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Day trip to Stoke: BCB 2017 and Potteries Museum

November 3, 2017

Another trip down to Stoke, this time with the new first year MA students and to take in the British Ceramics Biennial exhibition I've heard so much but never been to. As we arrived a little ahead of time we managed to have a look around the gallery in the Visitor's Centre at the Spode factory.




The only other time I've been to the Spode factory was shortly after the factory closed and they were selling off their blue and white china. We inherited some and thought it may be nice to supplement it. Well, they are still selling part of it off.


I am still not sure whether I like this sort of dinnerware or not.










The Spode gallery had a good display of late 19th century handpainted tiles produced by Copeland in Stoke. They are a good reminded how patterns originating from Islamic architecture or Roman mosaics or Iznik tiles have heavily influenced the aesthetics or the late Victorian crafts and designs.


























I was really taken by the pottery on display by Nick Marsh. In hindsight, it might also have been the way they were displayed that appealed to me: on shelves made from rough planks of wood or on fancy little pedestals.






















The framed pottery collages made by Philip Hardeners was less to my taste. Maybe it is just that it reminded me a bit too much of public art. However, it was intriguing enough to make me stop and take look at them.




Well, this was a bit of warm up before we headed over to the main event, the British Ceramics Biennial Exhibition:

Well, this whole exhibition was a bit overwhelming. Initially, because it is spread across such a large space it didn't seem that there was much to see but that wasn't so. I will limit it to eight items/impressions:


1. The building itself was for me really the star of the show. I love derelict industrial buildings and this one retains lots of traces of its industrial past throughout.


2. I loved the pots and painting by Hannah Tounser in which she combines the inspirations of the British coastline with the colour palette and patina found in this Spode building. I particularly like how details, such as the small yellow/gold square is echoed both in the pot and the accompanying painting.















3. The little sub exhibition in a side room Place and Practices: UK/Korea Exchange 2017/18 was worth exploring. I particularly enjoyed the large scale groups of ceramic towers by Oh Huanjong. Because they were so large it was a much more immersive and interactive piece of work. I felt like a child in a forrest in which I could hide.













4. The hanging strips of sheets of Spode pattern transfer sheets. I probably like them for the same reason that they reminded me of childhood and hiding between hanging sheets or in a den made of bedding.
















5. Eusebio Sanchez's figures are closest work to the kind I'm doing that I've found among the exhibitors. They don't actually look anything like my work but are also some form of creatures which he makes by coiling clay. For him it is important to show the coils which, along with the nearly furry glaze finishes applied, give them a kind of feral feel: uncanny and undefinable.


6. I am not sure whether I'm more impressed by the exquisite coloured porcelain bowls made by Marios Kalamenios or the the lovely display of his coloured clay disks. The boxes are like a very expensive set of watercolour pans. Mm, yummy!
















7. Like a print by Miro or similar this assemblage of ceramic shapes by Amy Mackle is much more like a drawing than traditional pottery. Interestingly this work even though it has not been framed but it does rely on a plain matt background to work.


8. An lastly, I liked these earthenware pots that were dotted around the place to catch drips from the leaking roof. Initially they looked to me as if they could have been produced in the South-West of the USA. However, they were made in India and shipped over. In a way the represent the universality of pottery across the globe as they may also have been made in South America or Africa or Australia.