Updated: Jul 3, 2021
In Cumbria there are two major ceramic festivals: Potfest in the Park and Potfest
in the Pens, held every summer near Penrith. 'The Pens', as it is affectionately called, is a non-selected exhibition, meaning that any potter can book a stall and sell their wares. Don't let that put you off though, as many top-class ceramicists show here. It's held in the Penrith auction mart and is always popular. I have been to the Pens a few times, but this year we decided to go to the Park, which is a selected exhibition held in the grounds of a 14th century house called Hutton-in-the-Forest.
We arrived on the first day not long after the exhibition opened and I expected it to be quiet first
thing. How wrong I was! It was a red-hot day and were out in full force.
The first ceramic artist I spoke to at the show was also my favourite. Felicity Lloyd-Coombes makes the most wonderful, playful and characterful animal sculptures. To cap it all, she's as bonkers as me about animals and I immediately warmed to her. By far my favourite sculpture depicted beaver triplets sitting on a log (above). If I had any spare money I would have handed
it over right there and then! Unfortunately, being a poor struggling artist myself I could only afford a little white hare, but it sits in pride of place in my 'cabinet of curiosities' in my shed (below left). Other highlights were her donkey sculptures, modeled from her own rescue donkeys' recent foals (below right). Felicity's work can be found at www.lloydcoombesceramics.co.uk
Another brilliant potter in the traditional sense we spoke to was Amberlea McNaught. After reading about her in Claycraft magazine I instantly recognised her amazing work. Her pots are intricately carved with geometric designs and take endless amounts of patience. She's lovely too and brings some youthful vibrancy into the sometimes perceived staid world of pottery (below).
I seriously enjoyed the work by Anthony Theakston and his almost deco-like bird sculptures. I was particularly taken with this little puffin jug (below), but I predict that most
people's favourites are his sleek owls.
Fumihiro Fuyushiba's rough-textured ceramics were lifted by smoothly-glazed flowers and vegetation. Although his pieces were varied they were held together by a definite Japanese style that ran through them all. I love oriental art and design and his subtle pieces were right up my street. I didn't take any photos but wish I had. His website took some finding but can be accessed at http://www.cty-net.ne.jp/~fuyu/
Christine Cummings raku pigs caught my eye (below). Raku pottery generally refers to a low-fire method of pottery where the ceramics are removed from the kiln when they are at a bright-red stage in the firing process and are then placed in a receptacle filled with combustible material. The receptacle is closed when the material ignites which produces a reduction atmosphere. This effects the colours in glazes and pottery and often produces 'crackling'. Like Felicity Lloyd Coombes' work, you could really see their character shine through. I've checked Christine's website and she also sculpts rats with little curly wire tails! I might have to add one of those to
my little collection.
Paul Young's ceramics are weird, but in an Alice-in-Wonderland kinda way. You get the feeling that when he makes his pieces he's having fun. I have actually seen his slipware-inspired pieces before in the Castlegate Gallery at Cockermouth, but being presented with them en masse at a show is another thing entirely (below)! They're colourful and quirky in the extreme and have a naive quality with nods to folk-art. My favourites are his dovecotes.
Jacqui Atkin's website does not do justice to her current work on display at the show, but she is probably too busy photographing a lot of the demonstrations she does for Claycraft magazine. I was really taken with her graphic, nature-inspired pieces (below).
Sue Dunne's pretty press-moulded and individually underglazed ceramics reminded me of
walking through a meadow. They are absolutely beautiful. Think of summer tea parties, wildflowers in a jam jar, polka dot bunting and strawberries with cream and you are there! No wonder she was commissioned to make 150 Easter eggs for Peter Rabbit's treasure trail.
Virginia Graham's mismatched teasets are a 50's retro delight. I would have my
whole kitchen done out in these sugary colours if I could. Her pieces feature
metallic lustres and transfers and hand-painting. And guess what? I didn't
take any photos! I have therefore unashamedly nicked the two photos below from
'the internet'. I'm sure Virginia won't mind as I am promoting her pieces!
You only need to take a look at Marieke Ringel's horse sculptures to see that she is an accomplished sculptor. Her 'animal boxes' represent a different take on the genre (below).
Russell Coates' pieces seemed like a cross between American Indian art and
I also liked the tactile bramble-inspired dishes from Ralph Jandrell.
I'd like to share with you a couple of the pieces that each artist is asked to make to be put forward to be judged by the public. This year's theme was rocks and gems. I didn't take many
photos because it was red hot and the harsh light wasn't great for taking photographs, but I snapped those I wrote down on my judging slip. Unfortunately I didn't take down any of the potters' names! I saw the back of this piece first (below left) and it took me a few seconds to realise that the front was actually a man made from the earth itself (below right). I really liked this piece and put it down for first prize on my little entry slip!
The piece below was obviously a commentary on man's plundering of the natural world leading to the extinction of the species depicted in it.
The rock and gem theme was decidedly obvious in the sculpture below. I just couldn't resist a photo of these two cheeky magpies!
I hope you've enjoyed my little round-up of the ceramics that inspired me at this year's show. I admit that most of them have animal themes but one of the joys about having your own blog
is that you can bash people over the head with your own ideals! Of course after visiting the show I have a renewed kiln lust so I am madly saving for my own. I can hear Steve's back groaning as I type...
After we visited Potfest we took a trip over to Grasmere for the private viewing of the Lakes' Artists' Society Summer Exhibition. I'm delighted to say that my painting of Benja Blue himself, 'HMV', was accepted and is now showing to the public along with many other fine works until the 5th September 2018 at Grasmere Hall, LA22 9TA. It's always worth visiting for all you art lovers out there. Just to prove that it's hanging I took a photo (below) and did a little dance to myself when I saw it. It's always exciting to have your art on display, especially because it's a selected exhibition.
Until next time,