Showcasing the diversity of contemporary crafts from across the UK by a wealth of talented designer makers, all masters of their chosen craft. Glass, jewellery, ceramics, wood, mixed media and automata by established makers and some new faces amongst them too.
Liz cooksey works by combining wire and thread to create intricate and delicate two dimensional and three-dimensional works reflecting her observations of nature. The inspiration for her work stems from her love of natural forms in which she looks for shapes, textures, colours, within what might be a hedge row or a motorway verge, recording the small and insignificant details that can be sometimes overlooked. She lives and works in Manchester where she studied Embroidery and went on to develop her own practise and teach textiles and fine art. Over the years her work has evolved and has become focused on the use of mixed media with a particular fascination for wire and crochet. She creates shapes and structure with wire and copper in which she combines delicate fine crochet in a varied palette of subtle colours. In her more recent work there has been a development from mainly framed relief pieces to free standing three-dimensional work, where simple wooden plinths become fertile ground from which springs an exuberance of natural forms.
Sarah is a figurative Ceramicist working mainly with the construction of Coils. She makes mostly human forms but there is always an animal hanging around somewhere in there. Sarah colours her pieces using slips, oxides and underglazes and she fires them to stoneware temperatures. Sarah has always been interested in simplifying the forms she creates from her interest in Folk Art sculpture, in particular its strange proportions and simple shapes and line. The way pieces are often highly decorated and because of their age and the materials and techniques used will often be faded and chipped with beautiful patina. “I love how all this oddity all this patterning makes you look...just a little longer. I want people to do this with my work. I want to make pieces of work that looks like they've had a life, a story, a past. I want to create this through the form, texture and decoration. I want to tell a tale.”
Living and working close to nature Jennie makes exciting ceramic sculptures derived from her drawings and observations recorded daily in her diary and sketchbooks. These are the starting point for her pottery and it is through her ceramics that she is able to share the moments that delight her. “Since Childhood a fascination for the natural world has lead me to explore wild places, so that I may find and be close to wild creatures.” Jennie spent the first twelve years of her life in Scotland where she lived by the sea surrounded by hills where exploring became daily adventures. Her father used to take her fishing, sometimes on the rivers for trout or salmon, sometimes to sea for mackerel. It was always exciting; chance encounters with some wild creature were always a possibility. Jennie avidly collected bugs and filled endless tanks with rock pool creatures, jam jars were filled, frogspawn collected. There were rocks and trees to climb, nests to peer into, burns to explore. When she was six a litter of pups was born under her bed and one of those wriggling bundles was going to be hers; with this pup she had a passport to explore on her own. A young girl and her dog companion left to wander and have adventures. When they left Scotland and finally settled in Devon it was with this companion that she explored her new home. Jennie has been lucky to travel to wild places in this country and abroad and in each landscape, urban or wild, she has observed nature arrive and survive. It’s that incredible spirit of survival that has always inspired Jennie’s work and fuelled her sense of adventure.
4th November 2017 - 6th January 2018
“It is a real treat to be included in an exhibition celebrating 35 years of The Craft Centre. As a gallery they have supported my work since before I stepped out of university over 16 years ago...travelling hours to my degree show. Early interest and support from gallery staff gave me the motivation and confidence to keep making in the early days when I had wobbly knees and a very small voice.” Image and quote: Samantha Bryan
Elspeth lives and works in Grantchester near Cambridge where her workshop is the former village cricket pavilion. Her most familiar material is clay and her ceramic work has been widely shown in Britain and in Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and USA.
As a young woman Elspeth studied history at Oxford University and worked as an academic, a social worker and a teacher before she started going to pottery evening classes in the mid-seventies. In place of an art school training she taught on the legendary Open University course Art and Environment. “Tender, direct, resilient, with a thin skin; that is how I think my work may touch you. To sustain working in this way means my remaining open to the emotions and sensations of an ordinary life. I keep slipping between categories; life, art, therapy, play, ritual and find that I’m usually in more than one at a time, and with something up my sleeve!”
