New Ceramics for 2018

New Ceramics For The New Year

After a busy and festive Christmas, the Gallery has moved into 2018 looking fresh and inviting. We have a wonderful broad range of ceramists' work throughout the space, incorporating beautiful work from established names such as Ostinelli and Priest, Paul Philp and Margaret Curtis and newer arrivals such as Adela Powell and Emily-Kriste Wilcox, as well as new work from Sarah Jenkins and Tina Vlassopulos.

We are looking forward to our first exhibition of the year, 'Porcelain', which opens in February and brings together three makers who work with porcelain. Running from 15th February until 10th March, the focus of this exhibition is the varying use of porcelain by three makers. Anja Lubach’s delicate figurative details will sit alongside the spontaneous graphic marks of Katherina Klug’s vessels and Jo Davies’ unique thrown and assembled forms. The exhibition shows the breadth and limitations of porcelain, with each maker citing the material’s properties as integral to their work.

In the meantime, as is the norm in this blog, we explore the stories of ceramists who feature in our current rotation.

Tina Vlassopulos

"Clay was a beast that needed to be tamed."

Tina Vlassopulos at Contemporary Ceramics Centre | Piece to left 'Trio'
"I always knew that I would go to art college as I was the kind of schoolgirl who skived off Maths to go to an exhibition. This was the 70s: art college seemed anti-establishment and romantic and ceramics was a popular and trendy subject. I arrived at Bristol Polytechnic in 1974 to commence my BA in Ceramics with a strong 2D portfolio but hardly any experience of working with clay and found it really challenging. Clay was a beast that needed to be tamed.

Tina Vlassopulos | Trio

Nevertheless I persevered with it because it is the only material I can think of which is so malleable, so human, so primal, so intimate, so flexible, so fundamental and can be adapted to suit all personalities. 

After college, I opened my first studio in London and was lucky enough to take part in a mixed show at The Commonwealth Institute, whereupon Jean Muir, the fashion designer bought all 5 of my pieces, which gave me the necessary boost to carry on. 

My interest in the performing arts is pivotal to my work and I try to instil a sense of movement and poise in each individual piece while also creating harmony. My primary concerns are the concept, aesthetics, pushing clay to its limits and the exploration of new forms and ideas.
Tina Vlassopulos | Toot

I like the immediacy of using clay straight out of the bag and finishing my pieces by burnishing, which gives them depth and tonal variation. The rhythmical movements of burnishing combined with the physical control needed to achieve a finished piece (without any mishaps), is complemented by the delightfully free technique of hand building, which is full of endless possibilities.

I call my work ‘pots’ as they are all made with an eye to the possibility of function but this is balanced by a sculptural context to the forms and so the concept of container carries only an aesthetic and symbolic value.

After almost 40 years of being a potter, I’m not sure whether I tamed the beast, but the beast has certainly tamed me!"

Tina Vlassopulos 2018

Emily-Kriste Wilcox

"Each vessel becomes an interpretation rather than a representation, and the marks an indication of an earlier impression or experience.  A painting in clay."

Emily-Kriste Wilcox

"I was introduced to the coiling technique through my school years, and was taken in immediately by it’s versatility; the unrestrictive method provided scope for flexibility of form.  To see something emerge from building ‘bit by bit’, with the time to reflect and adapt on the direction of the form as you go, is rather special.

I still continue to handbuild, perhaps in part, for this reason.  Handbuilding is my specialism, and, although the ceramics world holds such a vast array of possibilities, the creation of these coherent vessels out of multiple facets, is a concept that continues to drive my current practice, and has informed my method of making over several years.

I took the formal education route, with a degree specialising in Ceramics at Bath Spa University where my independent thought and drawing developments were encouraged, and I was introduced to a wide variety of techniques in both construction and surface treatment.

Emily-Kriste Wilcox
Oval vessel

Drawing and painting continues to be a vital aspect within my practice.  A tool for exploring and documenting colour, shape and texture; but also I have developed a painterly approach to my explorations within the ceramic materials.  This involves documenting, abstracting, translating, referencing and interpreting aspects of the landscape through building up the clay surface with layers of decorating slips in order to create a depth that holds similarities to misty skies, or walks across the hills. 

Each stage of my making process brings its own challenges whether it be in the development of shape, form and balance; or the elusive purple hue that I am currently chasing!  All these challenges are areas that excite or entice me to investigate further, and feed into my practice as one of a ‘continuing symphony’ where these multi-faceted pieces sit as happily exuding calm and balance on their own, as they do harmoniously when in a group or collection.

