Duncan Hooson | Fancy Goods

fancy goods
Items (as novelties, accessories, or notions) that are primarily ornamental or designed to appeal to taste or fancy

As part of our bi-monthly display feature, Duncan Hooson has installed Fancy Goods, a body of work created for the Contemporary Ceramics Centre. The work is a reflection on redundant tools and equipment that was once part of our making and industrial heritage. Fancy Goods is the exploration of the innate beauty of these designed and engineered forms, vital useful things that for various reasons are no longer required with their use now almost forgotten.

"The title fancy goods is a phrase I grew up within Stoke-on-Trent. ‘Neither use nor ornament’ as my Dad would tell me. Ornaments from a Post-industrial landscape, useless. Tick and tock the terrible twins of time. Clock on, clock off. Imagined remnants from industrial decline. Industrial archaeology collected, archaeological reconfiguring. These things seen, things dreamed, these the in-between. Industrial landscape and the sound of work and toil and laughter. Camaraderie. Washed up on the foreshore. Bits and pieces. Sherds.

As someone who was born in Stoke-on-Trent, folk say you have slip running through your veins instead of blood

I work with and talk about clay in a variety of ways. As a maker, artist, educator, facilitator, writer and co-director of a company, Clayground Collective. It’s always been difficult to define my career as it has covered a very broad and eclectic practice which has led to an incredibly fulfilling life. At the centre of all these things has been clay. As someone who was born in Stoke-on-Trent, folk say you have slip running through your veins instead of blood. It was certainly the life force of the population of each of Stoke’s 6 towns (ignore Arnold Bennett’s 5 towns, he forgot my mother’s birthplace of Fenton). My Dad was from Longton, still home to the excellent Victorian Gladstone Pottery Museum.
‘Pits or Pots?’ This was the career officer’s question in 1975 as I stood in line with the rest of my class. I could either go down the coal mines or into the ceramic industry, as these were the main employers at the time for comprehensive school leavers. The fodder for the factories. After declining a job offer at 15 as an apprentice designer for Wedgwood in my father’s birthplace of Longton and three bus journeys to cope with, oh the wisdom and tests of youth! However, I still don’t drive!

"I’m still fascinated by the action and results of a throwing wheel and still return to it as my preferred tool of choice when exploring an idea."

 I jobbed around for several years. Friends had gone ‘down the Pits’ but I eventually went on ‘to the Pots’ by doing Ceramic evening classes where the inspirational tutor, Claire Heath re-introduced me to clay, my most enjoyable school sessions alongside football. This mapped out my future formal education and career.

Following student life at Bristol with a BA and an MA in Cardiff in the early ’80s, with tutors Wally Keeler, Mo Jupp, Michael Casson, and Paul Greenhalgh to name a few. I moved back to be a technician at Bristol for a few years where Simon Carroll was starting his education. I then moved to London to the fabulous South Bank Craft Centre to join college friends Dan Wright, Kate Malone and Steve Forster.

There were then years of developing my own artistic practice producing work for gallery exhibitions; as artist-in-residence in schools, hospitals, museums and galleries; public and private commissions; as a visiting lecturer in HE and in Adult education at Morley College, London; and then concentrating on making work for the Public Realm through commissions.
Duncan Hooson | Potted Fancy

The enjoyment of cross-arts collaboration and creating a sense of performance was highly appealing - I had invaluable experience of this when I had a studio at the South Bank Centre. Initiating creative projects was exciting but it was also daunting; to find the right place, space and groups to work with; to apply for appropriate funding and to find individuals to work with. All fine but how does anyone go about understanding what all this might involve? I had become so used to applying for opportunities rather than creating my own. During this period, I met Julia Rowntree who was carrying out an evaluation of a project I was facilitating for a hostel in 2005 near St Katherine’s Dock in London.

Julia and I had a shared interest in reversing the trend of Ceramics becoming known as a “niche subject area” or “endangered discipline” at HEI (Higher Education Institution) level by creating opportunities for people to engage with and enjoy working with clay. We co-founded Clayground Collective on this premise which, along with co-director Claire West, goes from strength to strength. I enjoy developing public programmes of activity with Clayground, but also teaching and being part of the collaborative and collegiate settings at Central Saint Martins and Morley. It all feeds into a continuum." Duncan Hooson 2019


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