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.

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Writing this all I can hear is the sound of "ticking".
I have a sneaky feeling this is because I am surrounded by about a dozen of the incredible clocks by the sculptor 'Ross Emerson'.
This weekend we are holding our first solo exhibition of his work, it had been planned for September
but unfortunately the sculptor whose work we had planned to show is very ill, in fact he is in hospital.
The good news is that he is recovering and we now hope to exhibit his work maybe at the end of this or early next year. However, this did leave us with an empty space on our calendar and I really was at a loss to think how we could fill it.
I really couldn't think of anyone who could create enough work in a short time, until my thoughts
turned to Ross.

His work is very time consuming and as a result he is constantly working without a break just to keep ahead of the demand from the various galleries that are always asking for his unusual ceramics.

I wondered if there might be a chance that I could "jump the queue" and get him to bring his exhibition forward so that it would give me time to reorganise the rest of the year.
It was a tall order to ask but as they say "don't ask don't get".
So I did ask.
Ross being the kind and generous artist that he is, understood my problem but explained that it would create many for himself, but he said that he would give it thought and come back to me.
Two days later he did, "Yes" it was on.
He explained that he would "just have to start work earlier and finish later".
It is easy to understand why I like him so much, he is just one of those very rare artists who just can't bring himself to let people down, even when it is no fault of his own.

So it was that last weekend I found myself travelling south again to visit his studio in Devon.

Although I am a frequent visitor to the home and studio of Ross I still find the the view of his workplace amazing, nestled in its own small valley and surrounded by trees.
In fact one side is built on stilts because of the valley slope and outside there is a balcony which has a view of the woodland. How he manages to get anything created with the many natural distractions I just don't know, but work he does.
I also find it hard to come to terms with the fact that he makes such very contemporary work in such a rural setting. I am sure that any first time visitor to this pottery would expect to find simple utilitarian ceramics, the sort of objects that Ross himself  uses daily in the family cottage.
But no, this is a very modern workshop.

On each visit I am surprised by the quantity and quality of work that I find, all in various stages of construction, and it is the manner of the construction that I really find truly fascinating.

There is a great deal going on in the mind of Ross Emerson, and all of it very inventive.

I once spoke with the potter Peter Starkey, [a famous potter well published and collected] about Ross as at one time in the past he ran a studio where Ross trained.
"Whatever anyone thinks about Ross's work they will never find a better craftsmen, his techniques and
ability are truly amazing, his understanding of clay and glazes are first class". He told me.
What he said is true, I have often asked Ross how he creates some of his pieces and although he explains in detail I am often lost, as they are just so clever in their construction.
He truly understands the material with which he works.

I do really enjoy "nosing" around his studio, discovering things.
Some are discarded pieces [that I would love to own] of ceramics, others are old pieces of paper with idea's and designs sketched upon them.

Sometimes, with the absence of available paper he will sketch on the table or the walls, just so that he can capture the idea that is in his mind before it has gone.
So it was that I found and photographed the drawing above.
"This looks interesting, what's it about"? I asked him
"Oh I wish you hadn't seen that, it is an idea I have had for years and at last I have actually made it for my exhibition with Imagine. It was meant to be a surprise when you unpacked it".

The next morning back at the gallery I did unpack it.
Even though I now had a hint of what I might find I was still mesmerised when I took the sculpture from the box, it is fantastic.
Although you can not see it from the angle of my photograph the face of the
"Westminster Organ Player" [grinder] is a perfect charecture of our beloved Prime Minister.
It is so well made with great attention to detail, plus it tells the time.
Ross has told me that it took him two weeks to make, "I will never do it again".

It is a piece of sculpture that I would love to own.
I am not sure what to name it in the price list catalogue.
I have been thinking maybe
"Same Old Song"
or perhaps
"Different Tune, Same Old Words."

Suggestions very welcome.

Saturday 20 April 2013

 I truly have to say that these pictures of different pots I am showing are "in no particular order",
 the simple reason being that this wasn't the order I was trying to display them.
It really must be an age thing, that or the buggers [at blogger] are "mending" what isn't broken yet again.
I hope so because at least it is keeping someone in a job.

This is a selection of ceramics by various potters that are to be involved in our 'LEGACY' exhibition.
What pieces we will actually have on show I don't know as yet but these are from the selection of various images that have been sent to me for inclusion in our promotion, plus with luck [and enough time] we will also be producing our own publication for the opening, in which case these are a small 
sample of what will be included.

Some of the 'actual' exhibition pieces will start arriving next week.
This will be very early as the exhibition doesn't open until at least eight weeks time but I will be glad
to have pieces here as I have a very strong feeling that this particular exhibition is going to become very stressful as the opening date draws closer.
We have so many plans for what we intend to do that there is plenty of scope for much to go wrong, so actually have exhibition pieces here will remove a lot of the major stress,
also it will give me the opportunity to photograph and show you the actual pieces that arrive. 

