Successful ceramic artist Julie Massie tells Emma Joseph that her tactile creations reflect the fragility of the crumbling Dorset coastline near her home

These stunning works of art look too fragile to touch, but that’s exactly what ceramic artist Julie Massie wants you to do. Inspired by the fragility of her beloved Dorset coastline, Julie creates striking, tactile installations and framed pieces at her Hengistbury Head home which have received international recognition.

The mum-of-three was an art teacher in London and Bournemouth for 24 years, before taking a leap of faith in 2014 to focus on her own art. She had not even completed her MA course in ceramics before one of her pieces wasselected to hang in the Royal Academy’s prestigious international summer exhibition, where it quickly sold, and interest in her work sparked a number of commissions.

She has since exhibited with a group of university friends at the Menier Gallery in London, taken part in the Craft Council’s Collect Open at the Saatchi Gallery in Kings Road, London, and won the 2017 Rising Stars event, linked to Farnham’s University of Creative Arts where she did her MA, which led to a solo show.

Julie also has work at the Hatch Gallery in Christchurch, and was asked to take part in the New Designers event for emerging artists at the Business Design Centre in London. It seems things are really taking off for Julie, but she stresses the realisation of her dream has been a long time coming.

“It wasn’t until half way through my MA that I started getting somewhere,” she says. “But I still teach. I run pottery clubs at primary schools, workshops for after school and at Hengistbury Head Visitors Centre. I’ve always enjoyed teaching ceramics.

“So that’s day to day, then I’m also working on my own work and exhibitions.”

Living so close to the coast herself, Julie is well aware of the fragile state of the landscape, and hopes her work will encourage others to think about how things may change in the future.

“The colours are inspired by the sea, so it’s all inspired by the coastline, the fragility of the eroding coastline,” she explains.

“It was Kimmeridge Bay that I first took inspiration from, because ofthe slate and the fact it’s constantly crumbling. We have an eroding coastline, that’s a natural thing really.

“I want people to think about what the coastline is like – it’s normal for it to erode. Living near the coastline myself, you do wonder what would happen, what would this bit of land look like in the future?”

She hopes the tactile nature of her work will encourage that awareness, as well as an interactive experience.

“A lot of people don’t know what my work is made out of. They think it’s material or paper,” she explains. “So I like that, because they have to go up to it and really look at it.

“The installation in the Saatchi Gallery was massive. People could walk between the pieces hanging from the ceiling. It made a noise as well, so that’s going on while people were walking in between the pieces. People would touch it and they were scared it might break. I often invite people to touch and they say ‘No, it’s okay’.

“Traditionally, we’re told not to touch anything in a gallery, but this is the opposite for me. It’s about interacting with the piece of art.”

Julie is now working on building relationships with art consultants and interior designers in a bid to create interest in her work, and is constantly sketching new ideas before creating them in one of two kilns in situ in her garage.

“There are always more things I want to make,” she smiles. “I would like to be accepted at the RA again and I’m applying to lots of different things, so it’s just seeing what happens, see what prizes are out there to enter.

“It would be nice to exhibit abroad as well. I’ve just got to keep going. I’ve met some great people along the way. It’s great, I really enjoy it.”