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.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

I think that it is about time that I made a mention of our summer exhibition.
In fact it will be the largest exhibition that we have held, and although the opening is still some time away it has taken up two full days of my time each week for the past couple of months.
What is worrying is that this is just with the early stages, so things can only get more hectic and worrying as time goes on.
Worrying, but enjoyable, as the planning is half the fun.
But from now things will start to become more serious, as I understand that getting artists [potters] to say "yes" is one thing but bringing them in on time is going to be a different matter.

On the last day of June we are holding the opening of an exhibition titled
This is to be a tribute exhibition to Isaac Button the potter and John Anderson the man who made the famous film about him.
There are many reasons why and how this exhibition came about, so I will try to be brief with my explanation. This is fortunate for you and this is only because I hate typing my thoughts.
If you called into the gallery I am sure I could bore you with an hour long verbal version,
But brief or long, the main reason will be the same.

Like many potters and people who have any interest in ceramics I have watched an old film titled:
'Isaac Button - Country Potter'.
It is a film made back in the early 60's and it records some of the last working days and kiln firing
of an English Country potter.
The subject of the film, Isaac Button was a normal working potter, producing simple, low priced pots for everyday use. He certainly wasn't famous, just one of the last of his kind.
It is only after the film was made, and his pottery closed that he became famous and is now perhaps regarded as "the" Country Potter, all because of an old 'black & white', silent film which records his working life. A life that now seems so long ago.
He was an extraordinary craftsman, producing quantities and sizes of pots that seem almost unimaginable by today's standards.
But that was his life,  he was just a potter.
A potter capable of throwing hundreds of pots in a day, simple pots, pots for use, affordable pots.
Pots that could be broken without fear of having to claim on the insurance because of the financial loss,
pots of a size that would now be considered major exhibition pieces.
For instance: he could throw a 'bread crock' using 24 lbs of clay in just 70 seconds,
then without standing back to admire his work he would throw another, then another.
It was a skill born from a lifetimes work, not a natural ability but learnt from repetition.
A working man earning his living as he had been taught.

He has become something of a legend, and all because of the film.
A film that has been watched [and still is] by potters worldwide, a film made by a photographer
John Anderson.
This is where my involvement comes in.
John was one of our customers.

He used to pass the gallery window twice a day, on his way to collect groceries from the village shop.
Sometimes, he would stop and look at pots in the window, other times he would come inside and ask or talk about them, and on occasions he would make a purchase.
To me he was an interesting character who had an understanding about good pots, and he really did understand them. I remember on one occasion he was scathing about the quality of a large bowl.
A pot created by a "famous" potter, a potter who has work in international museums.
"it is dead, this isn't a good pot", were his words.
He was right, the famous name and high price didn't make it a good pot.

It was after one such visit when he had purchased a really large pot by an unknown potter
[unknown meaning he wasn't a potter that you get to hear about] that he asked could I deliver it?
He only lived a few minutes walk away so it wasn't a problem.

Delivering the pot to his home, for the first time I met his partner "Kay" and viewed his incredible collection [a lifetimes collection] of ceramics. Plus it was then I learnt that he was "the" film maker.
He had made many well known films of potters but it was the Isaac Button film that he is most remembered for.
Unfortunately since I came to know him he has died.
He is missed but we constantly remember him because his widow Kay is still a regular visitor.
In fact she is still adding to their collection with purchases from our gallery.
A collection that will one day be passed to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

It was on the occasion of one of her visits just before Christmas that the idea of the exhibition was born.
There was an exhibition taking place and as usual I was panicking, talking and drinking
[in no particular order].
In a corner Irene and Kay were busy chatting and laughing. Eventually I was called over and Irene said "wouldn't it be lovely to show Kay and John's collection of pots"?
From that statement a very large exhibition has grown, in fact it will be our most important exhibition to date, an exhibition which will give some meaning and purpose to what we do.

We will be showing "some" of their collection.
The pots that were created by Isaac Button, plus others that will be borrowed from around the country.
We will be showing the famous film constantly, exhibiting old photographs of the potter,
And more importantly we will be showing the ceramics by twenty of the best contemporary potters around, potters who acknowledge the importance and influence of the old film,
or potters who are still working as "Country Potters".
Potters who make a living from their craft.

I made a "wish list" of the potters that I would love to include, and to my amazement the response has been fantastic, potters really wanted to be included and involved.
We will have potters from the UK, Europe and from across the pond.
Some of them very famous, all of them real artists.
Very different potters but all of them producing connected by a common thread.
Isaac Button - Country Potter.

To some up the response I will quote the words that John Leach said when I asked would he consider being involved with the exhibition.
"I would be honoured. Without that man and that film I wouldn't make the pots I make today".

So above are a couple of pictures of Isaac, then two of today's potters,
Clive Bowan and Stephen Parry.
Making different kinds of pots but I think that it is easy to see that nothing has really changed.
These pictures followed by ceramics by Tony Clenell, Ron Gearing and Stephen.
This will be an exciting exhibition, if I survive the planning.
I will be returning to this theme many, many times before the event as there will be a lot to show and tell and I have the feeling that excitement will get the better of me.