On Sunday I came back from exhibiting at Hatfield Art in Clay, slept well and unloaded the car the next day. Now a moment of reflection. Who were the best in show? Impossible to say, but here are ten good ones, reflecting my tastes and prejudices. What I looked for was a personal voice, sureness of execution, mastery of technique and that indefinable energy that makes a piece of pottery stand out from the rest. Naturally, I respond to the use of colour, but there are some muted pieces here as well.
At 80, Robin was the senior potter of the show. In his long career he’s been a production potter, making thousands of pieces on the jigger-and-jolley with a band of assistants, and is now an artist potter of distinction working alone. I bought two bowls by him and a little life story written as an A-level project by his grand-daughter; but why is there no serious biography of this major figure of 20th century studio pottery?
I love Yo Thom’s small, shy, grey pots. She was born in Japan, studied in the UK and trained with the Japanese-inspired British studio potter, Lisa Hammond. She works in Dorset and sells in the UK, Europe and Japan. Yo’s Facebook page is here.
VILAS ED SILVERTON
I picked out Vilas’s work last year and perhaps it’s unfair to others if I pick him out again, but his Zen Rogue heads have developed and are now drained of colour. He works meticulously, as you might guess from his small, neat appearance. Website here, but unfortunately he doesn’t show his most recent work.
Daphne taught me at Harrow and I still refer to her notes on ceramic chemistry. She’s one of the few tin-glaze potters in the UK and shows great restraint in her monochrome drawing, forgoing the dozens of colours available for maiolica. Line and texture dominate, with botanical themes that have the right balance of realism and abstraction. Website here.
A new potter to me. She graduated from Camberwell in 2014 and has already made a considerable impression. She’s inspired by mathematical relationships, which she explores through geometric patterns applied to distorted forms. As an anti-Romantic I’m drawn to artists who make calculated and unemotional work like this, and Rhian does it well. She’s artist in Residence at The Ceramic Studio Warwickshire and is supported by the Crafts Council’s Hothouse 2016 programme. Website here.
Now for a colourist. Barry Stedman works in earthenware so that he can get bright colours in his ceramics. He’s also an accomplished watercolour painter. Every time I see his work, it’s developed just a little bit. His colours this year are paler and softer; the matt, unglazed areas are getting bigger and he now uses drawn lines in addition to fields of colour. Website here, but, again, no recent work is shown.
If you watched The Great Pottery Throwdown you’ll have seen Richard in the background – he was one of the technicians on the programme. Richard combines the direction of Froyle Tiles, a company making high-quality tiles, with individual work of originality. His stoneware vessels are thrown and pressed, then dozens of little transfers are applied. Website here.
Another figurative potter, making work as different from mine as you could imagine: amusing but rather unsettling figures. Wu says, “I always had a hard time when asked about my work – I have no deep meanings – not ones that I recognise anyway! I just produce from my heart, sensing when what I’m creating begins to feel right.” So just enjoy it. Like all the others, superbly made. Website here.
Traditional slipware in earth colours remains popular. Jennifer Hall’s work is not original but it’s made with verve, the shapes are just-so and there’s a well-judged translucency in the slip. Website here.
Perfectly made, wood-fired ceramics from Germany. Susanne Lukács-Ringel works in Zweifalten in south-west Germany but regularly appears at Hatfield. I always want to buy her work but – and this is the problem potters have with potential customers – I’d have to throw away something to make room for it. OK, next year. Website here.