Autumn Arrivals at Contemporary Ceramics Centre

 Autumn Arrivals at Contemporary Ceramics Centre

Already the days are getting shorter and the leaves are turning to reds,yellow,golds...  Autumn is upon us and we are promised early winter from the end of this week... snow boots out!
Robin Welch | 65 Years In The Making 2nd - 25th November 2017

Current Exhibition
Our current exhibition 'Robin Welch | 65 Years In The Making' opened on the 2nd November.  For the first time we are displaying paintings alongside ceramics, and it is a treat!  This year marks Robin's 65th year as an active artist and this  exhibition is part retrospective.  On display are  a variety of styles developed over Robin's 65 years with clay. Robin has absorbed many influences; heading this list would be the Australian landscape for colour and texture. Supporting this are his totally abstract creations which relate to other artists such as, Rothko, Klein, and Motherwell; along with Cornish painters. 

Robin Welch | 65 Years In The Making runs until the 25th November 2017.
New Work
The retail area of the gallery continues to change as new work for Christmas arrives on a daily basis, along with makers who are new to the gallery.

We continue with our bi-monthly display rotation. Over the last couple of months we have featured  Deborah Baynes, Chris Bramble, Jo Connell, Jim Robison and Paul Young in the gallery. At the start of November we introduced Rob Bibby, Barbara Lock and Catrin Mostyn Jones.

To find out more about these new artists, we ask each new maker to tell us something about themselves and how they began working with clay. We are continuing on with the makers who have been with us since September and the next artist on our blog is Chris Bramble.

Over the years, as we've added to this blog, it has built into an informative archive of artist's stories.  Once you've read our current entries, please dive into the back catalogue and discover the many different histories and approaches to working with clay.

Chris Bramble

'Each of my pieces is a meditation; a spiritual and emotional activity which I can share with everyone. When working with clay, the work is not always permanent, but the energy is. '

Chris Bramble in his studio
'I was born in London in 1958 and was brought up in Ipswich, Hastings and Glasgow.

I left London at the age of three and stayed in Ipswich until I was thirteen, then moved to Hastings where the order of the day was school, roller skating and listening to music by the sea. When I was nineteen, I did a course at Hastings College. My work involved using cardboard models and plastics to design interiors of commercial buildings and museums. Incidentally, clay was one of the materials used in this process of vacuum forming, a part of 3D design. I became so involved and immersed in using clay that I decided to further my new found interest in art with clay as my medium.

After putting together a portfolio with all my clay work, I was accepted into Glasgow school of Art where I gained a BA Hours Degree in Art and Design specialising in ceramics. This experience enabled me to work freelance, which was when I had the time to hone my craft and develop a style of my own. Only then did I have complete freedom to express my feelings and ideas in my art work.
Chris Bramble | Lidded Jars
I became interested in European sculptors such as Rodin and in African craftsmanship. I created a simplicity in combining my love of African forms and culture with modern techniques.  This contrast of African heritage and a European upbringing resulted in many successful exhibitions in London and had a very strong but warm, contemporary style.

In September 1985, using my experience in exhibition design, I moved to Zimbabwe where I took up the post of Exhibition Officer for the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, co-ordinating and designing many different exhibitions and cultural exchange programmes for countries such as, the USA, USSR and Japan.

Zimbabwean stone sculpture has influenced me a lot. I took part in many workshops where I met local artists and developed my skills in carving serpentine and verdite stone. This background in carving gave me individuality and a variety of forms and shape to play around with.

