First Class trip to CAL today in more ways than one. Relaxing in the First Class lounge at Crewe and lunching on smoked salmon and scrambled egg – oh, yes! Met up with Micaela, Cheryl, Katie T, and Anne, who had all arrived earlier.
The first person I bumped into was Rosemary, who I met on James Oughtibridge’s recent course. Later it was great to catch up with Anna from the same course, who was on a ‘school trip’ for her MA in Bath, with a fellow-student, Sam. Dave arrived later in the afternoon, having spent the morning collecting pottery shards in the Thames.
What fabulous work! Some of my favourite people were there, and the gorilla theme continues (by exhibitor Nicola Theakston):
Anna’s stand looked fantastic – love her new work. She was busy all day and sold really well – as she deserved to do. Love her necklace, too. Cheryl took her a coffee and biscuits:
Lovely to see James Oughtibridge again. His stand looked great. Learning curve for him displaying his new minis – he moved them from a lower bench onto a higher, well lit bench and sold one immediately. Cheryl and I suggested he didn’t call them ‘maquettes’, because they are not – they are unique works of art in their own right. He had a good day.
And so nice to chat to Rebecca Appleby. Her stand looked brilliant with her paintings complementing her ceramics. They work so well together. I wish I could have bought from her as I’d love one her sculptural pots and the painting that inspired it.
Not forgetting Kate, who will be rejoining our MA in May. She had the Rant Pot display at the entrance. Here she is with ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’s’ Sara Cox. All this year’s Throw Downers were out in force to support Jo Malone. In fact, Geoff said Matt was going, but I didn’t see him.
Kate Plumb with Sara Cox in the Rant Pot
I was on a mission to look at glazes. Didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I saw several that were okay, but none that I really loved. I rather liked Richard Phethean’s colour palette – black, brown and another – yellow, turquoise, stone:
And that of John Higgins:
Sue Mundy’s work reminds me of my own. I liked most of the surface finishes too., certainly those below. Tempted by a very mini version of her work to put in my Rob Kesseler-like Cabinet of Curiosities, but I resisted as I couldn’t justify the expense.
Cheryl didn’t resist, though. She’s wanted a Tony Laverick since Potfest 2015. At the time, Tony advised her to see his old friend, Dave Binns at UCLan about a course. She did, and now here we all are on the MA. Tony’s pots are all different. Cheryl has finally found a smaller pot she loves in every aspect, which is a fabulous present to herself for her 40th Birthday:
The whole narrative: Cheryl, bowl, Tony Laverick, Dave Binns, fellow students, Micaeala and Katie T
Happy Birthday, Cheryl
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Tony is a UCLan alumus, too. Go UCLan!
Exhibitors were generous with their time and experience. Keith Varney, for instance, was a great help to Cheryl, who saw parallels between his work and her own. No pun intended.
It was interesting to see work ‘in the flesh’ that I’d only seen in photographs before. Some definitely didn’t live up to the promise of the photos. Others, on the other hand, had to be seen to be appreciated. Jin Eui Kim’s work one such example. The photograph doesn’t show the corrugated profile that creates shadows on his pots, or the the fact that this box has an invisible lid, with a concave top, painted in ‘convex’ greys to create tension between concave/convex. Exquisite!
There were several good ‘clay talks’. I’d like to have seen them all, except it wouldn’t have left much time to see anything else. The exhibition hall was very busy so you had to go round several times to see all the ceramics and find opportune moments to chat to exhibitors. I decided to go to only two talks (sorry Barnaby Barford and Kate Malone).
Stuart Carey: Professional Development – A guide for early career ceramists
Stuart is a RCA graduate specialising in thrown functional ware, although he’s created special pieces in collaboration with other artists such as Peter Doig. He was full of good advice for start-up ceramicists on everything from using social media to pricing. Much I’d already discovered researching the second assignment, but he added and expanded on a few points: 1) Move to London. Making it as a maker is much easier and faster in London, although not impossible elsewhere. 2) Don’t undersell your work. There are gaps between the various categories of ceramics (e.g. functional, decorative, fine art) where you can be too expensive for one, but not in a high enough price range for another. 3) Instagram is the way to go if you want to sell your own work.
