Late Summer at Contemporary Ceramics Centre | New makers on display for our August Rotation

Every four months Contemporary Ceramics Centre introduces 10 or 12 new makers into the gallery.  This is an opportunity to showcase different members of the Craft Potters Association and to discover more about the artists and their work. The current rotation period runs between August and the end of November 2016 and features 12 artists whose diversity in approach to making and personal vision yet again shows how wonderful and versatile one material, i.e. clay can be. 

It has been noticeable how ceramics and pottery is commanding greater interest, helped by programs such as The Great Pottery Throwdown, now heading towards its' second season, and of course the internet and social media.  Very exciting stuff - not helped a few years ago in the UK by courses closing and facing closure. 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.

Our Autumn (late summer) 2016 Rotation features vibrant work from: Anna Silverton, Linda John, Daiva Kojelyte-Marrow, Ben Arnup, Tamar Rose, Victoria Jardine, Claire Murray, Alastair Knights, Ilona Sulikova, Jude Jelfs, Claudia Clare and Annette Welch.

Over the coming weeks we will profile each maker, giving an insight into their ceramic background, career and the motivations behind their work.

Linda John
Just Going with the Flow ...

Linda John in her studio
 'I live on an island and visit the sea often. The rock formations are very special here and some outcrops give the impression of captured motion as if powerful waves have been set solid. The sand also records the action of waves as they leave the shore, in long stretches of flow patterns. I like the ‘lines’ which stretch into the distance, and their transitory nature lends them special significance as the brief display is visible only until the sand is dried, and lifted away by the action of the wind. There are many ways with clay to ‘concretise’ a response to both the transience and solidity of a rocky shoreline, and I currently use glazed porcelain, the strength of which is belied by the soft and fluid qualities of the surface. I wrap air with sheets of clay to make vessels that can hold water.
Linda John | Vessel

Linda John | Vessel detail
Often these vessels take on human or bird-like characteristics, which make them seem like sculpture. Some of the smaller ones only appear complete with the addition of a flower.
Linda John | Three vessels

Linda John | Vessel

Some days I might press my thumb into a ball of stoneware clay to make tiny coracles which, when conjoined, are carefully shaped into pebble-like forms, as satisfying to hold in the hand as are the myriad of originals on the beach. No longer vessels, or pots, they sit in the world as ‘ceramic sculpture’, albeit in diminutive form. I use thin washes of glaze as surface treatment much as I would if painting an abstract picture, but I have to accept the part the kiln plays in deciding how the piece arrives in the world, and welcome (or otherwise), each new arrival as ‘found object’.

Linda John | 'Found Objects'

Whether the work is small or comparatively large, like the urns I used to make by coiling clay, one of which is illustrated below, I have to thank the teaching I received at a College of Further Education, in the Midlands of England, which I attended following my Arts Degree in Aberdeen, Scotland. The teacher I had stumbled upon was a talented ‘all-rounder’ who discouraged early specialisation and encouraged a ‘sky’s the limit’ approach to making, whether when wheel-throwing domestic ware, or when constructing pieces that turned out, sometimes, to be even too large to go in the kiln. (One enormous piece I made was manhandled onto a very high shelf and may still be there for all I know.) Never choosing to specialise, however, may have been foolhardy, given the difficulties inherent in the making process of each of the ceramic disciplines. Deep focus gives more consistent rewards, but I enjoy the freedom of continual experiment and discovery. I was once criticised for not being “resolved” in my ceramic output, but now I see this as an advantage, and hope I never become so, being happier just ‘going with the flow’ whether making pots, vases, sculptural ceramics, or, sculpture proper.' Linda John November 2016

Stoneware Urn (porcelain slips and glaze washes) circa 1995

 Annette Welch

'I knew that ceramics would be my life'

Annette Welch

I first experienced the joys of working in clay at school – we had a fantastic teacher, Mr Buchanan, who had previously taught at Art School in Eire, so ashtrays and hedgehogs were frowned upon! After completing my A levels I went on an Art Foundation course at Cheltenham School of Fine Art and again was lucky to have two supportive and inspirational tutors, James Campbell and Tony Davies. It was during this time that I first visited museums, the Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean in Oxford became particular favourites – I would spend hours drawing - and I continue to be fascinated and inspired by an eclectic range of museums and artifacts. 

