There were many ceramic and art experiences in New York, further grinding to dust its reputation as a ceramics unfriendly town. But it’s like anywhere, it can take a while to learn what and where. I was lucky in that I already had some contacts in the field who included me in what was happening so I got to events that otherwise I could not know were occurring.
The New York Ceramics Fair was a grand affair held in the Bohemian National Hall on the swanky upper east side. Like much in that part of town, beside Museum Mile toward the East River, it was expensively mounted and in quite grand surroundings where tickets to enter were carefully scrutinised and the food, wine and service of an order far beyond a cheese sammy and a paper cup of cask red.
I went with a collector friend and our tickets came via ceramics entrepreneur, Leslie Ferrin, who has recently given up her retail premises in Western Massachusetts but who is now even busier taking her artist’s works to the proliferation of art fairs, putting together exhibitions for retail galleries and lobbying public (‘not for profit’) galleries for space, for her stable of artists, in their curated exhibitions. Somehow she seems to know of everything that might be useful or important, well in advance and targets her artist’s work for specific events. Agents and dealers like Ferrin in the USA take 50% commission but they hustle really hard on behalf of the artists for that, meet all overheads and even finance brochures, catalogues and books for them, commissioning writers, photographers and printers. Ferrin also keeps a resident artist’s space so that off-shore artists can work there for a show. She employs two younger artists part-time to manage her website, Facebook, and other on-line promotional tools. One works in exchange for studio space in Massachusetts, the other is Manhattan-based and glad of extra jobs like assisting at Fairs and replacing brochures in places where the Ferrin artists are showing currently.
Leslie Ferrin had a stall there at the Ceramics Fair and hers was the only contemporary one with a range of artists. She was showing, among others, Robin Best (Australia) Giselle Hicks, Mara Superior and Kurt Weiser from USA, Leopold Foulem (Canada) and Paul Scott (UK), along with Sergei Isupov who is Russian but who lives in the USA much of the time, and re-sale works from Howard Kottler
There was, however, a sole artist who had taken a stall for herself – Michelle Ericson, recently returned from a residency in the V&A, London and who, like our own Richard Stratton has a fascination with the styles and techniques of earlier industrial times and makes contemporary pieces quoting, but not reproducing, from these. Ericson said she found events like this prestigious ceramics fair gained her new clients as those who attended were usually intrigued with her reproduction of old methods, which they recognised, to make new juxtapositions or political meanings.
However most stalls had on display, high quality, old and antique, production ceramics, from Chinese imports made in earlier centuries to what looked like seroius antiquities to folk art from places like North Carolina’s Jugtown, to a number of stall holders in from the UK with Staffordshire/Stoke on Trent pieces of very superior quality and even higher prices.
It was all very fascinating and when we finally emerged to find some supper, it had been snowing.