anyone can adapt for their own imaginative adventures.” She accomplishes this in spades and in prose as graceful as her pottery and lifestyle. With some favorite recipes and beekeeping tips thrown in for good measure, Life in the Studio is indeed a treasure.
Scenes from the Book
Click the arrows (or swipe if on a mobile device) to see more
“On the morning of a recent open studio, the second floor of the barn was filled with new pots. Customers were happy to see the work firsthand, and because there are often multiple versions of the same shape, it allowed them to understand the one-of-a-kind nature of each pot,” Frances Palmer writes in the chapter about opening her studio to her clientele.
Holiday-favorite amaryllis flowers, including a showy “spider” variety, show off their bulbs in an open-sided, footed terra-cotta bowl, which appears in an informative chapter for aspiring ceramicists, "Building a Pot, Step-by-Step."
The artist presses blooms of various forms into wet plaster to make molds.
Beneath a vase of Frances’s beloved dahlias, we catch a glimpse of two titles from her personal library: Things of Beauty Growing: British Studio Pottery (2017) and Mrs. Delany & Her Circle by Mark Laird (2009), both from Yale University Press. The latter is about the late-blooming and prolific artist Mary Delany who, at the age of 72, began creating exquisite hand-cut botanical collages in 18th-century England and Ireland.
By Alice Welsh Doyle | Photography by Frances Palmer
Signed copies of Life in the Studio: Inspiration and Lessons on Creativity (Artisan, 2020) are available at francespalmerpottery.com
This story originally appeared in the Scene column of Flower magazine’s Nov/Dec 2020 issue. Subscribe to the magazine or sign up for our free e-newsletter.
Bonus: Dahlias Puzzle
Puzzles have helped us while away many a socially distanced hour during Covid-19, and we could not be more excited to begin piecing this one together.
Commemorating the Fall 2020 publication of Frances’s book, Artisan released a 750-piece puzzle featuring one of her vibrantly lush dahlia photographs. Dahlias Puzzle ($30), available at flowermagshop.com