Medium Bowl | Annette Welch
 My Foundation tutors encouraged me to apply for a BA in ceramics at Camberwell Art School. This was the late 1970’s, so I was certainly one of the fortunate few to have a loan free education with only 12 students in my year. Three years of working in clay, learning to hand-build, wheel throw, slip cast, as well as building kilns for Salt and Raku firings and I knew that ceramics would be my life.
Sake Cups | Annette Welch

We were taught little about making a living, finding studios or galleries but I really enjoyed my time there and knew I wanted to continue working in clay. It was a fantastic experience and a travesty that, along with so many other ceramics departments in the country, the course was closed.

Jugs | Annette Welch

Victoria Jardine

Victoria Jardine
It's hard to avoid being sentimental when writing about how I found Ceramics, and the world of talented people and beautiful objects I have had the good fortune to inhabit since.

In my last year at school a wonderful teacher first opened the door for me. There were no artists in my family, only engineers; under gentle pressure I had accepted that a career in architecture was the thing for me. That would have been that were it not for Mr. Galloway, my Art teacher. A fantastic teacher and very much a rebel. He saw something in me that I hadn't yet understood about myself. One afternoon he mentioned that he was visiting the Art College and wondered if I'd like to come and have a look around. Oh ...and why not bring my portfolio as he was sure they'd love to see my work. Unbeknownst to me, he had set up an interview and, of course, I loved that place from the moment I walked in. Years later I went back and just the smell of the place made me cry.

That years Foundation at Cheltenham Art College was such a joy. The luxury of having the time and space to make and draw things all day, every day changed my world. James Campbell was teaching Ceramics there then. His beautiful and expressive work, love of hand building and gentle but persuasive teaching style were everything I needed and it was not long before the Ceramics department became my home.

Victoria Jardine | Harlequin Pots
Two other encounters had a huge influence on me at that time. The first was at the Cheltenham Museum, where, among a dusty collection of miscellaneous objects there was a Roman grain storage pot. Though horribly smashed, glued together and wearing a large hole, this pot mesmerized me. It was perfect. I drew it over and over again, hoping my pencil marks could unlock its secrets of balance, proportion, weightlessness and subtlety of curve.

My second encounter was in a new gallery that had opened in Cheltenham, The Montpellier Gallery. Peter had a passion for Ceramics and regularly showed pieces by Tim Andrews. There was something impossibly beautiful about Tim's work. The scale and exquisite surfaces marked a standard to aspire to, albeit one that seemed utterly unattainable: the embodiment of possibility. Years later the Montpellier Gallery became the first Gallery to show my work and over the years since I have been immensely grateful to Peter for his continued loyalty.

Being young I bent to the will of my parents and, despite reservations, did my degree in Architecture after all. Largely I enjoyed it but my love of Ceramics was too great and I found a space in a small studio as soon as I had finished. Two things stayed with me from that training though. Firstly, the aesthetic of the architectural drawing and a love of the qualities of black line. Secondly, a training where function sat unapologetically at the centre of our design work. Purpose and purposefullness of object, intention and intentionality of maker as I like to talk about it now.

Victoria Jardine | Tea Light Holder
After a teacher training and a few years working as Head of Ceramics in a secondary school I suffered a crisis of faith. The world of the children I was teaching and the world of Studio Ceramics seemed such very different places. I feared that making handmade pots might be a purely self indulgent and elitist activity in a world already so full of things. A Theory / Practice Masters at the John Cass School of Art under the guidance of Chris Smith allowed me the opportunity to wrestle with this dilemma. My research, 'Finding a Home', was an exploration of Western ideas, a cultural excavation that enabled me to identify and carve out a space where my work could become meaningful in my world. With that I returned to studio practice and managed to rent a corner in Archway Ceramics, a wonderful group studio in East London.

