The Festival and the Portage

 

The Phantasmagoria that was the Festival of Ceramics 2017 has run its course. At last. Many are still recovering from this Auckland wide celebration of things ceramic. There was so much to see, from the “Wow!” to the “Well done!” to the “Good effort!” to the “Oh dear…”. But it sure kept us all busy for more than a month.

It has grown considerably in this, its third year in to quite a significant event and while some former contributors disappeared, there were ample new ones. Tailored for most, from serious collectors to practitioners and new aficionados to children, the aim seemed to be something for everyone. And there was. From studio visits to guided walks, clinics for collectors to discussions and talks by artists and practitioners in solo or panel formats, firing and throwing opportunities and the principal arena of exhibitions at public and private dealer galleries through to opportunistic sales of work. It was not possible to see all that was available but regardless, with events now drawn to a close, many are just ceramic-ied out! However most of the principal exhibitions will be still showing throughout the summer, or at least until late January.

 

Main event was probably the 17th Portage Awards held at Te Uru in Titirangi. This year, for the first time, the juror was home-based in the form of Emma Bugden, formerly Senior Curator at The Dowse and currently living in Whanganui where she is editing and anthologising early copies of NZ Potter magazine. Bugden brings much of value to jurying this show including early qualifications in ceramics from Northland Polytechnic under the remarkable Geoff Wilson who, according to Emma, exhorted his students to throw pots in any colour, as long as they were brown! A broad arts education subsequently honed that basis followed by ample experience in the wide world of art but always with a fond eye on what was happening in ceramics. I opine, that in this time of considerable expansion in what ceramics can be, as seen in galleries around the world, and also reflected here, such enhancements to an early focus, are surely more than useful.

 

The concerned reverberations at the disturbance to the long-held principal of an international juror with no prior knowledge of our ceramics that was rattling around in ceramic circles were surely put firmly to bed once Bugden’s choices were displayed. Her show was lively, colourful and engaging.  Way more so than last year’s. At least in my view. And last year, while the juror was international, she knew NZ work pretty well and had been here several times previously. Going for an Australian juror is as unlikely to field an unfamiliar viewpoint as is one from here. Probably any Australian with enough background to be our juror will be well acquainted with our major national figures and informed on work from here. No, if we want that Fletcher anonymity we must extend the invitation further than across the Ditch. But possibly, that other unique custom we are noted for off-shore – our single juror – is sufficient? Multiple jurors is the standard in Europe and Asia at least. Or is the tradition, begun for the Fletcher Awards back in 1977, of a lone view from a distant shore and innocent of work from here so embedded that we reject any change? I’m interested in other’s views here. Letters to the Editor welcome.

 

Bugden met these issues head-on in her speeches and her catalogue statement by suggesting objectivity to be difficult whether the judge is drawn from locality or is the distanced international ‘coming in cold’. She added that anyone judging such a show exposes their own background and biases. So true. We all bring baggage to looking. However, while Bugden agreed that within the entrants were people she had worked with and that she held her own prejudices and preconceptions, she also found names and work unknown previously that gave her that jolt of recognition that can be almost physical to a knowing eye.

Bugden revealed, with her winning choices, that she had concerns for craftsmanship and interest in what is fresh and new as well as regard for the established. Not many could argue that list. Her choices of Premier Award and other awards follow…

 

Amanda Shanley : Colouring In       Merit

A still life moment from the dinner table with dark green scribbles maintaining an ingenuous demeanour. Shanley

 

Cheryl Lucas : Milkstock.   Merit.

A series of milk bearing vessels and thoughts of cows and their effects upon this land and its waters. Lucas

 

John Parker ; Uncut PenetrationMerit

Well practiced, virtuoso design elements of industrial derivation and uncharted intent. Parker

 

Andrea du Chatenier : Untitled (Yellow Stack)  Residency

A collapse of cylindrical linearity into a vividly chromatic, seemingly unstable pile made immutable by globs of implausible feldspathic fluidity. du Chatenier (2)

 

Richard Stratton : Forced Turn Teapot  Premier Award

A brutalist teapot mired in history by its colour and the eclecticism of its sources; its cylindrical origins dislocated and reassembled with an eye for where shadows can add intrigue and addenda offer playfulness.Stratton

 

It was a broad and beguiling show that contained repeats of themes we have viewed previously – some still maintaining the freshness generated when first seen; echoes of the highly textured gloopy glazed effects currently seen as ‘hot’ in the concrete canyons of New York; intriguing techniques that invited curiosity, some staggeringly accomplished work particularly from immigrant artists that can only bring fresh interest to a small scene and unorthodox approaches from artists trained in other disciplines.

 

There were other works that made my particular fires glow. Some of them took me a return to the show to fully appreciate….quiet excellence can take time.

