Last week, after visiting my father 'down south', I detoured via Stoke-on-Trent to see the British Ceramics Biennial. I first heard about it from Carrie Reichardt, on her Facebook page, and then when I shared it, another Facebook contact who lived nearby went, and raved about it. So I had to go. And what a treat it was.
I got a bit frustrated trying to locate the old Spode Factory, where the exhibition was held, around and around dual carriageways, but I finally got there. The first piece visible, before even entering the building was by Carrie, duly snapped by me on my iphone (Apple seemed to have changed the way the camera works again, so some of my images are a bit hit & miss, sorry).
The Spode Factory makes an interesting venue for such an exhibition. Vast empty halls allow for distinct areas or zones for different parts of the Biennial: new graduates; development of commercial work; 'The Pavillions' showcasing work from Industry residencies; site-specific work by the Bergen Academy of Art and Design, just a few of the treats. I personally prefer the work that is more identifiable, given that my cupboards are full of dishes (some commercial and some studio pottery) it is what I am drawn to. I sometimes struggle to get the more conceptual work, further complicated by the way that the factory seems to have been abandoned, with areas that still have some semblance of industry left there, which left me wondering at times whether I was looking at an artist's piece or the remnants of factory work.
My favorite piece was by Lisa Marie Svensk. A collection of russian dolls, inspired by the Russian folk story 'Vasilisa the Beautiful'. Each was hand decorated using brushstrokes and sgraffito, and I loved them. If there was any left in the gift shop, that would have been my purchase for the day!
The other pieces that caught my eye, almost from a mosaicist's perpective were the following:
The first one with the plates had what appeared to be tesserae of iconic Spode crockery placed in the centre, but presumably cut out sections from a transfer. This would be the perfect dinner service for me! (sorry, never got the artists name for this one)
The middle one was cut out pieces of Spode, water-jet cutting to recreate different landscapes using familiar designs (by Harriet Lawton)
The last artist (again sorry, no name) created piles of ceramic parts, some clearly identifiable as cup handles etc, into graceful towers. Beautiful to look at.
One fun piece that i loved for the colour combination comprised of different sections of what seemed like pipe, each section glazed and patterned. When mounted together, they were so bright and funky, and would look great in a garden.
And finally, Lawrence Epps's bricks, which now sits on my mantlepiece (in front of Carrie Reichardt's postcard saying 'You've gotta fight for your right to be arty"). Depicting office workers encased in a brick block, there was a mass of them, and we were invited to take one away, which was filmed. It is described as 'an interactive piece that explores the effect of corporate culture on the individual and draws inspiration from the scale of production of the UK's biggest brick manufacturer'.
The thing that drew me to this brick, as opposed to the other bricks in the pile, was the colour was quite soft, and there is a gentle curve to the square structure - each brick had its own character!
For more information about the British Ceramics Biennial, or to sign up for future events, visit there site here.