I cannot underestimate the importance of my years at Archway Ceramics. I learned more there about the business of making pots than any formal training could have given me. Daniel Smith's outstanding skill and purity of form, Jacqui Ramrayka's bold shapes and stunning glazes, Alice Mara's personal and witty imagery, Kirsty Adams' soft edges and expressive mark making and Mo Jupp's flagrant disregard for accepted technical norms. I learned not just how to make things better but how to become a Ceramicist. We did many memorable shows together.

Victoria Jardine | Bronze Vase
Finally in 2014 the needs of young children took me away from London to a rural life in Dorset and a new start. With it, I think, has come the opportunity, once again, to shake up my thinking. A lightening of spirit that comes from country living has allowed a bit more colour to creep into my life and into my work and I'm excited about the new possibilities this has begun to throw up.

Victoria Jardine

Images of ceramics | Michael Harvey
Images of Victoria Jardine | Katherine Davies

Alistair Knights

Alistair Knghts in his studio | Image Alistair Knights

I count myself fortunate to have been studying A levels at a school with an exceptional art department, a new ceramics area, and inspirational staff. For most of us this became a kind of home from home. We were able to join an evening class and spend an afternoon a week with ‘foundation’ students in ceramics. This was revelatory and most of us subsequently insisted on joining the foundation course post A level. It was here that we were taught by John Chipperfield with whom we made Raku kilns, Roman kilns, did pit firings, and helped at his own pottery at the weekends in return for brilliant food and pieces of his work. He and his partner Penny had what had been an old builders yard and some land with chickens and ducks and fruit and vegetables. We all fell in love with the whole idea and so we all applied to do ceramics degrees.

The opportunity to try different things and meet a few inspirational mentors transformed our thinking and lives. A ‘Golden Age” for us, and art education.

V-shaped bowl by Alistair Knights | Image Alistair Knights

My work is a response to a fascination with nature and science, ancient cultures and remote pre-histories, their ‘human’ landscapes, artefacts and mythologies, where nothing can be ‘known’, and description only attempted through informed conjecture. No work exclusively references directly any one of these but attempts to synthesise a sense of time and place. I explore ideas through diverse ceramic forms and processes alongside drawing, print-making, photography, etc, but have always returned to making bowl forms which act as a metaphor for both valley and encircling horizon and which, (in common with many Neolithic vessels), often have rounded bases defining a single point of equilibrium and balance.

Through the process of making, transitory forms, marks, profiles, etc, are captured and ‘frozen’, often hinting at flint tools, hill forts, barrows and dolmens, zig-zag, track-ways, meandering rivers and valleys, the fleeting shadows of clouds, birds and seasons passing, and the underlying flint and chalk of the Sussex Downlands.

Words from my notebooks include; conjecture, leap of faith, dark age, childlike, savage, vernacular, primitive, Dogon, Orion, Sirius, Dog Star, star-fish, sun-star, polyp, adobe, engobe, red, blood, arch, architectural, arcane, mosque, opposition, balance, heavenly, earthbound, melancholy, melancholia, tectonic plates, mid-atlantic ridge, volcanic, fracture, apostle, grail, beaker, homage, pictograph, petroglyph, pueblo, vernacular, cargo cult, savage, etc.

But, then I started thinking about the moon and moon jars, Brave New World, John (the ‘noble savage’ and outsider), and how ‘moon’ vessels could be vehicles for my thinking on contemporary society/culture.

Alistair Knights Bowl Form | Image Alistair Knights
So, as angels fear to tread, I trod, and started pinch-coiling some round(ish), slightly wobbly and trembling ‘jars’ which attempted to capture the subtleties of the poetic idea of ‘moon’. A kind of poetic, vernacular,‘utility ware’. Most recently this idea has expanded to explore forms drawing on the elegant beauty and simplicity of pre-historic vessels, speckled with grog and crushed volcanic rock with myself playing the role of the ‘savage’, longing for a return to the reassurance of my reserve but caught within a kind of 21st century ‘cargo cult’.