Madeleine Child’s Pretty Boys – her ‘Splendids’ in glowing cadmium yellow, wall-perched on an assortment of kiln furniture and spoilers, rivalled du Chatenier’s collapsed stack in radiance and most else in the show for insouciance. Child

Philip Jarvis’s audacious plastic bags of clay. Difference. Not trying, not trying at all yet getting there anyway. With ease. Jarvis

Jinho Jeong bringing an Asian technical dexterity and precision to wonder at and admire. Jeong (2)

Judith by Jacquelyn Greenbank intrigued. Too small to be neck adornment it still carried the corporeal in the fleshy hue of the silk tassels and the fact that they seemed intent to clasp their bony hoops around a neck. Holofernes neck perhaps? Greenbank

From Tony Bond’s slippery slopes with their distant resonances of the very first Portage Premier Award to new work from Kate Fitzharris and Paul Maseyk – a wood kiln indeed(!) there was lots to look at and think about. Maseyk

The catalogue just gets better each year. Always the commissioned essay is a welcome addition to the few texts in the field and useful historically (look how many refer back in their own contribution) and excellent images, plus subtle upgrades in design. But now, finally, the artist’s statements are catching up fast – are they being edited by a bit? A lot? (Very probably in some cases…) Regularly a cause of complaint from me, from whence has this generalised boost to literacy suddenly appeared? Who would refuse such an upgrade if offered? And, take a look at the bios…once sturdy and worthy they now transfer an almost jocular air in places along with their increased concision. All welcome additions indeed. Well done Te Uru!

The show runs to February 11th.

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Betty Woodman 1930-2018

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Woodman in studio, early 2000s

The great Betty Woodman died a couple of days ago at age 87. Part of the Pattern and Decoration movement which was a reaction to the prevailing abstraction – and particularly the abstraction manifested in the work of Voulkos and his followers- Woodman, while not overtly a feminist artist, joined a coterie of mainly female artists who celebrated ready-made patterning and design elements as part of their work and dropped temperatures from reduced stoneware to oxidised earthenware. She said,  “It was a macho scene, a man’s world. Being a woman it was not easy to achieve recognition”. However, Woodman received notice early, particularly for her Pillow Pitchers – two closed off cylinders joined end to end and placed horizontally as basis  and in the manner of T’ang pouring vessels, then added a central neck and spout that could be decidedly Islamic and surface decoration derived from Persian ceramics and other eclectic sources. These hybrid pots were some of the first that combined various elements of ceramic history in single works. They were something entirely new at the time and they underscored her career. She did not stop there however, she continued to extend her parameters and her sources in painting and ceramic history while looking at various countries’ distinctive additions and styles and utilising these in new ways to produce something fresh. Japan, Mexico, Korea and particularly Italy were subjects for her distinctive gaze and she held shows in major museums and public galleries all over the world.

She is the only living woman to have received a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and also the only one (male or female) to have done this as a ceramic artist. (Rie and Coper had a sizeable show of work there early in the ‘90s but that was posthumous). Of that show the, could be acidic, critic for New Yorker, Peter Scheldahl, in a rapturous review called Woodman, “…beyond original, all the way to sui generis”.

We were very aware of her work here in NZ and twice I was instructed to be in contact with her to come as Juror for the Fletcher Challenge Awards. However they (she and husband George – a painter who died last year) had homes and studios in Colorado, New York and Tuscany and they split their year between those places.  After the second long telephone call we agreed I should not bother her any more as she would rather spend May in Tuscany than in New Zealand!

I saw large scale shows of her work in Geneva where the subject was the decorative arts of Japan, and in Faenza where she was guest artist for the Biennale and riffing off their impressive and vast collection of majolica. Both times it was a surprise once there and both times the work stopped me in my tracks. Relaxed, almost careless in their acceptance of cracks and twists in slab backgrounds they were exuberant, colourful and sumptuously rich in detail of applied painting alongside surprising and elegant ways to display work partly affixed to a wall or as a feature in a large rectangular painted composition. Her use of majolica techniques was vivacious and lush with every flowing brush-ful necessary to the whole. Twisting, snaking, expresive handles, positive upon negative, 2D upon 3D, trays of squishily Baroque elaboration, ceramic pots with ceramic shadows upon ceramic shelves, ceramic flowers in ceramic vases, exploded drawings of pots of flowers and always the pillow pitchers and their variations upon some national trope and their quotations around necks, handles and pouring devices…   I recall being struck by the absolute confidence of every aspect from assemblage of vessel and slabs to surface embellishment. It is great work, constantly developed and re-figured over some sixty + years.  Endlessly inventive while being endlessly self-referential. There was a film showing her at work in her NY studio at Wellington City Gallery some years ago, that I watched several times, (see image above) but I forget in relation to what it was on.  She was absolutely a one-off and a great artist in any genre.

