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Ceramic Art London 2017: Makers & their stands

Well, what a ceramics filled day – brilliant! Katie and I met up at Preston train station and headed down to London to go the Ceramic Art London show held at Central Saint Martins close to King’s Cross. There we met some other people from the MA courses.

But, before we entered the main area we were surprised by co-student Kate’s “Rant Pots” display. She offered anyone who felt like it to enter into her large inflatable pot and to scribble their rant onto a potty, which was displayed among other rant pots.

Once we got into the main exhibition space we were faces with ninety stands representing ceramics from ninety very different makers. The range was very diverse but what linked all their work was their choice of material, clay, and the quality of their works. Very impressive!

There was so much to see that I will have probably missed a few worthwhile stands because I didn’t invest enough time looking in order to appreciate the stands which were either were to crowded or just simply didn’t grab my attention during the limited time and attention span I had on the day. So, here is just a pick of the stands that stood out for me on this particular day:

Fenella Elms – Stand 2

Previously I’ve only seen her wall pieces photographed and really loved them. However, at the show she only had one of textured pieces on show and I was a bit underwhelmed by it. I was more distracted by the mechanics of its construction than taking in the whole effect. However, I did see this piece being photographed quite often during the day.

Clare Crouchman – Stand 6

Anna, our course tutor, had drawn my attention to Clare’s work some time ago as she is also interested in surface decorations and patterns. So, seeing her work in real life was really good and I wasn’t disappointed. I really like the semi abstract nature of her wall pieces and the subtle colour palette she uses. At the same time they also have a graphic quality to them that appeals to me. I had a brief chat with her about her work and was astounded that she had no knowledge of African textiles, such as Kuba or Kente cloths. However, she does really like aboriginal art, which share similarities to her work. I did ask her about the flat nature of her pieces. She said that during her MA she was encouraged to use her decorations on three-dimensional objects but that didn’t work for her. So, she’s chosen to just use the clay in 2-d. This however, makes it quite difficult to place her work in the right environment for selling. For, even though it is ceramic in nature, it sits better within a context of paintings or prints, which are flat and wall hung.

Anna Lambert – Stand 8

This sounds a bit corny as she is one of our course tutors, but I really liked Anna’s work especially her large pieces which can accommodate more of her painted surface decorations. I like the interplay of negative and positive shapes, which she achieves by using different masking techniques when applying her slips. This also allows her to create a real contrast between the freely applied brush stroke marks and crisp edges. These are complimented by the thin and more graphic lines which have been inlayed. I would myself not naturally gravitate to her soft and natural colour palette of green, greys and browns but they are beautiful as they retains a luminosity and don’t become muddied despite their layering.

Ben Arnup – Stand 10

Here is the case where I appreciate the intellectual challenge but don’t personally like to outcome. Ben’s pieces play with optical illusion and deceptive perspective. They are really quite clever but I feel that they are a bit gimmicky and lack depth (haha!). I think they make a good talking point but I would grow bored of them if I had them at home. Maybe it is their perfection that robs them of a certain humanity. Sorry, not my thing.

Rebecca Appleby – Stand 14

Now, her ceramics I really enjoyed. I have seen some of her shard-like pieces in CoCa in York. Here however, she also had some of her more voluminous pieces along with some framed original painting/drawings on the wall. She manages to combine a feel for the material with surface decoration. The decorations look quite free but are actually very difficult to get right. When I asked her what comes first, paintings or pots, she replied that the first did her paintings on paper. Then she chooses bits, which she transfers to her pots. If she’d work directly on the pots she said she had the tendency to overwork the decorations.

Elke Sada – Stand 23

After having done the phone interview with her previously, I just had introduce myself to her and meet her in person. We had a brief chat but, as it was getting quite busy around her stand, I decided not to keep her too long. It was great to see and touch her work in person. Looking at the photos alone I didn’t realise the difference between her Capriccio and Hallstattpieces. The pots in her Capriccio series were so thin walled, smooth and refined. They have a real shiny finish due to a glossy clear glaze covering. The Hallstattpieces are so much heavier and rough and are mostly matt with some glossy drips running down the surfaces. Elke described her Capriccio pieces as her prints and her Hallstattpieces as her oil paintings and the Nester as her sculptures.

Lara Scobie – Stand 40

Now I didn’t expect to like her pots as much as I did. I expected them to be well done and finished off to a very high standard but anticipated them leaving me cold. It wasn’t so. It could have been her introduction of the vibrant orange interiors or the slightly textured surfaces which gave them an unexpected tactile dimension. The patterns were clever and played with perception. However, in contrast to Ben Arnup’s work, it didn’t feel contrived. I would have been quite pleased to own one of her pots.

James Outhibridge – Stand 48

I wish I’d been able to join co-student Pam when she recently did a course with James. Looking at his large sculptures I think I could have learnt a lot from him technically. His shapes, even though they are fired without any glazes or decorations, are very considerate and beautiful.

Heidi Warr – Stand 61

I have come across her work when researching surface pattern design so I was rather pleased to see her monochrome black & white pieces in person. Unfortunately, she was so heavily occupied with one particular visitor that I didn’t get a chance to talk to her despite going over to her stand a few times. I think she must also be using some sort of design liner to draw on some of her linear patterns. I was impressed how she managed to map them out on the 3-d pieces. However, a few were bordering for me to far into the purely decorative surface treatment which was loosing its connection to the pots shape. Maybe there were just a bit to perfect. I would have wished for some sort of cheeky hidden mistake or subversion.

Carolyn Genders – Stand 74

Looking at Carolyn’s pots I could detect similar techniques which I tried out as part of my surface decoration tests, such as layering and scraping back of coloured slips. She applied these on the outside of her rather colourful pots. I like some of the pots, especially the more monochrome ones. They have a more printerly surface. I aught to like the coloured ones but the somehow don't appeal to me as much. Not sure why, maybe they are too bright for me or lack a sensitivity sense of density which one could get by having more transparent layers. But they are definitely of interest to me.

Further mention: Seeing the examples ceramics of both Tony Laverick – Stand 49 and Peter Beard – Stand 59 confirmed to me how much I liked the surface treatment and the resulting colours, even though their work is very different. What struck me however, how confident both their displays were.

But, even if the work of some ceramicists left me indifferent or I didn’t like their work, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t appreciate them for their quality and the skill that went into making them. I just wish I had had more time to go around again the next day to pick out some I missed or revisit others.

To be continued…

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