Alastair Knights

Claudia Clare

A Career in Ceamics: how it began

In the 1980s, a degree in Fine Art, at Camberwell School of Art and Craft, now part of the London Institute, was a degree in drawing, painting, printmaking and, if one was feeling rebellious, photography. The latter was denounced as a ‘craft.’ And craft, in those days, knew its place. Feminism complicated all of that. It denounced the arts hierarchy, rehabilitated craft, and released all those artists who communicated best through hands-on contact with materials. 

Claudia Clare | London Autumn Fairground | Image Sylvain Deleu
These were the wild days of the ‘second wave’ feminism, with endless ‘conferences’ where we all threw bottles at each other and shouted, and then repaired to pub to shout some more. There was no way to match the sober concerns of oil painting with the passions of street feminism and raucous voices I loved. Instead, a small group of us got together, got naked, and drew each other drawing each other in the top room of a squat in Peckham, South London. The life model, we reasoned, was a grotesque patriarchal conspiracy, and we would rock the very foundations of art history by ‘doing it for ourselves.’ Art history didn’t bat an eyelid but it was the most lively and productive drawing class I ever attended and, equally important, for me, at least, was the pottery class we went to in the evening. Here, I found that painting the curved surfaces of pots, limited only by the rim and base, and with seemingly endless options about how perspective might be managed on the concave or convex forms, was an inspiration is itself. Add to that the domestic associations of pottery and its rich history and this was plainly the art form I needed to adopt. 

Claudia Clare | London Winter Sledging | Image Sylvain Deleu
I attended evening classes in London until 1989, then took up an apprenticeship at Winchcombe Pottery, in Gloucestershire. In 1993 I moved to Yorkshire and set up my first studio. The meeting of figurative painting with pottery has an illustrious history in mainland Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean but was largely rejected by the British Studio Pottery movement in the twentieth century and is still regarded with some suspicion. The presence of pottery on television and social media is bringing in more and more people, widening the audience, popularising the craft and shaking out some its more anachronistic conventions. This welcome growth of interest is introducing more classes, and innovative ways of skill-sharing. Thirty years on, my photography skills need brushing up. I am taking instruction from the potter Florian Gadsby on Instagram. I found out about him from Ceramic Review. The democratisation of skills and technology: bring it on!   

Claudia Clare | Hordley Swamp | Image Claudia Clare

Ilona Sulikova 

Ilona Sulikova at work

Growing up in Czechoslovakia, I spent my long summer holidays in the country, where life and traditions hadn’t changed yet. Simple things like drawing water from the well, or foraging for wild mushrooms in the forest early in the morning seemed quite magical to me then.

Later on University seemed an obvious choice, but actually it didn’t really suit me, although I did complete several courses. But when eventually in 1980 I joined a studio ceramics course in Harrogate, everything fell into place. The course was practical and varied, and I enjoyed the combination of working with clay and building and firing kilns! We were encouraged to experiment, to be independent, and to develop our own individual style. The joy of working with clay has never left me, despite all the ups and downs that followed.

Ilona Sulikova in the studio 2016

For several years after leaving college, I mainly made raw glazed earthenware. I loved the softness and natural colours of slip and also the challenges the technique imposed on the potter.

I then spent several years living and working in Somalia and Sudan. Some of my work there involved the design of small, portable fuel-saving ceramic stoves to be produced in refugee camps where wood supplies in the surrounding countryside were being rapidly depleted. Working with local potters, I used local clays and experimented with many different firing methods. In Southern Somalia, I trained with a group of female potters. It wasn’t easy – they put a number of obstacles in my way to test my commitment, but I kept going and in the end I did learn how to produce large water storage jars. The experience taught me the importance of perseverance, of precise craftsmanship, and of having confidence in my own work.


Coming back to York in the 1990s provided me with a number of challenges, since in the meantime the world of ceramics had moved on. For the time being though I returned to making thrown domestic ware. But after a few years, I decided instead to modify the hand building techniques I had learned in Africa, and concentrate on producing large spherical pots.







Over the last fifteen years the shapes have evolved, and nowadays the pots have become much smaller too. I enjoy the quiet process of hand building, being in control of the pot as it gradually swells, and finally finishing it off. At the moment I am using dry copper glaze to paint fairly elaborate geometric patterns on my pots. The intention is to create dynamic sequences of rhythm and movement. In order to achieve fusion between the pattern and the spherical form, all my pieces are raku fired. This also means that I have to surrender some control over the final result which always retains an element of unpredictability.