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Pillow Pitcher

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2D/3D

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2D and 3D

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Wall mural

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2D 2.5D and 3D

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Japanese imagery

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Wall mural

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Whanganui Double.

Two new pieces of News for the New Year! (and both out of Whanganui…)

New Zealand Potter: A partial archive.

Published by Small Bore Books and edited by Emma Bugden, this anthology of extracts from the first ten years of the New Zealand Potter magazine covers Emma’s selection of the most significant contributions to the pottery scene, via its only publication, from 1958, when it was beginning to fizz, through to 1967, when things had built up a considerable head of steam, (to use Brickells phrase), and potters and their work were making their mark as a new culture, with a public and in the broader art world.

Emma has divided the compilation into themes, or areas of activity if you like. First is A Call to Arms  where positions are staked out and action called for. Then, Being Here documents the community and includes profiles on makers and galleries. Coming Here covers some of the distinguished visitors to our community. Going There covers travelogues sent to the editor by potters off-shore and finally, Doing It is a reflection on the vital-at-the-time practical side of the magazine offering advice and experience from some of the pioneers.

This compilation offers a broad range of contributors, in addition to the potters themselves, and reflects a variety of views upon the nascent scene from the censorious to the complimentary. The participants in the organising committee and their roles are acknowledged as are the major contributors of opinion – for in those days opinion was freely given and often robustly stated. It delves into some questions around influences from off-shore and the resultant values that might last as well as issues around what might constitute a New Zealand style. It covers areas of commentary that are now largely absent from our contemporary scene. Healthy stuff!

The collection gives a good overview of how the early years of our pottery culture was reported and discussed via its magazine and oracle.

It is simply presented in A4 format with perfect binding and a cover design that reflects the times of its origins – as it should.  It makes an enormously useful addition to the bookshelf for anyone interested in the pottery movement. I’m sure the editor is currently enjoying a well-earned rest in the sun somewhere but copies will be available from… www.smallborebooks.com in due course, or stockists are….

Unity Books (Ak and Wellington)
Women’s Bookshop (Ak)
Parsons Library Services (Ak and national)
Te Uru (Ak)
The Dowse Shop (Wellington)
Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics (Whanganui)

 

 

The other new item from Whanganui is news of a competition for  an “emergent practitioner in clay” to be run by the Rick Rudd Foundation and held at his Quartz Museum of Ceramics in Whanganui, and called…

THE QUARTZ AWARD

 And the award is 10,000 dollars, to be conferred triennially. 

Looking at the entry form and accompanying information the purpose is “to encourage, foster and promote excellence by makers of studio ceramics in all forms from tableware to sculpture and from traditional to avant-garde”.

Entry is a little different than usual in that it must be in the format of  printed images of up to 20 works and up to five extra images of details may be added for clarity. Additionally a USB stick containing those images is also required. Of those twenty works ONE must be identified as the work intended for exhibition and its dimensions, medium and title. Entrants are also to submit a biography/CV and a statement on their work. All works to be for sale made and they will deduct 25% commission. It is acquisitive. No entry fee.

The work must have been made after 30 June 2017 and entry date is June 30 2018.

Judgement will be made by the Trustees of the Foundation – Rick Rudd, Paul Rayner (artist and gallerist) and Tom Seaman (collector).

There are a set of conditions, all perfectly reasonable and information can be obtained by email from quartz.award@gmail.com or by telephone at 06/3485555.

Now here’s an interesting development indeed and good on Rick and his team for instigating this new event.  Ten thousand dollars will be a more than useful boost to anyone “yet to achieve widespread recognition in ceramics within NZ or overseas”, (as the information says), and presumably invest in their career, (although no criteria in this regard are offered – again, generous).

One could ask what is emergent? (Internationally it usually means someone within ten years of obtaining their last qualification in the field, but that’s a hard one for NZ for obvious educational reasons).

And what is “widespread recognition”?  Won a prize in a competition or two? Exhibited regionally or nationally? Articles in ceramic journals sourced internationally? Or nationally? Images in the local paper? A facebook page or personal website?

And recognised by whom? (The public? The ceramic community or the wider world of art such as the collections of public institutions?)

I have asked these questions and, as you’d expect, there are no easy answers. I am told, “Trustees have deliberately made the eligibility non-specific.   Hopefully entrants will make their own judgement whether they have ‘achieved widespread national or overseas recognition’, ie have they exhibited regularly in regional and / or national exhibitions?  Is their work recognised internationally? Entrants are expected to provide an artists biography, and the Trustees will decide from the bios if the practitioners have emerged or not”

Well, there’s a small handful whose work would be recognised in Oz but that’s probably about all as far as international recognition is concerned. We simply do not have the means to generate the sort of critical article that would promote those artists we do have with international potential. Establishing an international reputation as a maker of note requires sustained work by a range of writers in a variety of reputable journals and media plus acceptance/prizes in international exhibitions and competitions of note. Not simple. And anyway, to what benefit for an artist living here, at the bottom of the map?

