Spring Rotation 2016
Programs such as The Great Pottery Throwdown ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06nwm7b0 ) have presented an insight into different making processes. This is following a number of years when many ceramics courses have closed or face closure across the U.K. With this in mind we have asked each maker to tell us about what first inspired them.
Each journey is different and whether through formal education, mid-career change in direction or by starting at a young age, these stories illustrate perseverance, strength in creativity and personal vision. Hopefully they are stories to inspire others.
The artists featured for the next few months in the gallery for our Spring Rotation are; Julie Ayton, Daniel Boyle, Linda Chew, Roger Cockram, Jennifer Hall, Jill Shaddock, Hannah McAndrew, and Clare Wakefield.
|Blue and white vessels by Linda Chew|
We are profiling each maker in turn and look out for our upcoming blog posts for insights into these artists' working methods and the routes they have taken into a career in ceramics.
'To be free to make my own work and teach everyone from tinies to octogenarians, untrammeled by bureaucracy, is a quality of life decision I never regretted.'
|Julie Ayton in her studio|
At school, my own interest in that direction was quickly thwarted by a joyless teacher. As a girl, I wasn't permitted into the wood and metal workshops, which dimmed my initial curiosity in those areas. But I was allocated to a class based in the art room - the pottery studio, common in schools back then. Although I vexed my patient teacher through my dreaminess, it was the room in which I was most at home, a refuge.
|Julie Ayton - Teapot and Jug|
Although concerns over funding decline were already in the air, opportunities still abounded for degree courses in the arts. I was given a grant. Later, teaching on courses that directed students to higher education, the choices were narrowing all the time - it seemed I had slipped through while doors inexorably closed.
|Julie Ayton - Inscribed Deep Dish|
At Farnham the irascible Henry Hammond squinted at work on shelves with minimal comment - more telling than an hour's crit - Sebastian Blackie taught us about kilns, and Nigel Wood forced an understanding of glazes into our sometimes unscientific heads.
Visiting tutors included Takeshi Yasuda, Agnete Hoy, John Maltby. Paul Barron took a handful of us to meet Lucie Rie at her home and studio. There was rigor and inspiration; a respect for fundamentals. Drawing was compulsory and sustained; we went to Stoke to get our limited skills into perspective. A summer job became a year in a pottery in Northampton and put a harsh economic reality into my own future plans. Back at college, my final year tutor was Siddig Nigoumi, whose gentle demeanor and reflective, rhythmic approach to decoration has stayed with me.
|Julie Ayton - Teapot|
It was an ex-student who put me in touch with Salisbury Arts Centre, who were looking for a potter in residence. The Arts Centre's very existence was the work of a group of enlightened and dedicated people who wanted to broaden the cultural landscape of their city. It was a ground-up venture already struggling financially but with a firm grip on principles.
|Julie Ayton - Small Bowl|
I was overjoyed to be given the opportunity, in spite of a frightening and irrecoverable plummet of income. To be free to make my own work and teach everyone from tinies to octogenarians, untrammeled by bureaucracy, is a quality of life decision I never regretted. Teaching remains important to me. For scores of aspiring and recreational potters who want to explore the discipline seriously, Art Centres and potters' own workshops are the only resource available.
School facilities have declined as degree courses have closed, and today someone like my childhood self has few avenues open to them, and those at a cost which don't bear scrutiny. I am fortunate to work from a studio of my own now, rented from a very generous retired engineer. Ironically, when I first stepped into the building, the smell of the lathes, drills, oil and metal took me straight back to those school workshops to which I was denied entrance.
'...still following my idealistic dream of being a maker that I had when I first discovered ceramics, a job for life. '
Like many children I first touched clay at primary school but my memory of this only remains in the form of a couple of penguins that still sit on my parents shelf. At secondary school there was a kiln and we were able to work a little with clay - a few coil and pinch pots still remain from those days. I was first really drawn to the world of ceramics when I was attending a PQC in Art and Design at Newbury College at the age of seventeen (1987). It was a two-year full time ‘A’ level art course, it seemed experimental and focused, a complete submersion in art. The college had a large ceramics room with a couple of wheels and kilns that seemed little used by most of the students on my course and were used more for evening classes. I was drawn in by the hypnotic qualities of throwing, and idealist thoughts of becoming a potter - maybe it was one of many crafts that could have captured me at that time but the pottery room was there and I was soon filling the shelves full of pots on the quest of learning to throw.
|Daniel Boyle - Mugs|
I had some direction from the course leader, a former graduate from the Central School of Art ceramics course - he told me the best course to apply to was the Harrow Studio Pottery HND which is now sadly closed - they would teach me to throw and to build kilns - it was very a practical course. I didn’t even look at another course - I knew this was the one for me. At this time maintenance grants were available and no attendance fees payable - a time when the financial constraints of attending university were less considered, allowing students to develop their interests without the concerns of the financial rewards ahead.
|Daniel Boyle - Lidded Vessel|
|Daniel Boyle - Vessel|
One of my first memories was when I was three, sitting on our garden path with a trowel and a tin dish mixing up earth with water to make mud pies - a sign of things to come. In primary school there was a dustbin under the sink with modelling clay - I can still recall the wonderful smell of that damp and rather stiff grey clay and loved it, especially as we were only allowed to play with it if we had been very good.
Art lessons at secondary school were the highlight of my week. There was a pottery where we produced thick coil pots decorated with slip and glazed in honey and chocolate brown glazes. Some of those pieces still sit on my shelf in my studio.
Then came an opportunity to work as an apprentice with the potter Beth Blik who encouraged me to do a post graduate year at the Institute of Education at London University to gain an Art Teacher's Certificate where William Newland was a great mentor in the ceramics department.