Returning from Zimbabwe, I had a run of exhibitions, establishing myself as a ceramic sculptor. At the age of 29, in 1988, it was time to set up my own studio. Now I run a ceramic workshop teaching this traditional craftsmanship of ceramics, together with creating dynamic artworks alongside my daughter Freya.
Chris Bramble
The content of my work is influenced through the people I have met and the spirit that lies within them. Making my craft every day now is a joy. Being inspired by life and living in harmony, with a rhythm of music and dance. I also feel I have to document hidden aspects of today's black culture. Each of my pieces is a meditation; a spiritual and emotional activity which I can share with everyone. When working with clay, the work is not always permanent, but the energy is. ' Chris Bramble 2017

Jo Connell

'It’s true to say that one lifetime just isn’t enough.' 
Jo Connell in her studio

'I got into clay aged about 16 when a new art teacher arrived at our very stuffy grammar school and introduced this wicked substance – what fun! The wheel was a magical experience and I remember getting into terrible trouble for using it one lunchtime. After a year at teacher training college I gravitated more towards clay and, encouraged by one of the staff (though distinctly not by my parents!), I changed to an art foundation course.

There I was drawn to clay again progressing to a DipAD at Stoke on Trent (then, Longton School of Art transitioning to North Staffs Polytechnic). Derek Emms taught me in my first year & he certainly gave me a firm grasp of throwing and studio pottery techniques, which has been a godsend since. But I leaned towards sculpture and made some rather dubious forms in bone china & porcelain – but in that way I learned a lot about mouldmaking & slipcasting, so emerged from college equipped for a teaching career – this being financially my only option. My first job was at an FE college in Nottingham and I spent the summer break working at Carn Pottery in Cornwall, throwing a tonne of black clay. 
Jo Connell | Jugs
I thoroughly enjoyed learning as I taught, picking up tips from the explorations made by my students. Supplementing ceramics with silversmithing and glass, I taught for 26 years until ceramics went somewhat out of fashion in my college, so “retired”. Immediately came an opportunity to write a book and after a 3 month whirlwind The Potter’s Guide to Ceramic Surfaces went to press in 2001, and was an astonishing success. Only recently did this go out of print, after 14 years and 5 languages! I followed up with Colouring Clay in 2007. Writing was a great experience and brought me into contact with some wonderful potters, so I learned a lot. But even after using clay for over 50 years I know I’ve just scratched the surface.

I use coloured clays because I like the idea of making from a flat slab of decorated clay, much as you might approach wallpapering or dressmaking. I found something that worked for me and stuck with it, making changes along the way.  

Jo Connell | Large Tripod Vessel

To begin with I used motifs derived from Art Deco fabrics & wallpapers, later I tried to develop the idea to make it looser and had some success with stretching techniques.

At first all work was stoneware. It looks great when salt glazed but this was out of my reach so I had to use an electric kiln & it’s hard to make the surface look lively. In trying to lower the firing temperature (better for the planet, less stress on the pots & kiln) I found a glaze that reacts well with copper and recent work has therefore been “in the turquoise range”. But it’s time to move on again, and find a new direction. It’s true to say that one lifetime just isn’t enough.'

Jo Connell | Pillow Dish Square

Deborah Baynes

'...I was overjoyed and spent a happy couple of years playing with clay, or surrounded by pots and potters at the CPA or surrounded by Art at the Tate.' 

Deborah Baynes unpacking her salt kiln

How I got started...

'My introduction to making pots could not have been more accidental. I was eighteen and on my way home from working at the Tate Gallery when I met up with an old school friend and her sister who were off to a ceramics evening class, and encouraged me to go as well.

The following week I joined them.

It was love at first sight - even the slightly damp, musty smell of the clay appealed to me, and I was fascinated by the potential of throwing a pot.

I signed up for several more classes and later started to ponder on going to a “proper” Art School.

Deborah Baynes | Jug

As I didn’t have any G.C.E.’s or relevant qualifications or the know-how to get on to a course, I decided to enroll as a part-timer at the Sir John Cass college at Whitechapel. The course was run by Carol Stewart, an accomplished teacher and thrower and a real glaze whizz. Once Emmanuel Cooper asked me to try to persuade her to write for Ceramic Review but she resolutely refused! 

