Watts Ceramics 2020 – runs until 1st November

This autumn, back by popular demand, Watts Contemporary Gallery returns with its annual group ceramics show, following its successful debut in 2019.

Watts Ceramics 2020 brings together work by nine leading ceramicists to demonstrate the diversity of contemporary practice and celebrate the long tradition of pottery at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village. Featuring a selection of pieces including new pieces made exclusively for the exhibition, Watts Ceramics 2020 showcases unique and exquisite works created by these contemporary ceramic artists, supporting their practice following a tumultuous year. Exhibiting artists include selected members of the Craft Potters Association Irena Sibrijns, Agalis Manessi, Katherina Klug and Sean Miller.

Ceramics are at home at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, with this exhibition inspired by the legacy of ceramic artist Mary Watts (1849 – 1938). Mary Watts was the co-founder of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, teaching clay modelling to local villagers and subsequently helping them to establish a pottery co-operative that provided employment in the village for over 50 years.  Between 1900 and 1956 the Compton Pottery flourished, selling at Liberty & Co and receiving commissions from the most eminent architects including Lutyens and Clough Williams-Ellis, for his Italianate village, Portmeirion.

Significantly, this exhibition takes place in one of the original Compton Pottery buildings, remodelled as part of the restoration of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village to provide a gallery space in which the charity can show and sell work inspired by the ethos of the Artists’ Village. Proceeds from Watts Contemporary exhibitions directly benefits Watts Gallery Trust’s Art for All community learning programme.

Work selected for this exhibition – which includes bone china, terracotta, stoneware, earthenware and porcelain and showcases traditional techniques such as Majolica – will reveal how leading contemporary makers are exploring new techniques and pushing artistic boundaries whilst acknowledging the influence of the past.

Agalis Manessi works with terracotta clay in the 500-year-old tradition of majolica. Through a confident sensitivity and careful glazing, Agalis achieves wonderful colour in her finished work. She draws inspiration from the vast history of classical subjects and images in churches, museums and galleries, as well as experiences and observations made directly from life; Effie Gibson creates forms inspired by the earth, often evoking worn and weathered surfaces or wintry landscapes, and explores mark making. Effie says, ‘I seek to express beauty that dwells in imperfection, rawness and simplicity’.

Elizabeth Renton’s beautiful and functional tableware reflects the quiet tranquillity of Japanese and Scandinavian design. Eva Radulova explores the challenge of blending classic techniques with innovative design through elegant forms decorated with vivid pigments. Irena Sibrijins has been a potter for more than thirty years inspired by the English 20th-century decorative arts tradition. In this show, she presents joyful colourful vessels, jugs and bowls inspired by daily walks during lockdown, each of which is unique. Janine Roper describes her work as a personal response to many museum pieces she has admired – not an attempt to imitate them – but taking some of the formal detail and shapes and translating them into her own ceramic language.

Katherina Klug grew up surrounded by her mother’s pottery. She creates timeless vessels in porcelain inspired by the elemental colour and shape of ancient Korean pottery. Her careful hand-drawn mark making preserves the moment of making in her work. Studio Potter Rosemary Jacks makes wheel thrown, earthenware pottery with her quirky decoration of bird, animal and plant motifs, taking reference from the natural world around her home. Sean Miller’s slipware is inspired by the warm colours and inventive mark-making featured in traditional slipware in European and Eastern European museum collections.

Commenting, Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said:

“It couldn’t be more fitting to celebrate some of our best ceramicists in the very building where Mary Watts established the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild. Today Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village continues to be a centre of creativity and production, offering art and craft education to local people through artist-led workshops, courses and social enterprise projects. As we explore the art and ideas of nine leading potters through Watts Ceramics 2020, we also record how Mary Watts invited the people of Compton into her studio to learn different art-based skills. Today local charities, community groups, prisons and schools continue to create their own art with Watts Gallery through the Mary Watts Pottery Revival Project using ceramic press moulds similar to those used at the Compton Pottery, to make terracotta ceramics inspired by the methods and ideas of Mary Watts”.

Watts Ceramics 2020 opened at Watts Contemporary Gallery on 1 October (until 1 November).  All work is for sale, with prices ranging from £25 to £740

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