He discussed the rise in popularity of ceramics, then talked about the demise of ceramics in schools and as a BA subject, and the necessity for ceramicists to fill the educational gap to pass on skills. He is co-owner of The Kiln Rooms, an open access studio in London. Very interesting.
Rob Kesseler with ceramicists Tessa Eastman and Ikuko Iwamoto: Micro-organics
I’ve decided to make my first series based on Rob Kesseler‘s images of microscopic seeds and pollens, so this was a must. I thought I hadn’t found any ceramicists who take inspiration from his work, but I’d seen Tessa’s work on cloud formations, and Ikuko’s spiked forms, but I hadn’t made the connection. Great to see they are being inspired by the microscopic world rather than slavishly copying it.
The focus of the talk, he said, was the converging of nature and ceramics, which both are obsessed with their own process. He looked at the historical interest in nature from the 16th century onwards – Durer, Della Robbia, Bimbi – and it’s connection with ceramics – Chelsea floral collection, and The Flora Danica, both 1770-1800.
No one was looking at the microscopic world when Kesseler started in 1990. He was inspired by the Father of Plant Anatomy, Nehemiah Grew:
He made his connection with Kew in 2000. He continues to add colour in his own way, using it, like plants do, to attract an audience. Although He has had his images on plates, he sees his books as his work and leaves ceramics to others, such as Ikuko and Tessa. One top tip – have a cabinet of curiosities in the hall. with glass shelves:
He had slides of ceramicists and artists who are inspired by nature – some of whom were new to me:
Chieko Katsumata produces biomorphic forms based on vegetable and plants. She hand pinches the forms then decorates with slip coloured with metallic dyes and pigments, which she applies through gauze with a brush. Each piece has multiple firings.
Nathalie Doyen works predominantly in ceramic. Those on the right are stoneware, coloured by metalic oxides. Top left is white stoneware, bottom left is clay and leaves.
Zemer Peled constructs organic flower-like works from porcelain shards.
Shiyuan Xu, Though the Lens – Revealing Obscurity. Inspired by microscopic images, hand built in porcelain paper clay.
Sarah Craske is an artist working in art and science, having recently completed an MA at UCLA. She explains her works with bacteria and old books in this short video:
Jonathan Keep uses 3D ceramic printing to produce random growth, much like natural forms grow.
Iwamoto makes functional and non-functional ceramics in porcelain, inspired by nature and the microscopic world, which she sources from magazines and online. The spike is a recurring motif, which she says creates tension and fragility.
It took her 13 hours to add these spikes
She doesn’t just add spikes, she uses the spike as form:
Touch is important to her. She applies stippling on both functional and sculptural pieces:
She has recently extended her work to include wall pieces, because most ceramic sculptures are installations or freestanding – she wanted a fixed view point. She takes inspiration from abstract artist such as Miro and Victor Pasmore, which she says have a ‘microscopic world vibe’:
She wants to achieve the same in form as they did in paint:
She uses mixed media – porcelain and telephone wire – to emulate microscopic forms. She wants her work to be viewed as Fine Art, alongside abstract artists and sculptors. She says she’s struggling to find the right place for her sculpture and tableware. In the future she hopes to do big bold sculpture. One of the pieces she passes round to handle was anything but – so delicate and beautiful:
Eastman was at the RCA when Rob Kesseler saw her work on her FB page – alongside his books.
She is inspired by nature to create other life forms, which she categorises as ‘Creatures’, such as Subservient Creatures, which try to conform to humans:
She likes the tension between the spikes and the soft sections. There are many meshes and grids in the microscopic world, which allow the internal space to be seen. She creates grid-like plinths she calls ‘ladders’:
Cloud Bundles inspired by Jacob van Ruisdael
She constantly tests glazes – stoneware glazes, often matte. Glazes, she says, can ‘enhance the harmony and discord in a piece.’ Here she has captured Rob Kesseler’s pigment:
She sketches the forms, but says ‘pieces move away from the sketch in the making’:
Eastman is also inspired by artists Matt Wedel and Ken Price:
Matt Wedel (2 on left) and Ken Price
She creates new series as new ideas are generated. Making one thing leads to other things, she says.