Deborah Baynes | Large Platter

The course was for three days a week. I needed to find part time work to survive financially. Luckily the Tate were happy for me to come back part time (and I got paid double on Sundays!) I then needed two more days work to keep me solvent and on a visit to the Craftsman Potter’s shop in Marshall St. I boldly approached Pan Henry (who was shop manager at the time).  I asked if they needed anyone. She immediately said “yes, but only for two days per week”. I was overjoyed and spent a happy couple of years playing with clay, or surrounded by pots and potters at the CPA or surrounded by Art at the Tate. 

Deborah Baynes | Pouring Bowls

At the end of the course at the Cass, I married and was able to set up my first proper workshop at a rural village in Essex. Carol encouraged me to teach and I did this both at conventional evening classes and from my studio and have enjoyed the combination of making and teaching ever since.' Deborah Baynes 2017


Jim Robison

'The elements are key themes in the work and many of the pieces carry motifs that signify the ever-present and ever-changing Yorkshire weather.  '

Jim Robison with Landscape Vase
Jim Robison has lived in the Holme Valley (West Yorks)since 1975. He established the well known Booth House Gallery the same year as both studio space and an avenue to promote other artists.  His work has been part of the local art scene since then.

His journey here started in the flat prairie landscapes of his native Missouri, via the vast horizons of Iowa where he qualified and practiced as an art teacher, before landing in Yorkshire, the home of his English born wife Liz and going on to teach art at Bretton Hall College for 25 years.

Jim Robison | Squared Vessel
Jim’s first career at 17 was as an engineer in the United States Air Force working with jet engines, an unlikely start for an artist. It was an art teacher at his Iowa college who had a profound influence on him. Jim says of this inspirational teacher, Les Wight: “…he encouraged us to ask ‘why’ questions about design and art... and from then on I started to see the world differently….I noticed one day the cornfields in Iowa were like a tapestry, I could see a warp and a weft”.

This engagement with the landscape is still evident in his work today. The relatively flat, vast landscapes of Missouri and Kansas of his childhood may well be why the rugged Yorkshire countryside is so interesting to him. He says: “…Yorkshire is primarily a vertical landscape…you are confronted with hills and walls, whereas in Kansas you can have 700 miles of flat.”

The elements are key themes in the work and many of the pieces carry motifs that signify the ever-present and ever-changing Yorkshire weather. Simple geometric shapes are also fundamental to the work and often a piece will emerge from Jim experimenting with compositions of simple squares, triangles and circles. Signature colours such as the reds from copper oxide and the texture of fabric all give Jim’s work its distinctive look. Important too are impressions of interesting shapes taken from nature and from buildings which are then incorporated back into the work itself.

Jim Robison | Vessel
As a ceramicist, he is a skilful technician who clearly enjoys the technical challenges of working with clay. This is evident in the large scale pieces, particularly his public art, which is at once visually interesting, monumental, structurally sound and able to withstand the elements. (Large murals, featuring Holmfirth scenes, may be seen on entering the local Civic Hall, and Kings Head Park.)

The often unpredictable nature of the clay itself is also explored in recent work. Working with slabs of clay, the clay is stretched, using rollers, to its limits. The work is then about making a virtue of the fissures and breaks and tears that occur. The precarious and often unpredictable nature of the glazing and firing process is also where his technical skill and artistry meet. Describing this process and the reduction atmosphere in the kiln he says: “…you open the kiln and it is quite random…you sometimes get a real racer…I like the spontaneous nature of it...”
Jim Robison | Landscape detail

Jim’s contribution to his art is not just in the making of his own work but in his commitment to teaching others. His career as an artist has always included teaching ceramics to both children and to adults and this continues today. His writing includes the books: ‘Large Scale Ceramics’ and ‘Slab Techniques’. He offers occasional courses at his studio where people from all over the world come to learn new techniques and to simply enjoy the process of working with the clay. He says: “The essential nature of creativity is to pass the parcel: it’s making it possible for other people to carry on”.

With Thanks to Emma Kirby-Geddes


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