Jack is particularly recognised for working in Porcelain, a complex medium known for its delicate fineness and translucent nature. Whilst enjoying the soft sensual qualities of the clay, the purity of the whiteness accentuates the simplicity of form with minimal adornment. Jack’s pots are not glazed. A smooth thin layer of liquid porcelain (slip) is applied which has copper carbonate added as a single colouring material. The beautiful mottled surfaces of Jack’s work are produced through chemical reactions in the white-hot heat of the kiln’s atmosphere; pure alchemy. Jack has evolved his work using only one firing technique. ‘Soda firing’ is a process involving mixing sodium bicarbonate with water, which is then sprayed into the kiln during firing at high temperature. The resulting vapour is drawn through the kiln chamber where it reacts with the silica and alumina present in the clay creating a rich patina of surface texture and colour.”
Christine has been creating ceramic sculptures for over 10 years. Using a mixture of crank bodied and stoneware clays she is able to bring her research and sketches to life, the finished pieces complimented by her own unique method of Raku and smoke firing. Originally Christine's work expressed her interest in the movement and life of pigs, she has since developed her style and research to capture the beauty of many animals in our natural world. Christine's portfolio shows her commitment and love for fine art, the finished pieces express her natural ability to realise her research and observation. Christine Cummings regarded as one of the finest ceramic sculptors, her work has generated interest from collectors throughout the UK and Europe.
Christine has sculpted, in one medium or another, for most of her life. Since leaving university she worked as a soft sculpture artist for seventeen years and undertook design commissions for several toy manufacturers in the UK and USA. She then returned to her first love of clay, and have been making figurative pieces since 2007. Christine’s work is informed by ideas and reflections upon the nature of childhood, play, half-remembered folk tales and how these things impact upon us as adults. Christine’s figures tell stories; sometimes light-hearted, sometimes unsettling or melancholy. She aims to capture character and a suggestion of private thoughts. Sometimes her figures disguise themselves as animals. Occasionally they are caught in the act of transformation; half human, half beast. Wherever possible, Christine uses reclaimed and British hardwoods such as oak, ash, and beech for framing and presentation, often enhancing its natural flaws.
A fascination with Alexander Calder’s ‘Circus’, constructed from found objects, along with The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre’s automata, inspired Rachel to construct mechanical sculptures and automata at college. The relationship between human and animal is a recurrent theme, as the manipulation by hand cranks to animate the creatures suggests. The use of perforated metal and meshes has become the material of choice to define form and create a transparency to observe the mechanics and the drawn wire structure. Birds, insects, mammals, fish, and crustaceans, either at the farm, on the coast, at wildlife parks, or even wildlife on the screen, are now her subjects. More recently Rachel has become interested in the idea of protection and using images of armour and trophy heads in her work.
Lynn trained as an illustrator at Colchester School of Art. The first part of her career was spent in East Anglia as a designer of theatre and retail props. This was where she first started to use wood.
In 1986-7 she began working with wood again, establishing her workshop which overlooks the Atlantic, an ideal location for collecting the driftwood with which she makes the painted driftwood figures. She uses saws and sanders to carve the figures. Each piece evolves in the making, sometimes ideas are found in the wood itself. Lynn’s work has a wonderful narrative quality where the characters she creates provoke story-telling; ladies wearing fancy hats on their way to a special event or men clutching bunches of flowers waiting to meet a loved one. Her collections are always fun and humorous with something for everyone to enjoy or relate to.
Based in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, Samantha is inspired by Victorian gadgetry and invention creating suspended, wall mounted and free standing witty sculptures out of a combination of wire, leather, found objects and collected materials. Samantha finds herself preoccupied with everyday life, but not of her own; that of the fairy. Consequently her sculptures place what can only be described as ‘fairies’ with machine-like contraptions. They depict fairies going about their everyday lives. Within her extraordinary objective is to realise the necessities and requirements that would be involved in ‘fairy life’; to provide everything a fairy would demand during its daily existence. “I have named these ‘Fairy Aiding Inventions’, invented by ‘Brain’ (me). They are theoretically functional items for the mildly eccentric. A world for people to enter; a nostalgic glimpse of childhood fantasies.”