No matter, the Quartz Trustees will decide whether someone qualifies as an emergent contender ”from the bios”. The exhibition that takes place will be at the Quartz Museum in Whanganui and will hold roughly 50 works so I imagine a major priority will be to put together the best show possible as it’s on at Quartz for some months. Entrants can put together their own bio and for the Quartz competition that is considered sufficient.

So, the very best of luck to all who consider themselves still emerging towards recognition. The Quartz Award will be a great step.

 

 

 

 

 

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A New Cup

Here is an image of a couple of cups bought in LA a month or two ago. It’s by Peter Shire who was the American representative in the original Memphis Group and who has a workshop in Los Angeles with his own coffee machine. His baseline product are these cups, slab built walls and base with one of a choice of three handles (stamped slab) and an infinite range of glaze effects – no two the same! It seems somewhat clunky but is as easy to use as my Ross Mitchell Anyon cups and that unwieldy-looking handle functions very comfortably and balances hot contents just fine. The cup’s looks belie its functionality. It’s a great cup.

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On this, that, and the other…

And greetings from Scandinavia….

I have been in Guldagargaard Ceramic Research Centre in southern Denmark, a town called Skaelskor, for a while, on a writing residency and catching up with some editing and curating tasks at the same time. Now that I am largely up to date I thought I’d write for those of you who have ticked that box on your Portage entry form, about what it’s like being there and what might be expected and what not.

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Skaelskor houses…. lot of yellow ochre used!

First of all is location. Skaelskor, which I have visited previously, is a train then a bus ride away from Copenhagen. They take a couple of hours or so but it’s easy and co-ordinated through a rural countryside much flatter than geologically young NZ. There are no hills to speak of but dark brown soil and crops of wheat, rye and oats so densely planted they seem solid blocks of gold and blue-green but step on and sink in and growth is knee and thigh-high. No cows, goats or sheep, which are housed in barns.

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Main street of Skaelskor…cobbles and few vehicles.

Skaelskor is small and situated on and around a tiny isthmus between a lake and a fjiord. A former fishing centre, it has three supermarkets and a variety of shops as might be expected (chemist, bakers, shoes, books, second-hand charity etc plus a bank, a town hall, a library (the most modern building) and a small museum (housed in a 14thC building) plus, inevitably in Denmark, an interior design store or two with bells and whistles for the domestic environment. There’s quite a well-established design consciousness present country-wide.

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The lake

Then in the centre of town is this large park, previously an orchard – the biggest in Denmark – that is now the Guldagergaard Ceramic Research Centre, housed in the former family home and with the stables converted to studio spaces. When there is an overflow at the house, or entire families arrive, then additional cottages, a b+b and the local hotel are also employed as accommodation. The town has embraced the ceramic label and now holds an annual festival and market there to which many ceramists from the country bring work; shop windows, banks and the former jail are among the spaces utilised for display and exhibition.

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Grimmerhaus – the National Ceramics Museum for Denmark. An hour’s drive from Skaelskor. They have collection galleries, curated new work exhibitions plus an historical show at any one time….

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Back view of the main house…. great for sunny lunches and a glass of red at evening time.

Visiting artists are a varied lot. From major art stars (Richard Shaw, Kim Dickey and Fred Olsen were there this summer not to mention our own Jim Cooper and Denmark’s Sten Lykke Madsen) to average and various makers through to recent grads who exchange free bedroom/studio space for 20 hours a week labour of various sorts from washing floors to stacking wood for kilns to assisting with firings to sorting books in the library.

Each visiting artist brings tools and buys clay and glaze ingredients there as required. There are many clays from Audrey Blackman porcelain to two black clays for different temperatures and much in between such as England’s famed T-Material – warp-free stoneware. There are many kilns from four bourry-box/wood-firing of different configurations plus an anagama and the beautiful Fred Olsen cross-draught number that is poetry to view (and everything from a dream, to hell, to fire – depending on who is talking!) There are also gas, raku and electric kilns of various sizes and temperature range and technicians to fire then for/with you.

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About to unload a kiln. Assistants from Hungary and Bahamas supervised by Hattie U.K. (firing technician)

As for glazes – all ingredients are there and so are many boards with recipes, and samples of that recipe in various different kilns, at various temperatures and even to various locations in the kiln. As best as might be possible, you can decide and know what you are most likely to obtain!

