Chris Speyer | A New Beginning

Chris Speyer | working on Gateway of Dreams

"I began to miss clay, the magic of taking formless earth and fashioning an object. It is an act that combines the child-like joy of playing with mud and the god-like impulse to create, the mythic journey that brings form out of chaos."


Chris Speyer | Colourful stoneware made for Yerja Ceramics & Textiles

I appear to possess a need to reinvent myself every ten years, or thereabouts. Throughout the 80s and 90s I made colourful, thrown and press-moulded tableware. I was the ceramic half of Yerja Ceramics and Textiles, my textile painting wife, Katherine Ukleja being my partner. It was a time of prolific production, showing and selling our work in the UK and abroad and fulfilling interior design commissions. We had a wonderful full-time assistant called Geraldine and the three of us would beaver away for long hours in my studio or Katherine’s making, decorating, painting or packing orders to meet the next deadline. During this time, I joined the small band of British potters selling work at the continental ceramics markets; Milsbeek and Swalmen in the Netherlands, Gmunden in Austria, Baden Baden and Dissen in Germany, and soon half of everything we made was going across the Channel.

Chris Speyer | Wind Form 2
"It was a new beginning and led to the work I am making now, that ranges in size from small table sculptures to site-specific pieces over two metres tall"
 
It was a fun and frenetically busy time, but it left little time for contemplation and development. Perhaps that’s why both Katherine and I felt the need to stop, to take stock. It might also have had something to do with becoming parents to our lovely daughter in 2001. Before making ceramics, I had worked in the theatre, and I kept a toe-hold in my original profession by writing or directing one new play every year. In 2000, with the encouragement of the Arts Council, the composer Ieuan Einion and I set up a new theatre company in Newcastle upon Tyne. This, together with being a parent and writing two novels consumed all my time for the next decade. But I began to miss clay, the magic of taking formless earth and fashioning an object. It is an act that combines the child-like joy of playing with mud and the god-like impulse to create, the mythic journey that brings form out of chaos.

Chris Speyer | Gateway of Dreams
In 2015 I went back to school. I began a part-time MA in ceramics. Bath School of Art and Design still operates like a proper art school, the emphasis being on research through making. It has well equipped workshops and excellent technicians (themselves artists and craftspeople), who are unfailingly generous with their time and knowledge. Our course leaders were Keith Harrison and Conor Wilson who pushed and prodded us out of our comfort zones and challenged each of us to bring an intellectual rigor to our search for originality. Previously, much of the emphasis in my work had been on surface decoration, now I sought to find expression through form.
Chris Speyer | working in the studio



"...my exposure to it gave me a new freedom" 
 
A turning point came with my discovery of the American sculptor Martin Puryear, the extraordinary eloquence of whose pieces arises in no small part from the exquisite craft with which they are created. In his work the division between craft and art vanishes, and my exposure to it gave me a new freedom – I could be a craftsperson and make sculpture, I could be a sculptor and make craft. It was a new beginning and led to the work I am making now, that ranges in size from small table sculptures to site-specific pieces over two metres tall.







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