Rob Parr has been making with clay for many years. Animal forms have been a significant source of inspiration for him since he was a child. Growing up in Norfolk in the 1970's and receiving a rather alternative early education, Rob spent many hours drawing, painting and making, which was often inspired by the animals both wild and domesticated that were part of his childhood world. Rob studied Ceramic design at North Wales School of Art & Design and later at the University of Central Lancashire, Rob has worked extensively in both the Ceramics Industry and Higher Education over the past 20 years. Through observation and employing a variety of hand building techniques, Rob’s work explores movement & presence of animals and how they relate to the human condition. Much of his work is centred on the animal kingdom and how the use of the ‘plinth’ can be used to create a sense of monument. Through observational drawing and photography, Rob searches out the intrinsic qualities that convey the character of the subject matter, then using a wide variety of skills, creates individual and distinctive ceramic sculptural forms.
Duncan’s work is thrown and burnished using many layers of a fine terra-sigillata slip with resist and inlay decoration. He began working with sigillata to develop a rich surface with a combination of form and pattern that would be integral to the clay. Starting with line and dense burnishing, Duncan experimented to obtain a feeling of depth, allowing the smoke process to play its essential and unpredictable part. The challenge lies in the relationship of form and pattern. Balance, rhythm and proportion are all important. With the development of a tonal range in the use of terra-sigillata Duncan has been able to introduce depth to the surface. “It is the combination of the fundamental and the sophisticated that I find fascinating.” You’ll finda selection of Duncan’s vessel forms represented in the collections of the Victoria and Albert and Fitzwilliam Museums and the Walker Art Gallery among many others in the UK as well as notable collections abroad.
When Chiu was little, it was with pen and paper that she felt expressive; drawing and drawing without thought. The feeling never left her, and she graduated to paint, then finally to ceramics. She developed her art and ceramics in her home country, Taiwan and exhibited her first work in Taipei. “I produce from my heart, sensing when what I'm creating begins to feel right. Ceramics was an exploration into clay and glaze, and I studied hard to be able to create the feeling I wanted.” Chiu came to England in 2003 where she recalls a love of English summers, blackbirds and sheep touching her heart and influencing her work. When she moved to England, she brought with her many glaze recipes, but soon discovered a new range of English clays to explore. All of her works are hand built with great care and she hopes you’ll enjoy it as much as she loves to create it.
Sophie creates bespoke handcrafted ceramic sculptures for the home. Every one of these affordable-luxury ornamental objects is unique, taking days to refine and finish to the highest standard. Now based in Orpington Kent, working with clay and plaster has become integral to her way of life. Sophie’s practice is an on-going exploration of the object and the vessel, in both the contexts of sculpture and functional ceramics. Her work moves between the boundaries of art and design, challenging our preconceptions and understanding of contemporary ceramics. She takes inspiration from the landscape, paring it back to abstract interpretations of space through basic geometric forms. Sophie utilises colour and negative space to engage the audience and play with perception. Her work is ambiguous in nature and open to interpretation, raising questions about material and process.
Gin has enjoyed creating and making for many years; through from her first disciplines of illustration and graphic design to now working with clay. Her ceramic practice has been established since graduating with a 1st Class Degree from Bucks New University in 2011. Clay, for her is a rewarding material, one with which she is forging a lasting relationship, enhanced by firm grounding of mixed media and design experience. Drawing and illustrating has always formed the basis for each three dimensional piece. Gin Durham’s quirky and imaginative ceramics are inspired by memories, traditions of folklore, fairy stories, nursery rhymes and storytelling. She draws on imagery which has been shaped by treasured tales and translates them into beautifully crafted work, rich in character and detail. “Since I can remember, I have been fascinated by stories and how they have endured the test of time, repeated by generations. My hope is that my work in turn, will have the power to trigger associations, images and stories in the mind of the viewer.” All sculptures are individually hand built in porcelain or stoneware, incorporating textile impressed elements. Each instilled with a twist of humour. Gin featured on Made in Leeds TV when she last exhibited with us back in 2015.