We were fortunate in those days to have such good facilities and small classes where we had room to work with a free hand, supported by talented professional makers.
My style of work changed when I left teaching to raise a family and I began to produce one off decorative pieces which were hand built rather than thrown.
When my two children reached their teens I returned to teaching . I have really enjoyed sharing my passion for all aspects of art with young people, especially ceramics and passing on to them skills and enthusiasm for pursuing a creative life no matter what path or career they choose to follow.
A discipline of drawing everyday and printing using lino has recently led me to begin a new body of work. I have returned to throwing with porcelain, decorating with inlaid line and underglaze colours to enhance and describe the small forms – just the right size to fit into the palm and be touched and explored. They remind me of ancient fertility goddesses with their round bellies and smooth tactile surface. They are fired in an electric kiln to 1230 c
Portrait Linda Chew - image Dee Honeybun
Linda Chew Vessels - images Linda Chew
|Roger throwing porcelain in the studio 2015|
After Harrow I returned to deepest Devon, where I got married, had some gorgeous kids, bought some sheep and bees and built a 100cuft woodfiring kiln in which I used to fire breadbins, bottles and hundreds of tankards and mugs for the next 10 years.
However, my original love of the sea and water gradually overtook me and I eventually moved up the road to the beautiful ancient village of Chittlehampton, where I changed direction again - to take on the making of decorative individual pieces in stoneware, which were strongly figurative, and were based on the observation of various animals in their watery world.
This sustained me for some years and I sold well – including through annual exhibition/auctions in Bonhams – which gave me access to an international audience and some further success.
The movement, rhythms, colours etc of the medium, all interest me and form the inspiration for my work – this time all abstract in nature (definitely non-figurative).
My work is found in several private and public collections in the UK and around the world, especially mainland Europe and the USA. All images courtesy the artist.
'The thing in common with now and then is my passion for pottery, for the domestic and for the wheel.'
The thing in common with now and then is my passion for pottery, for the domestic and for the wheel. As well as having Geoff Swindell and Peter Starkey to hand at Cardiff, I treasured the weekly visit from Mick Casson who more than anyone made us question what we were doing and why, with regards to our making processes.
|Jennifer Hall Mugs|
Recently the sad news of the death of Morgan Hall took me back to my degree days, when Morgan was one of a few guest makers we had come and spend a day with us. She was a real inspiration for me, in an environment which doubted the viability of a life as a studio potter. Morgan was a shining example of somebody out there in the real grown up world, who not only made pots day to day, but achieved a career in pottery making innovative domestic ware, with a success which meant she had a waiting list for her seconds!! It was marvellous to meet her at that most impressionable time in my journey.
|Jennifer Hall Bowls|
After the freedom of college, I moved west from Cardiff to Carmarthen for an 18 month stint working for an established studio pottery. In contrast to the experimental, searching nature of college, this was a valuable lesson in production. Pru Green of Gwili Pottery taught me how to structure my days and weeks, how to deal with customers both private and wholesale and most importantly my time there taught me that I wanted to make my own work in my own workshop.
|Jennifer Hall Jugs|
I continue to make wheel thrown slip decorated domestic ware, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing now without that treasured experience of my time in Cardiff that shone a light on the path ahead.
Images: Ayton West Joe Purches
Developing ideas through experimentation
|Jill in her studio after University photo by Edward Chadwick|
I set up my ceramic studio in 2011 after graduating from Manchester School of Art with a degree in Three Dimensional Design. The course gave me the opportunity to investigate and experiment with designing and making using various different mediums including; glass, wood, metal and ceramics, before I specialised in ceramics in the second year.
|Slash cut vases|
I feel extremely lucky to have benefited from having access to this range of workshops, and am unfortunately probably one of the last to have access to workshops on such a scale. Gaining a basic knowledge of working across different mediums definitely had a positive impact on my approach to ceramics.
|Low row vessels|
After gaining A-levels in Art, Design and photography I then completed a foundation diploma in Art and Design at Leeds College of Art. This was an intensive year, which really helped me define the way I work. I again had the opportunity to work with ceramics during this year. It was clear that I enjoyed developing ideas through practical experimentation with materials and the following degree allowed me to continue to do this.
All images by Jill Shaddock unless otherwise stated.
A life of making and finding her niche
At school I studied art and an A level in textiles which I loved but arriving on my foundation course in Manchester I really thought I would like to work in metal. As a result I applied to the Three Dimensional Design course at Manchester Metropolitan University. The reality was that metal and me just didn't get on, I couldn't get to grips with the cold hardness of it, it didn't grab me at all. That, and the noise in the metal workshops drove me round the twist and I left with a head ache every day.
|Hannah McAndrew with jug|
|Hannah McAndrew holding a cup|
With Jason I felt that I had really found my niche, I discovered that I love to decorate pots. It wasn't something that I'd ever really done but when I got my first taste of slip trailing I was hooked. Ever since then, slipware has been my thing, and I am as fascinated and excited by the process now as I was that day.
All images Shannon Tofts
|Clare Wakefield in her studio|
Clare Wakefield works on the Kent coast and her environment and love of the sea is clearly reflected in her ceramics. To inspire her for the day ahead, whatever season, she often has an early morning sea swim.
Clare delves into a combination of themes from nature and our world. She is drawn to water and exploring coastlines, and has to be in or on the water wherever she visits. One of her most memorable travels was to the dramatic coastlines of New Zealand. Flowing lines evoke thoughts of ever moving oceans. Further elements remind us of the creatures that call the seas their home. Birth, regeneration and the bond between mother and child are recurring themes.
|Clare Wakefield Dish|
|Clare Wakefield Globe|
|Clare Wakefield Pods|
Text and images; Clare Wakefield