Saturday, 10 September 2011

Forgotten favorites of a past life ...

I have recently taken delivery of a two A1 folios and a taped up box from my Dad. They had been saved from the skip when my old childhood home was cleared and were taking up space in his new home- so now reluctantly they were here and I had the task of sorting through and disposing of any rubbish as I am a massive hoarded and am already full to capacity !

After a lot of cringing at my old art work, although there were a few gems. 

I found amongst them an illustrated report on The Beatrice Royal Contemporary Art Gallery. A wonderful venue sadly missed as it was closed in the early naughties. This was where I got my first taste of contemporary craft including my current favorite disciplines of ceramics and printmaking. Later I worked as a volunteer gallery assistant during holidays and even assisted the curator visiting "Top draw" to select that years Christmas exhibition work for the craft gallery although I have forgotten exactly which year that was.

The main purpose of this post however is my delight in the rediscovery of ceramicist and "flying potter" Jon Williams.

 I had forgotten the feeling of discovering his work for the first time all those years ago probably around 1996/7 when at the tender age of 16/17. I had first admired his work in the Beatrice royal (image of the gallery as it was) I knew nothing of ceramics but fell in love with the curvy organic forms, it is only now looking back at the work I've produced over the last 14 year I realise just how much Jon's work had inspired and informed my own. The work I'd  been producing during my A levels seemed to be bright brash and sometimes angular and very unrefined as you might expect. 

All of these things are very unlike what I produce now. Although colour is important my shapes and patterns nearly always start with nature inspired curves and circles with more harmonious colour pallets.  Back then I had not yet developed my love of gardening and plant forms, this came later when I suddenly felt I was missing something moving to Stoke and not having plants around me in my student house unlike my family home which I had always taken for granted during my childhood.

As well as seeing Jon William's work in a gallery context and reading the printed out artist info leaflet which accompanied the exhibition (very high tech-life before the Internet as we know it !) I also met Jon at the Chelsea craft fair on my first ever visit I can honestly say that was it a turning point for me I didn't know what I wanted to make yet but I knew I now aspired to exhibit there at Chelsea. Jon was very approachable and I remember him humoring my probably very naive bet genuine questions most likely including that old chestnut "where do you get your inspiration from ?" !! 

And so 14 or so years later here I am looking through my old work and preparing for my next project developing my ceramic practice and here was my original inspiration ! Now with the power of google and the vastness of today's Internet resource it was only a matter of a few click's before I found Jon again and was watching a video about his current work on his Website.

 Listening to him took me back to that conversation at Chelsea and I was no surprise to me that he is now splitting his time between his own practice a teaching. I was also very please to see that he is based really quite close to me and regularly works in the West Midlands.

 I came to Stoke on Trent to study craft over a decade ago at the time specialising in fine metals. I remember being in lecture about the ceramics industry and being board with the history lesson of dates and names. Only recently I finally discovered my love for ceramics after ignoring it for years. perhaps the clay has slowly seeped into me through my pores its taken 10 years !

 Or more likely its because im a hands on person and I completely agree with Jons view that working with clay really is more like play. It was only getting hands on with the material not thinking about design but just enjoying the tactile qualities on a recent project about tea that really got me interested in its potential. 

(below are my first attempts at throwing before and after turning and clean up)

(For what hapened next to these pots see earlier post on this blog)

Now I cant wait to get back to the studio a get playing again !


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