Welcome to the Gallery

Imagine is set in the Suffolk village of Long Melford.
This is an attempt to record the daily trials, tribulation and pleasure of running an art gallery.

Friday, 27 January 2012

I had a lot to write about that I thought might be interesting, and was poised
"pen in hand"
ready to blog when I remembered that I was going on a long trip and thought that maybe I might have something of even more interest to write about on my return.
Well it probably might not be, but as it involved me going off on an adventure and meeting people I had a feeling that I would find it more interesting,
otherwise my small world exists within these walls and although a lot happens
[some good some bad] it is nice to get away,
if for no other reason than driving for hours allows me to think without interruption,
and I like that. I also enjoy playing music at full volume without worrying who I might annoy.

So, off to St. Ives in Cornwall I went.
I must admit that I wasn't looking forward to the journey as it is long and this combined with fog and heavy rain made it was worse than anticipated, but I arrived safe and with a head full
of new music, at least that was fun.

I was visiting Cornwall to see a potter called John Bedding.
I have mentioned him and shown his pots here before, but this was to be my first time
to have a "proper" conversation with him.
Before it had been restricted to emails, telephone and hurried chats at motorway service stations where we did our furtive exchanges.
Pots from him and a big smile from me.

I have long been totally fascinated and puzzled by the techniques that he uses to decorate his pots, the truth is I just didn't know how he did it.
On the frequent occasions I have been asked in the gallery "how did he do this"?
I have had to bluff and guess as I had no idea at all, all that I knew for certainty is that I loved them and coveted them however they were done.

So for the first time [of what will be many] I eased the car down a very small alleyway and
into the courtyard of the "Gaolyard Studios" in the centre of St Ives.
As the name suggests it used to be the village gaol, now it is owned by John and is home to many different and talented potters.
But it was only John that I had come to visit [or so I thought].

His studio/workshop was no different to that of many potters, in fact it is in the running for being one of the most untidy, but that would include almost every potter I know.
What made the greatest difference to me is that out off this studio came some of the most beautiful, elegant pots I have ever come across, and I really wanted to know how they were
created as I have never seen anything like them.

Two hours later I left feeling like I was walking on a cloud.
John is one of the nicest, cleverest and most forward thinking craftsmen I have ever met.
I was staggered to find that he uses a computer to decorate his pots.
It is true, there amongst all the normal pottery clutter was a laptop computer sitting beside
clay and normal pottery tools.
Attached to the laptop was a projector, in front of that a pot.
From the computer he projects his designs onto the unfired pots.
Don't ask me how, ask him, and if he tells you how he will be mad.

Let me explain that the studio was full of pots, some in various stages of being fired but most
still damp and drying, each one decorated with patterns and images that moved the heart,
each different but in some way or another Japanese in influence.
This is no great surprise as John had not only worked for the famous potter Bernard Leach
but had also trained and worked in Japan many years ago.
I say many years ago and this is what surprises me, that a man with his background and knowledge of making real "Leach" influenced ceramics was bucking the trend.
He was taking all of his knowledge of past pottery and with modern technology using it to create the most wonderful eastern style ceramics I have ever seen.
If I had been watching and talking to a younger man I would have been thinking
"kids today, what they can do",
but this is a man who is older than me [yes, that is possible even though he looks 10 years younger] his mind and thought process was so exciting and invigorating.
He is moving forward, not trying to make copies of past masters, he is his own man
creating on his own terms and is unconcerned by criticism of others.
He is making his pots for himself and his collectors not for acclaim on the small pottery map,
and that is why he is so good.
There was no ego, no searching for approval or acknowledgment.
A man who has every right to make pots in the style of others but who is mature enough to walk his own path.
Wow! This is sounding like a one man fan club, but I think by now you understand that he
greatly impressed me.
The man and his work.

As I was about to leave he asked "have you been to my shop"?
"Yeah, about 20 years ago".
"It has changed a bit if you want to have a look".
I promised that I would, so he told me to take attention to the work of different potters he thought I would like.

I visited his shop.
The "shop" turned out to be one of the best galleries I have ever visited, it shows nothing but ceramics but is beautiful and with great attention to detail.
In fact it is more like a museum than a gallery as there was work on show by almost every
great potter of modern times, those living and those dead and every piece a collectors item.
Potters like Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, Colin Pearson, Mick Casson, David leach and
Michael Cardew were on show and for sale.
All shown in the most subtle surroundings, almost like a Japanese tea room.
"Less" definitely was more.
Amongst the various famous names on show there were a few, but only a few of John's own pieces, for me these stood out as being some of the best pots on show.
There were two I was smitten by, one nearly four feet tall, the other was smaller but it burnt an
equally large hole in my heart.
Showing alongside the older traditional pots were also the works of the modern studio potters,
some of the them like Ruthanne Tudball I know and am friends with, others I didn't know at all although I do now.
One in particular whose worked I really admired was a young man named Sam Hall.
"Shit", I had just met him back at the "Gaolyard" without knowing who he was or what he did, and for that I plead ignorance as I now appreciate that he is well known and very collected
but luckily I didn't know of that.

So back to the studios I returned to meet Sam.
A lovely gentle and handsome young man [if I'm allowed to notice that].
I confessed that I knew nothing of him and
"did not know of his work until today, but could I take some".
I think that the honesty paid dividends as he showed me much of his work, some I criticised
and to my surprise we both agreed in the criticism and it was an enjoyable,
"I really like that"
"So do I"
"I don't think that has worked"
"That's what I think".

Eventually he asked "would you like to take something? I don't let many galleries".
I think ignorance and honesty this time the right thing.
I was lucky as yet again there wasn't an ego, instead just a very good potter.
Of course I have since found out how well known and collected his work is, but as I have always said "the bigger the artist the smaller the ego".

Anyway, I had hoped to complete my trip on one post but I appreciate that most people will have fallen asleep by now, so my return journey and meeting with a very famous potter I will leave until next time.

Above the pictures explain themselves.
John Bedding's gallery [or a small portion of it].
The giant bottle that I loved, Sam Hall's pots and of course the pot that I loved so much,
which of course, John allowed me to bring back to the gallery.

1 comment:

  1. I must say I do like the black background and lighting in the show and the fairy tale telling of your meeting, such a nice discovery indeed.