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Glaze test board

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more detail

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even more detail

Workspace is small and each studio holds four or five artists at a time. Upstairs in the stables is more display space and across the courtyard is the apple-packing shed/gallery that, as well as exhibitions, holds the large collection of work donated by former residents over the twenty years it’s been in existence as a ceramic centre. There are hundreds of pieces, that can be lifted from shelves and handled, made by artists with heavyweight reputations to members of the great unknown. It’s rare to be able to assess haptic qualities in collections and such access is a privilege for treasuring. So much information can go in via the hands and fingers.

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Part of the collection shelves in the Apple Packing Gallery

In the residential building are eight bedrooms upstairs, single and twin, and one with attached bathroom downstairs that is often occupied by Sten Lykke Madsen, long term salt glazing wood-firer of mythical creatures, now older and unable to manage the stairs, but something of a national treasure in Denmark. Downstairs is a capacious kitchen, dining area, sitting area and a large library with an open fire much utilised in winter. It’s a big, warm comfortable house that has recently been refurbished with furniture and fittings by IKEA. There is no room servicing, you are expected to sort your own stuff as well as take a turn in providing and cooking an evening meal for all there, and that might be between eight and twenty people. In turn you are, each evening, given a meal bought and prepared by someone else which might be a simple soup, bread and cheeses to a three course Gordon Ramsay special!

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Dinner for residents from (from L)Denmark, Hungary, Finland, Japan, England, Denmark (partly hidden) Korea, USA, USA and Denmark.

Your breakfast and lunch etc is your concern and towards this you get a shelf in the frig and the cupboard for your personal stuff. If you cannot live without Marmite – take your own for you will not find it at any of the three supermarkets. But you will find groceries and local fruit and veg at prices generally quite a bit cheaper than in NZ although meat is more expensive. It doesn’t always seem cheaper because of the number of Danish Kroner to our dollar but a little maths will tell you so. Further, there will be a few buying oops when something turns out to be not what was presumed and there are a couple of shelves of such mistakes for general use, after all few can read Danish – the Scandinavian tongue reads and sounds rather like trying to sing a song with a mouthful of boiled lollies!

What is costly is clay and firings. Denmark has little forest cover, unlike Norway which has lavish amounts, and wood is an expensive fuel. So firing your precious product into permanence is an exercise for consideration. Travel into Copenhagen, when a break from country life or nose to grindstone is called for, is again cheaper than would be found for similar distances in NZ, altogether a bit over $30 each way but if you want to eat well or go to some of the excellent museums around town, this again will be more expensive than you will find at home. Still, at home you cannot find much by the likes of Raphael or Rembrandt, Matisse or Picasso or view design from most of the masters of the 20th century.

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Mid-century seating and lighting in the Design Museum

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A Pot in the History Museum

So, do it but take a packed lunch and eat at one of the very pleasant squares to be found throughout the city or walk across a couple of canals to Christiania – Copenhagen’s ‘independent state’ within a former army estate and now a well treed hippy wilderness with vernacular ‘woodbutcher’s art’ housing not far from central city, or head for the famous Tivoli Gardens – the grand-daddy of all the world’s amusement parks and a blend of beer garden, Central Park and Disneyland just across the road from the main railway station.

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Tivoli Gardens

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Tivoli Gardens

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The hotel in Tivoli Gardens… white peacocks and all!

It’s all very much worth the trip as long as you remember that Guldagergaard is a ceramic research centre and you have a definite project to work through be it 3D printing or testing glazes in a wood fire kiln or working out some new idea for form…. there is plenty of help available. Without a project it can become an aimless sojourn in a foreign place and rather pointless. So, it needs a little thought around ticking that box. But it’s worth ticking!

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On this, that, and the other…

Good news from Europe in that the Guldagergaard International Research Center in Skaelskor, Denmark is so impressed with the work done by Jim Cooper, who has been in residence there, that it’s included in an exhibition that has travelled to Milan, Italy for showing at the Officine Saffi Gallery – certainly one of Italy’s most prominent private galleries that includes ceramics. It’s a group show and includes other international artists, Malene Hartmann Rasmussen (Dk), Sergei Isupov (Russia), Sten Lykke Madsen (Dk), Stephen Bowers, (Aus), Kadri Parnaments (Estonia ), Mara Superior (USA) and Lileng Wong (Malaysia). The exhibition runs June 22nd to July 14th. All artists made to a theme of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Jim’s work will return to Denmark for permanent display in the extensive grounds at Guldagergaard.

There is also talk of a show of Jim’s work in London but as yet there are no details.

