Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Feast AND Famine!

The 13th National Pottery and Ceramics Festival.
Hatfield House 3rd – 5th August
This year’s Festival coincided with the hottest weekend of the summer. A Feast of pottery and ceramics was on show but the very hot weather meant a Famine of punters.
Those who stayed away missed the chance to see fine exhibitions of ceramic art and craft with plenty of space for leisurely viewing. Here was something for everyone. The five large exhibition tents housed much that was traditional or familiar but happily there were many challenging forms especially from the numerous overseas contributors and young ceramic graduates. Surface texture (sometimes extreme) was prominent as a decorative alternative to glazing, perhaps denoting an increasingly organic influence, the best exponents showing freely made pieces. Craig Underhill and Robin Welch displayed colourful hand built pieces with sculptural appeal and Svend Bayer’s part finished vessels gave an insight into the potter’s process.

If I had to pick stars of the show from the feast of exciting work I think they would be Eddie Curtis’s exquisite reduced copper red glazes combined on new Japanese inspired forms, Linda de Nil’s monumental textured anagama fired vessels, Becky Harle’s porcelain ribbon swirls and young Akiko Hirai’s tactile Japanese tea bowls.

Sadly there was a famine of Cornish potters and interesting open air demonstrations though some of the presentations were very informative, particularly Andrew Palin’s hand building and volcanic glazes. And if you ran out of money or cheques then there was no cash machine on site for that one last ”must have” purchase! Maybe next year.

On its new bigger site, the Festival’s true value must surely be the chance to exchange ideas and pick the brains of working potters. Famous or unknown, all exhibitors I spoke to were equally happy to talk about their work and techniques. No-one more so than the enthusiastic Wai Shing Cheung from Farnham College who was engagingly vague about the glazes and clay in his exciting tea bowls!

Barry Marshall-Johnson. Westcliff Pottery, Fowey

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