Ruthin Craft Centre, North Wales

I went the scenic route to Aberystwyth for the ICF, calling at Ruthin Craft Centre en route. I was just exploring my first exhibition, when Katie, Kate, Jane, Cheryl and Patricia appeared, on their way out.  Matthew and his Hebdon Bridge Ladies had already left, I was told. A busy hour or two for Ruthin.

I’d heard that the Craft Centre has had problems, which has left all but one of the studios empty Such a shame. The remaining unit has striking textiles, but that wasn’t open the Friday I was there. However, this means that the spaces are being used for extra exhibitions and displays.

I rather enjoyed the touchy-feely unit that invited one to consider the nature and importance of craft, and handle craft objects.  Getting to grips with the Claire Curneen was interesting. I’m not sure how the spiny scissors fit in:

Of course, St Stephen wasn’t part of the haptic experience. And it’s only writing this post that I realise that calling Paul Priest’s demo bull ‘Stephen’ (it was a random name shouted from the audience at ICF) was unkind. I hadn’t made the connection between Stephen the Bull, bull fighting and St Stephen.

Petals and Claws was the exhibition over two connected studios.  English-Degree-me had never heard of Alan Garner’s 1967 novel ‘The Owl Service’, let alone the ground-breaking 8-part TV series, which was adapted from the book that ran from 1969-1970. D’oh! The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the novel, and brings together artists from various disciplines – photography, video, painting, textiles, music, poetry and ceramics.  I was only concerned with the ceramics of sculptor, Liz Ellis.

Stills from the TV series and the anniversary edition of the book

Garner was inspired by the Welsh myth of a tragic love triangle, the story of Lluw Llaw Gryffes and Blodeuedd (welsh for flower face), his wife who was made for him out of flowers.  When she falls in love with Gronw Pebr, she plots to kill her Lluw, who is changed into an eagle and is saved from death. As vengeance, Blodeuedd is turned into an owl and known forever as Blodeuwedd (welsh for owl).

Garner was also inspired by a plate with a floral pattern that his wife could trace and form into an owl (the Owl Service of the novel). Ceramics thus becomes the focus of the exhibition.

I was interested to see how Liz Ellis created unique pieces that work both as narrative pieces and stand alone art works. For me the transitional piece above, where Bodeuedd is caught between human and owl, is the least successful. The rest I think work very well. The wall hung pieces are the most tenuously related to the story, being displayed as the power of the mountains that forms a wife for Lluw out of flowers.  They are lovely pieces that should prove popular with customers.  Appropriate titling, and accompanying excerpts from either the myth or the book help the viewer to read the piece:

I’ve already commented on the advertised price above of £15 for a section of the circular composite sculpture above, and the reality of the shop versions.

On to the main gallery space, where there was a large display of Terry Bell-Hugh’s functional ceramics.  I say functional, but some are quite quirky, teapots with legs, and platters with elephant motifs.  Elephants?  I thought they were shirts!

All have been produced in the last 9 months with a grant to explore new stoneware clay bodies, slips and larger forms. He uses wood ash glazes from a domestic fire, and I particularly like some of the colours and effects he has achieved:

I was particularly interested in how his work was displayed.  It’s a long narrow gallery that could make viewing so many smallish items difficult. Items had been grouped to make reading them easier, and the groups were interspersed with single contrasting items.

A really good display, I thought.  Given I was comparing displays at CAL with those of the same ceramicists at Earth and FireEarth and Fire , it would have been sensible for me to photograph Terry’s table in the Welsh Potters exhibition at ICF for comparison, but I didn’t. Hey ho.

I wasn’t overly interested in the other exhibitions, with the exceptions of two exhibits by metal artist Egor Bavykin:

Egor Bavykin
Egor Bavykin Metal sculpture


Egor Bavykin
Egor Bavykin Metal Sculpture

I love these, and wonder at how he has recreated the plasticity of clay in metal.  They remind me of Desa Philippi’s porcelain wall sculptures:

Desa Philippi Wall Sculpture
Desa Philippi Porcelain wall Sculpture

Then at ICF, artists such as Harm Van Der Zeeuw and Gerit Grimm want their ceramics to look like metal.





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