Auckland presently seems to be being entirely dug up everywhere one travels – and it’s best not to if it can be avoided. It’s not just residential building going on everywhere but many streets are having large tracts of bitumen excavated for laying lines, presumably internet connected and goes under rubric of CRL excavations. Some artefacts are being dug up…mainly shards including the inevitable Willow Pattern pieces, plus ceramic and glass containers for things like Worcerstershire sauce, beer or wated – often partially damaged. Some are intact including a grey, hand-thrown stoneware ginger beer bottle stamped with the name ‘Fowler’ and thought to be made in the 1840s by an Irish immigrant potter, Enoch Fowler, who arrived Auckland in 1836. Fowler would have been one of the many immigrant tradesmen trained, in the UK and Ireland, in industrial ceramics and who came here for work at a time when it proved difficult back ‘home’. A number of the early potteries making bricks and pipes employed throwers to extend their range of wares beyond field drainage and chimneys. Another of these immigrant throwers was William Speers who worked at Gardner Brothers in New Lynn in the 1920s and who taught Briar Gardner how to throw. The legacy is not long compared with what can be found in Asia, Middle East or Europe but it’s very typical of colonial times in countries like Africa and Australia and is interesting for all that.

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I brought back from this year’s NCECA some catalogues from the various artist’s and ceramist’s residency situations in the USA. Some are for a bunch of arts and/or crafts while others are ceramics only. In or near a national park there is very possibly a school of crafts waiting for you to enter, stay for a while and learn some new skills in your passionate pursuit. Some offer specific skills taught by a specialist in the field. Others allow you to simply go and work out what it is you want to do, to further develop your work. Some are former hippy colonies turned around, so that upkeep can be maintained. Some are grandly endowed, newly built places attached to some larger institution. Some have received contemporary architecture awards, others have been there for more than 100 years. Some are very famous, others you’ll never have heard of. I’ve finished this list with some similar places but not in USA… Enrolments already rolled out for this northern summer but you need time to get their newest information, prepare, save up and enrol for next year. I have left the brochures with the office at ASP, so go see if interested.

The residencies are listed below…. I have detailed the first on the list but many of the others in USA offer something along those lines. Some will take you in to a class simply by your paying the fee (fees are for tuition and more for accommodation…food extra) and agreeing that you are of the standard requested. Some offer a place to develop and exhibit own work rather than tuition and entry is by the proposal you submit and the background you bring. Some offer scholarships in various categories so that tuition, or possibly accommodation, is free. These are highly competitive.

Anderson Ranch… nestled among the Rocky Mountains of Colorado… extensive programme including ceramics, photography and new media, painting and drawing, printmaking, digital fabrication, woodturning, sculpture and critical dialogue! In ceramics you can join travelling workshops for a week in Mexico or Jamaica, or do courses on – figurative ceramic sculpture, mould-making, jars/lids and spouts, making and glazing, urban porcelain, the narrative vessel, wood/salt/soda firing, earthenware surface decoration, The Karatsu Tradition and more…

Then there are…

Arrowmont… Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Near Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Offers 27 different courses in clay alone….

Haystack Mountain…. Deer Isle, Maine

Mudflat Studio, Somerville, Massacheusetts

Office for the Arts, Harvard, Ceramics Program, Allston, Mass.

Penland School of Crafts, North Carolina.

Peters Valley… Delaware Water Gap National Park

Red Lodge Clay Center, Red Lodge, Montana.

Watershed center for the ceramic arts. Newcastle, Maine.

Archie Bray, Montana. Very competitive for entry.

Off-shore there is…

CRETA in Rome, Italy and

Guldagergaard Ceramic Research Centre, Skaelskor, Denmark

International Ceramics Studio, Keckskemet, Hungary.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Japan. Excellent facilities. Competitive entry by proposal and CV.

EKWC (European Ceramic Work Centre) Holland. This is the most challenging to get into as standards are very high for admission. Entry by proposal. It’s also by far the most expensive. They have been cross-pollinating artists from a variety of arenas for many years now. Great facilities.

There are even more than this when you look. However many of the rest are simply small businesses that offer a place to work and a place to sleep for which you pay a fee, but nothing more. Some have requirements as to work (in that you cannot simply use the place as a tourist centre) although many are located near good tourist areas (such as Nice in the south of France). There is an international Association of Artists Residencies which sends occasional news about these. The standards vary considerably, and research, so that you get what you seek, is necessary.

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GULGONG Ceramics Festival.

Will be April 15-21 next year. I will again be taking a group across for which I must apply for funding. Again there will be a joint project that allows for individual expressive involvement. I’d like to finalise the team so please, those who have had conversations with me earlier on this or have written about their interest in the event, please be in touch to confirm that interest is still there and I’ll try to sort a team from this. However, even if you have not been in touch and now have interest, please signal and, I’ll do my best. Emphasis will be on making a team that works together and who is prepared to muck in doing what’s necessary for a good outcome.