So, above are pots by John Leach, Tony Clennell and Ruthanne Tudball.
I am positive that we will have the bottle by John, or at least a similar version.
This I am really happy about because it was a picture of one of these bottles that made me want to start a pottery many, many years ago. What is nice is that he still produces pieces the same [but better]
as he has been producing throughout his career. There is something very comforting about this,
 it feels that perhaps time isn't moving too fast.

The jug by Tony? Well I know that we won't have that one and in fact I think we are racing against the clock with him as he is building a new kiln, it is from this kiln that we are hoping to have a few pots.
So, fingers crossed.
Ruthanne! What can I say?
One of the most consistent and reliable potters that I know [plus a very nice person], so I am sure that that jug will be on display, if not its twin.

I think one of the things that I am most excited  about is the diversity of the ceramics that we will be showing.
The only common link being, they are all potters who acknowledge the importance of Isaac Button,
or they are country potters working much like he did.
Although the styles are very different and are being produced by potters on different continents all of the pots on display will be made by "country potters", their work and studios may vary
but at heart they are country potters sharing a common bond. 
For instance the jug above by Mark Tichiner is so very different from the bottle below by Jeremy Steward, but to me they both look and have the spirit of country pottery.

I find them all exciting in their very different ways, I can imagine the delight that it would bring to
pour a cup of tea from Ruthanne's teapot in the same way that it would give pleasure to see the jug by Harry Juniper full of flowers, 
Even though it is a 'Harvest Jug'.
Of course as such it should be be filled with ale of some description. In fact Harry's jugs are about the only example's that nowadays could actually be used for their original purpose, as most contemporary examples are now so expensive that you are frightened to touch one, let alone dare to use it.
Simple pottery has now been elevated to "art," well at least in the minds of some of the makers.

In a small way this is what the exhibition is intended to reverse, just for a little while.
For instance the potter Mark Griffiths [whose pots aren't shown] told me recently that he and some fellow potters had been talking about "the good old days," back when people would return to the pottery on frequent occasions just to replace pieces that had become broken, simple things like bowls and mugs. "this doesn't happen anymore" because our prices have risen too much".
He explained.
Of course a some of the reasons for this are because the cost of materials have become so high.

So for this exhibition Mark has told me that he is going to make some mugs that sell 
"for a fiver, just like we used to do". 
At least with doing this some people will have the pleasure of using a hand made piece,
if it gets broken [like pottery tends to] there will be no tears about the financial loss, just the sadness for losing something that gave a lot of pleasure.

I have become surprised to learn that there are more than a few of the potters who are going to use the occasion to create something that is "a little bit different" from their normal work.
This is lovely as it means that not only will we have special pieces, but also because it means that the exhibition has a different significance for the potter, in a way they are paying homage to a great maker.

Of course there will be the potters whose work doesn't change it just improves.
Potters like Clive Bowan, someone who has set the standard for English country pottery for many years. Having a potter like him involved gives me a great personal pleasure, for so many years I have wanted to own a piece of his work, and to think that now I will be exhibiting some of it!
Both he and his wife 'Rosie' have been a great support while the show was being planned.

Another potter who was "on board" in the early stages was Richard Dewar.
An English country potter?
He lives in France but the spirit is English.
He has taken simple pottery to a different level, yes you can use his teapots and jugs but he has elevated them to have more significance.
It doesn't mean he charges more than any "domestic ware" potter, he has just made them that little bit more special.
In fact this morning [as everyday] I had my "wake up" coffee from one of his 'tea bowl cups'.
A tea bowl with a handle, and priced as a cup not a tea bowl.
"Heaven forbid", I can't imagine what the pseudo English/Japanese potters think of such a man.
I think the best thing he could do is say they were influenced by the Korean potters
Who were just making beautiful things for everyday use.

One of the potters that I am especially excited about is the potter Kenyon Hansen.
He may be American but he is very familiar with the work and film of Isaac Button the rural potter.
For me his ceramic are very much about country pottery, even if it wasn't intended as such.
It is country pottery from, well, actually from another country.
Simple, yet very elegant. Well conceived, beautifully crafted and meant for everyday use.
I really can't wait to hold a piece.

Still like many, many pieces these pots have yet to arrive, or perhaps are yet to be made.
But, little by little I know the exhibition will slowly come together, until the last few weeks, then I know that here in the gallery it will become a frenzy of activity and worry, 
plus also a lot of excitement.

Also there are another one or two potters that I would like to add to the list [[23 to date] of people whose work I really feel we should show.
I am sure that I will get around to mentioning everyone and everything at some point in the near future,
but for now my thoughts had better return to the present as I have something of equal importance to exhibit, and that I will definitely be showing to you very soon.