The vessel is a starting point for exploration of form; the shapes continue to gently evolve, building on what came before and reaching for a pleasing aesthetic and balance. Tea caddies from the V&A collection have informed a more oval shape, where the story or the view travels around the multi-faceted panels with an effortless flow of movement, softly punctuated by a considered coloured seam or join.

My construction process has developed and refined to a point where my early influences of dressmaking patterns, juxtaposition of colour and texture; are combined with a more painterly approach to surface treatment. Colours are cohesive; often tonal on single pieces and this control over the colour palette enables me to bring each of the differing elements and facets of clay into harmony with each other.

Emily-Kriste Wilcox
Small vessel
There are a few places I like to return to more frequently on my walks, which is softly echoed through the construction of similar shaped ceramic forms.  However each vessel is highly individual, each becomes an interpretation rather than a representation, and the marks an indication of this earlier impression or experience.  A painting in clay.

The line between life in the workshop and life beyond can sometimes become a little blurred, particularly as ceramics has become such a part of my life that I imagine I will continue my practice for the rest of my days!  I have an ongoing thirst for knowledge, not only for the materials, but in how I can apply the techniques. Working with ceramics certainly has deepened my appreciation of the level of craftsmanship, the dedication that makers have for their craft, and that can be said for makers across a wide range of disciplines.

Emily-Kriste Wilcox
Oval vessel

My own practice as a specialist in handbuilding, certainly informs the manner in which I run workshops for others.  I strive to create a calm environment for students to learn, and for them to grow in confidence through building incrementally on their own developments, under the gentle guidance of the tutor.

To those starting out, practice. Technique is only the beginning, and I believe that so much within the world of clay is learned through the sense of touch.  I often liken it to a handwriting, whether it’s understanding the possibilities and the limitations of the raw material, the sense of touch will also help you to develop an understanding for how much to press, which tool you prefer, how much you load the brush, which brush to use, when to work it, when to stop, and a lot of this you can only do by listening to the clay.  Practice will help you find your own style."                    
Emily-Kriste Wilcox, 2018

Elaine Coles

"I have been a potter now for over forty years and my work has gone through various stages but it has always had a very 'Elaine Coles' look about it."

Elaine Coles

"My fascination with ceramics began when I was a child, I saw a pottery demonstration in Harrods when I was 5 years old!... I left school in 1959 having no idea that you could go to art school to learn pottery.  A big regret, as I would have been the right age to do the Studio Pottery Course at Harrow, where so many great potters of that time were studying.

Elaine Coles
High Fired Stoneware circa 2007

Between 1972 and 1974 I lived in Botswana with my architect/jazz musician husband and two small sons. On returning to England I enrolled at pottery classes where I had a very good tutor. We were an enthusiastic group and most of us went on to buy our own kiln and wheel. We formed a regional group within the CPA (Craft Potters Association) which was called Wey Ceramics and organised exhibitions, demonstrations etc... and which is still going today.

Elaine Coles
Naked Raku 2014

Elaine Coles
Glazed Raku circa 2014

Originally I had my wheel in the kitchen until I bought a gas kiln and we turned the coal shed into a pottery! I began selling my work at craft fairs and then went on to work at Thorpe Park Farm demonstrating to the great British public.

In 1986 I was accepted on to the Diploma Course at Goldsmiths College. It was inspirational and my work took on a different dimension and the more artistic side of my nature began to develop.

Elaine Coles | Decorated Vessel

My husband died in 1997 and I had to decide how I was going to earn my living, either by getting a 'proper job' or opening a pottery. Needless to say I decided on the latter and opened a pottery at a Garden Centre in Surrey. I took on an assistant and we made a range of domestic ware and garden pots which ran successfully until the lease was up and another decision had to be reached.

I sold my house and bought an old Barclays Bank in Chobham. It was a beautiful space and a friend and I ran it as a Craft Council Selected Gallery for many years in conjunction with my studio at the rear where I still live and work to this day.

I have been a potter now for over forty years and my work has gone through various stages but it has always had a very 'Elaine Coles' look about it. My inspiration originally came from French Provincial Pottery. I loved the earthy shapes and the lead glazes. It also comes from my time spent in Africa. Most of my work is thrown but I have gone through several changes in the glazing and surface decoration. My love of colour led me to experiment with glazes and my tutor at Goldsmiths, Ray Silverman, encouraged me to mix my own glazes, these I fired to a very high temperature and the glazes ran and melted into each other creating one-off abstract designs. I spent several years smoke firing and now I have gone full circle and back to my love of colour. I use my own originally-designed ceramic transfers with coloured glazes, and gold and coloured lustre."  Elaine Coles 2018


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