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Those who went last year will recall that one of the demonstrators was Norway’s Torbjorn Kvasbo who was working with extruded clay pipes. Well, one of the sculptures he made with these assembled pipes has just won the Grand Prize in the Korean International Ceramics Biennale and a massive amount of K/wons which translates to something around 60,000NZ$! Well done! He won the Faenza competition in about ’99 also and has just completed installing sculpture in another new ceramics museum in Central China quite apart from being about Europe’s most awarded teacher in ceramics..

Torbjorn has been here as Fletcher judge back in 1998 and took Master-classes at that time and I am in conversations with him to come again next year for a residency and further Masterclasses of a different nature.

Cross fingers he won’t be too busy!

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I am putting together a small show about early women, I think to be called, ‘Leading Ladies’, for Te Uru gallery at Portage time later this year. It seems we have had numerous retrospectives, surveys and suchlike on those late 20thC and after men, several of whom have been labelled ‘pioneer’, that Te Uru thought it high time the pioneer female studio potters from early 20thC should be featured. (Of course the industrially trained men, imported with skills intact, from Europe, were even earlier…) Some surprising facts and events and pots are turning up so watch this space!

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What I Did Last Summer

I relish staying in the city in summer and enjoy the unusual hush, the half empty roads, the easy parking and the lack of pressure on popular venues like swimming holes, water-side walks and parks – at least until ‘the return’ in late January. Places like I like are clearly not what visitors are here in the city for.

I also get to read books for pleasure instead of information. This year I’ve seen several that did both as well as some novels and stored-up articles from Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Spectator and the Sunday Guardian sent, from here and there, by friends.  First were the following two anthologies around Craft. I ordered both via internet once I had a chance to glance through copies while off-shore last year. If they were here, I missed them. Too often I have ordered something looking promising and based upon an attenuated publisher’s blurb only to find it repetitive of something already possessed or off the issues I thought I was getting. These are both worth reading.

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Tanya Harrod, The Real Thing. pub.Hyphen Press, London

Tanya Harrod has to be Britain’s pre-eminent Craft/design historian and this is a selection of Harrod’s writing from mid-1980s to 2013 – mainly short essays with some longer pieces that were published in magazines and newspapers. The time span indicates a focus upon the post-modern (although, as a historian she introduces a variety of supplementary narratives that add riches, while subjects range from the theories of Richard Sennett to the fine art of cake icing and the ceramics of Pablo Picasso to Gwyn Hanssen Pigott. Titles of essays range from ‘How to get Money’ through, ‘Where to see Mingei in Japan’ to, ‘Why shouldn’t a pot be as beautiful as a painting?’.

Essays are grouped into three parts: reviews of exhibitions and events, reflections on themes and phenomena, or portraits of makers.

This book records the effects on communities, of change in art and craft over the time span and her scope is global, not simply the UK although most is centred there. It includes, as the cover demonstrates, the technological in the form of rapid prototyping (or 3D Printing if you like) and its consequences. The book’s mien can be serious, even distrusting in places as well as celebratory, but its deportment is, in the main, objective documentation with occasional, thoroughly enjoyable and witty personal commentary. Great for diving into at intervals.

 

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Alison Britton: Seeing Things, Collected Writing on Art, Craft and Design. Pub. Occasional Papers.

Alison Britton is that brave thing – a practicing maker prepared to write critically on others’ work. She is also, besides her exhibitions of ceramics of note, a selector of work and artists, a curator and, for 30+ years, a Senior Tutor and Research Co-ordinator at the Royal College of Art. In the early 1970s, she was one of the group of RCA graduates, (Glynis Barton, Jackie Poncelet, Carol McNicoll, Elizabeth Fritsch et al ) chosen by Victor Margrie (founder, Harrow ceramics course/Director UK Crafts Council) as harbingers for the bright future of ceramics at a time of great upheaval in practices when the hegemony and restorative intent of the Anglo-oriental was overturned.

In her texts she concentrates upon contemporary practice (although history can be incisively entwined when relevant) and across a range of arts, although ceramics is at core. She treats ceramics as a field for exploration that is both self-reflexive yet in dialogue with other areas of inquiry such as gender or cultural studies. So, post-modernism is her arena of discourse.

This is the first collection of her writing. She has chosen a range of her texts from essays to book reviews and interviews. Like Harrod’s book the time span is over the past 30 years and her more literary and lyrical approach makes interesting contrasts here and there with Harrod’s writing. Sometimes covering similar ground. Engaging stuff.

