For the past 38 years we have been championing contemporary craft in the vibrant city of Leeds to shine a spotlight on independent makers and their small businesses from across Yorkshire and the rest of the UK. Through an exciting seasonal exhibition programme we highlight the skills behind handmade and share their inspiring stories. Bringing these amazing collections of contemporary craft together under one roof has created a haven for many visitors to escape the stresses of daily life & create mindful experiences. Please help us keep the gallery and the hundreds of small businesses we support alive by donating what you can so we can continue to keep bringing the very best of contemporary craft to you and help us and these creative industries thrive.
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Leeds visual artist and maker Sandra Whyles never believed that she would be one of ten ceramicists on a BBC2 programme about pottery. “If you had asked me 5 years ago I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of me being part of such a venture.” Sandra started pottery evening classes in 1999 a few months after the birth of her last child. She grew to love it and developed a couple of pottery friendships that have lasted up until today. Coming from a creative family she went from evening classes in pottery to study an MA in fine art and has been making functional and decorative pottery for the last 5 years. Having her studio has helped her to develop her skills in working with clay. “I love working with clay. When it goes right it is the best feeling. Making ceramics is a long process and the stages have their own challenges. When friends told me about the call out for applicants to go on the show The Great Pottery Throw Down I initially dismissed but had a rethink. I had nothing to lose and so I applied. The process was long and uncertain but to my surprise and proud achievement I was selected as one of the ten contestants from 1,700 applicants.”
The show has helped Sandra’s art practice improve and has increased her profile as a potter. She has since held pottery classes for beginners and improvers and there has been a healthy interest in the classes. “It is satisfying to bring pottery to the creative lives of others. The show has certainly changed the face of pottery in the UK and I am proud to be part of initiating that positive change and promotion of pottery.” As well as practicing as a potter Sandra runs the Chapeltown Arts Festival and works freelance as an artist facilitator. She plans to return to print and ceramics and blend photography and printmaking onto her ceramic designs. “I have just bought myself two silk screens and am looking forward to seeing what I come up with. I am always trying new things, I have eclectic tastes which has its advantages and disadvantages.”
Since the show Sandra revealed that she doesn’t often get recognised out on the street: “I have since cut my locks off which throws many people. When I was at Ceramic Arts London with some of the other contestants recently (including the winner Matthew Wilcock) I was recognised then and many photos were taken of us by fans of the show.”
With a new series of this popular show on the horizon Sandra thinks she’ll be glued to watching it; “I would love to be a guest judge, that wouldn’t happen but it would be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing what challenges they will have in store for those in the second series. I’ve made some long lasting friends from the Great Pottery Throw Down series 1 and I am glad that I did it.”
You can see a selection of Sandra's work on display with us very soon and all items will be for sale.