Late Summer at Contemporary Ceramics Centre | New makers on display for our August Rotation
Over the coming weeks we will profile each maker, giving an insight into their ceramic background, career and the motivations behind their work.
Just Going with the Flow ...
|Linda John in her studio|
|Linda John | Vessel|
|Linda John | Vessel detail|
|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'|
Stoneware Urn (porcelain slips and glaze washes) circa 1995
'I knew that ceramics would be my life'
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|
|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|
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|
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|
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|
Images of ceramics | Michael Harvey
Images of Victoria Jardine | Katherine Davies
|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|
A Career in Ceamics: how it began
|Claudia Clare | London Autumn Fairground | Image Sylvain Deleu|
|Claudia Clare | London Winter Sledging | Image Sylvain Deleu|
|Claudia Clare | Hordley Swamp | Image Claudia Clare|
|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 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|
|'Sea balls' photograph by D Kojelyte-Marrow|
All photographs copyright Daiva Kojelyte-Marrow
|Jude Jelfs pictured with her work 2016|
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|
All images copyright Jude Jelfs.
Ceramic works photographed by Jude Jelfs photos of Jude by Ben Boswell
|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.
|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|
"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.
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