In book reviews she is pungent on Paul Greenhalgh’s,The Persistence of Craft, ending her text with, “ ‘The idea of orchestration is key’, Greenhalgh tells us in his conclusion; but orchestration is exactly what this book lacks. It is as if the conductor went home after an impressive overture, and the orchestra – which features some terrific soloists – played on as best they could.”   She is constructive on, Breaking the Mould: New Approaches to Ceramics writing that to catalogue innovation is important, but, “ in assembling a cluster of self-written submissions from artists and designers with new approaches, background knowledge and editorial, clarity is needed”. She repeats this, with more bite, and regret, at her conclusion with , “… valid ambitions – there are new things to be revealed and written about. Stronger editing with a real understanding of the contemporary clay scene and its recent past, and a better budget for commissioning essays, could have made this an important book.” Well said. A decent budget for commissioning texts (and one could add, research), is of far greater value than any self-penned script by the artist.

She writes with clarity on many artist’s work including, Lawson Oyekan, Philip Eglin, Richard Slee, Sara Radstone and others of contemporary note in ‘Use, Beauty, Ugliness and Irony’, an essay for the catalogue of The Raw and the Cooked, a show that roamed across contemporary expression in clay. The essay encompassed many historical allusions as well as mention of folk from William Morris to Claude Levi-Strauss.

In interviews she includes what she considers a strong example sent to her, among many, by a student from another college. Worth reading – good questions.

Another to dip into at intervals.

Then there is….

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Grayson Perry: Playing to the Gallery, pub. Penguin, 2014.

Sorry if you have already read this but I only came across it last year and had to wait for the holidays to start it. I don’t need to tell you that this is congenial reading. With great good humour he debunks distinctions between brows both high and low. His acute observations and effective anecdotes can chew into some closely held art issues yet still make the reader laugh out loud, smile, or at least nod ruefully in agreement.

He posits on art being an asset class and just big lumpen loads of cash sitting on walls, as opposed to art for art’s sake idealism and more in that vein without plumping for either polarity but then goes on to tell the truth in that when a commercial gallery is setting up a show and pricing the art, it doesn’t price by quality but by size. A big painting will cost more than a small painting and on that he continues that a red painting will always sell best, followed by white, blue, yellow, green and black. And then more on themes like dealers, boho-leftyism, the so-called avant-garde, Duchamp and Banksy, critics, collectors, and galleries, art schools and skips full of ugly objects trying to be art – “ a potpourri of broken dreams”. Yes, it’s a lot about him but there is little that’s held sacred and you read it and just know there is a river of mordant truth running beneath all the fun bits. If you haven’t read it – get it. Cheapo paperback version. Even cheaper (i.e. free) are the BBC podcasts of The Reith Lectures – a series of four, written and spoken by Perry and the BBC’s most popular in the series.

And finally, another anthology. This one is ours, in fact, it’s the last book from our own national, under-acknowledged, counter-culture genius, Barry Brickell of Driving Creek Railway and Pottery.

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A BARRY BRICKELL READER: selected ‘wrertings’, meditations, outbursts, decrees and diversions. 168pp. Published by Steele Roberts and edited and introduced by Gregory O’Brien, photographs by Haru Sameshima, afterword by David Craig. The team that brought you, In His Own Steam – the definitive story of Barry Brickell that accompanied the touring exhibition of that name, curated by Emma Bugden and David Craig.

 

This is an anthology of Barry’s writing. Much of it might well be labelled ‘poetry’, or possibly doggerel, even prose – of a sort, but he’d prefer ‘wrertings’, one of many words coined by that fertile brain to express his disdain, among other things, of art-speak, corporates and institutions, politicians, bankers and celebrities, bureaucracy, certain individuals, health supplements, ‘Zuit’, advertising, speculation, ‘consumeritis’, fashion, religion and Roads of National Importance.

This collection also records his veneration for engineering, the uses his hands might be put to, Colin McCahon, clay, anxiety-free old age, his Dad, classical music, virgin native forest, steaming clinker, useful pots, roast spuds with lashings of gravy, Maoridom, trains and railways and coal- fired kilns, National Radio, Helen Mason and good wine.

There is a sensitive introduction, by Greg O’Brien, on how this book came to be put together, a task begun in Barry’s last days, and a responsive conclusion from David Craig who also co-curated the extensive retrospective exhibition with Emma Bugden of The Dowse Art Museum from where it began its tour around the nation. Images are never-before-seen, fresh to this book – with a couple of ‘must be used’ exceptions. It’s a neat, beautifully designed and formatted publication, on uncoated paper stock, that captures the man, his wrertings and his irreverent, zestful love of life. It’s a rich vein that will not occur again. Some of it is very funny, some is poignant and some of it stings. This is the essence of the man and his self-replenishing symbiotic interdependence of railway, pottery, bird sanctuary and art gallery that is Driving Creek – his legacy to the nation. There should be a copy in every library.

Copies can be purchased from Rim Books, PO Box 68896, Auckland.

E: info@rimbooks.com  $30.

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