Julia creates unique hand blown lead crystal bowls, decorated with original designs drawn from nature. Her love of glass came about when Julia broke her knee cap during the foundation year of her degree, diverting her from a glittering career in ceramics (due to all the potters’ wheels being kick powered not electric) and into glass by the timely and fortuitous discovery of a book on kiln forming glass. After destroying all the kilns at her foundation college by melting glass into the heating coils, Julia was accepted onto the Glass and Ceramics degree course at Sunderland Polytechnic.
Rosie graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in engineering. She has always been intrigued by mechanisms and the way things move. Her lifelong love of living things was enhanced through two years creating and conserving wildlife areas in Scotland, and two years working at an RSPCA animal home. Rosie also loves her garden, although you wouldn’t know it to look at it.
For the last twenty-odd years she has been teaching maths in comprehensive schools in England. She loves the coast and is happiest when she is collecting driftwood along the shore in north-west Scotland.
David’s practice was based in Berlin until 2002. In 2001 he was awarded, through an international competition, the opportunity to collaborate with Glasgow architect Gerry Henaughan of Hypostyle on a major commission for the Gorbals, Glasgow. He enjoyed working in Scotland enormously and in 2002 decided to relocate there settling in Dumfries. As an Artist working mainly with the materials that surround him David has been inspired to use different media in Scotland and has become very interested in the new potential meanings created when ‘natural’ are contrasted with precision engineering and mechanical movement. This new work takes his practice into different realms, creating objects by reduction rather than construction, and by mapping their histories and potential. This mapping provides an information element to the work, where the solid ‘sculpture’ is set within site, time based context and meaning. “My intention is that this mapping is as much part of the form of the sculpture as the solid material itself.”
Bob creates contemporary showpiece willow animal sculptures which are both life-size and realistic. Each piece is woven by hand and completely unique. Based in Bangor, County Down, he has been creating traditional and contemporary willow baskets, sculptures and living structures since the year 2000. He initially trained as a textile weaver, but has since studied with master basket makers in Armagh, Galway and Villaines les Rochers, France. His award winning work can be found in the collections of museums, galleries and in the film industry. His amazing willow sculptures include a wide range of animals but his most popular is the Highland Shoulder Mount Willow Sculpture which is affectionately called Elvis. The willow sculptures have evolved from the traditional basket weaving techniques he used to produce mummer’s masks. This process begins by personally growing over 40 different varieties of willow to enable Bob to choose from a large palette of colours and textures. He carefully selects each rod and uses a dense, random weave to create form with detail, giving a feeling of movement and injecting a hint of expression. His sculptural work is innovative in that unlike basketry there is no pattern or formula to follow. “The willow sculptures are a creation of aesthetic vision and skill in manipulating a basic willow rod into a thing of beauty and form. My signature is in the detail.” Bob creates instantly recognisable animals which are more than simply an outline. They encapsulate movement, expression and always have a hint of personality.
Karen trained at Glasgow School of Art, graduating in 1990, and now works from a studio at her home in Renfrewshire. Her aim is to create visually satisfying objects for domestic environments that have a quality of surface and pattern, and that appeal to our sense of touch. Her process involves layers of bold and playful decoration while retaining the inherent warmth of red earthenware clay.
Simple forms are made on the wheel, hand built or using plaster moulds. Karen collects imagery from daily life and nature to make paper collages and, before the first firing, coloured slips are brushed on to the leather hard pieces using cut paper stencils. Newspaper lettering on the final work echoes this process. Layers of applied slip produce a subtle raised decoration and can be drawn though to reveal the red clay beneath. A second glaze firing is followed by a third for the application of printed decals.