Photographs by Sue Brown

Daiva Kojelyte-Marrow

Daiva Kojelyte-Marrow at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre

"I come from a family of artists; my father is an interior designer and my sister is a textile artist. I chose ceramics because clay gives me the opportunity to make my sculptures more quickly than from metal, wood or stone. When I was 15 years old, I went to a children’s Art school, where my teacher was a famous sculptor who showed me a technique to create a smooth surface when building with clay, he inspired me to work with clay, and I studied ceramics for 6 years at the Lithuanian Art Academy.

'United' photograph by D Smolonski

I make handbuilt pieces that are decorated using slips. I like figurative and abstract forms with clear elegant shapes. My work has been exhibited in the UK and abroad, including Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy, and the Yingho Ceramics Museum, Taipei, Taiwan.

'Sea balls' photograph by D Kojelyte-Marrow
I enjoy making ceramics, it makes me feel happy. I also teach children to create with clay, and their enthusiasm and ideas give me joy."

All photographs copyright Daiva Kojelyte-Marrow

Jude Jelfs

Jude Jelfs pictured with her work 2016
"As a kid, I always loved making things, and when I left school, I did a Foundation course (called pre-dip in those days) at Taunton Art School. It was a great course with so much packed into a year - painting, sculpture, pottery, print-making, jewellery, photography and more besides.
It was 1969, a very exciting time to be an art student and the tutors were all breaking new ground in their own work, and were fantastic - Ian Breakwell, Jack Coulthard, Rose Finn-Kelsey.

The following year I went to Cheltenham to do a Dip AD in Fine Art where the time was divided between sculpture and painting, together with life drawing and print making. By year 3, I had met my future husband John Jelfs (then doing a Foundation course at Cheltenham) and was spending most of my time in the foundry working in bronze tutored by Roger Luxton, Henry Kline, Nick Stephens.

Looking back at my work from that time, although obviously externally it’s very different from what I’m doing now, essentially not much has changed. It was always the figure and its graphic possibilities that interested me. 

After college, John & I set up a pottery studio in the village of Bourton-on-the-Water near Cheltenham. I learned to throw pots, do glazing, pack kilns plus the many other skills needed in a working pottery. It was hard going at first and we worked very long hours (still do!). 
Jude Jelfs and John Jelfs in their workshop 2016
We made a range of pots that we sold through galleries, shops, and our own studio. We had a family, and as they grew up, I slowly returned to my roots, combining pottery with painting and sculpture which is where I am now.

I still love making things, and feel very privileged to have been lucky enough to spend my life making, and earn a living at it at the same time!"

All images copyright Jude Jelfs.
Ceramic works photographed by Jude Jelfs photos of Jude by Ben Boswell


Anna Silverton

Porcelain vases 2016, detail

"I was born in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire and then spent my formative years in Evesham Worcestershire. I first started making pots at school; I was lucky to have enthusiastic art teachers and in the sixth form had a talented pottery teacher – not bad for a provincial Comprehensive school.

After a Foundation course at Cheltenham I moved to London to train at Camberwell School of Art and subsequently the Royal College of Art.

While at the Royal College I was awarded a travel bursary which I used to visit Syracuse and the Everson Museum with its impressive collection of historical and contemporary American Ceramics. After the RCA I lived in America for a few years, gaining valuable teaching experience at Syracuse University and with Syracuse Designers Guild.

Since my return from America in the 1990s I have maintained a studio in South East London; I am now fortunate to have one at my home in Sydenham.

Anna Silverton in her studio, 2016

I also teach adults part-time; as Course Leader at Westminster Adult Education Service and at Morley College where I teach on a few short courses. I also taught a ‘Ceramics Masterclass’ demonstrating my way of working as part of a collaboration with the Crafts Potters Association and Morley College. I enjoy teaching and the interaction with students it brings; it’s a good balance to all the time working in my studio on my own."

"My Ceramic work has gradually changed over the years; now all my vases and bowls are wheel thrown exclusively in porcelain. I appreciate the repetitive nature of wheel throwing but concentrate on one-off pieces. I search for shapes I find pleasing each time, making incremental modifications and teasing out new combinations of classic ceramic form as I go.
I love working with porcelain and delight in the delicious throwing texture of it. I stretch its physical properties and tensile strength, with all the joys (and frustrations) that that can bring.
White porcelain vases 2016

Porcelain dish 2016

My largest vases and bowls (up to 65cms) are usually thrown in two or more pieces and joined while they are still pliable for re-shaping on the wheel; I cut off sections and start again with new additions until I am satisfied. My small pieces are partly dried and then thrown again to achieve precise contours. I punctuate and hone the profile of each piece by turning, making incised grooves which are then softened or highlighted by glazes which break on their edges."

Porcelain vase with grey glaze interior 2016
All images copyright Anna Silverton

Claire Murray

"My ceramic figures are based on an exploration of the complexities of communication. They reflect my enduring fascination with the human face.

The process of model construction is long and often requires continuous problem solving. A model can take a number of days to complete given that several processes are involved. These include, as well as the original figurative modelling, iterative processes of firing and glazing. Essentially, each figure is different and generates its own peculiar challenges. Several experimental pieces are trialled as the model is made and assembled.”
Boat personnae 2016

 "Like perhaps a majority of potters, I have had a lifelong attraction to mud and water. Some of my earliest and happiest memories were spent modeling wet earth into individual structures and sometimes whole villages. In the 1950s and 1960s, education imposed a strict dichotomy. I studied for Science A levels and accordingly the Arts and other so-called ‘creative’ subjects were automatically removed from my syllabus. (This ludicrous and destructive separation still largely continues to this day for many British children).

Memory Man 2016

Serendipitously, whilst a student studying at the London Hospital to become a dietician, I enrolled in an extra-curriculum pottery class. With incredibly good fortune, the class was run by Ronald G. Cooper from the Slade School. Ronald was a well known potter and author of several highly regarded books on English slip-ware. He ignited my continuing passion for all things clay and we became life-long friends."
Claire Murray in her studio 2016

Holding a cactus 2016

"Over the course of many years, my commitment to clay work increased as did the size of my kilns and the area of the family home dedicated to production. During this period, my skills were burnished by attending many courses run by several well known potters including Peter Lane, Martin Lewis and Philip Eglin. I retrained as a primary teacher in my 40s. My growing interest in how children learned was directly supported by my clay-based skills. I was particularly interested in the philosophy of child-centred learning promulgated by the Reggio Emilia movement in Northern Italy. This resulted in me running a highly successful programme using clay to enhance problem solving/cognitive learning with children in an early years school in a very deprived area of central Birmingham. The tactile and creative potential of clay transcended language and culture barriers which at first seemed nearly insurmountable."

The ‘long march’ to some state of artistic maturity (however fragile) is not a smooth and orderly progression. There are unplanned events and experiences which subsequently are found to have had profound consequences. For me, a year long visit to Australia fundamentally changed my work. I realized that my interest was primarily in figurative sculptural work while still encompassing an abstract perspective. In Australia, I was much impressed by the contemporary work of Alan Peascod. Being based in Sydney, Janet Mansfield was also helpful in introducing me to Australia’s burgeoning pottery milieu.   

Behind bars 2016
Figurative ceramic artists of international reputation are relatively few on the ground. I became particularly interested in the work of, among others, Susan Halls, Kerry Jameson and Justin Novak.
Claire at the Biennial Ceramic Festival, National Museum of Slovenia, Ljubljana 2015
I was selected to become a professional member of the CPA in 2002. My work is currently based around the complexities of human communication. As well as exhibiting in the CPA’s London gallery, I have had exhibitions and/or taken part in international competitions in the USA, Germany, The Netherlands and Slovenia.

My figures are fired in an electric kiln at 1100C using a Scarva modeling clay. I also use a variety of UG colours, crayons , glazes and decals. All images copyright Claire Murray


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