Becky Roberts

Plymouth in Practice – 2 new ceramics exhibitions at the Leach Pottery, St Ives

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Between 21 January and 19 March 2017 a selection of students, staff and alumni from Plymouth College of Art will exhibit in ‘Plymouth in Practice’, two new exhibitions at the Leach Pottery, St Ives, showcasing the rich and creative ceramic practice exemplified by the college.

The Leach Pottery will also host an exhibition preview on Friday 20 January, from 6pm to 8pm, which is free and open to all, offering an opportunity to meet the makers and curators involved in the show.

The Entrance Gallery at the Leach Pottery will showcase a selling exhibition of selected ceramics from 21 January to 19 March, created by seven current students and recent alumni of Plymouth College of Art, including Chloe Burke, Ellen Woods, Kate Lyons Miller, Miranda Qualtrough, Becky Roberts, Jessica Thorn and Ruth Harrison.

From 21 January to 12 March, the Cube Gallery will host an exhibition of works by staff currently teaching ceramics on Plymouth College of Art’s BA (Hons) Ceramics & Glass and BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts programmes. Invited artists include Chris Taylor, Dan Chapple, Kim Bagley, Jason Marks and Maria Psiliagkou.

Dr Matthew Tyas, exhibitions coordinator at the Leach Pottery, said: “This is the first time that we’ve worked with Plymouth College of Art, an institution that remains firmly committed to material practice – a unique oasis amongst a national environment where many colleges and universities have turned their backs on crafts skills and knowledge in ceramics.

“The Entrance Gallery exhibition will be a great opportunity to see and buy the work of recent alumni and current students – which not only supports them in their practice, but also gives them the vital opportunity to exhibit their ceramics to the public. There’s a contemporary feel to the works, exemplifying a wide range of aesthetic styles and methods, so it will be interesting to see how visitors respond to them.

“Furthermore, there’s also the rare opportunity to see a parallel exhibition, in the Cube Gallery, of work by the staff that have taught and supported the alumni and students over the years. This doesn’t happen very often, so it will be fascinating to gain an insight into the thinking and practice behind the people who teach and inspire new generations of ceramicists.”

Founded in 1920, The Leach Pottery is considered by many to be the birthplace of British studio pottery. One of the great figures of 20th century art, Bernard Leach played a crucial pioneering role in creating an identity for artist potters across the world.

The recently restored Leach Pottery site includes a museum, created to celebrate the life, work, influences and legacy of Bernard Leach. Exhibition, gallery and shop spaces provide regular shows throughout the year showcasing work by leading regional, national and international studio potters.

Founded in 1856, Plymouth College of Art is a specialist independent art school, offering a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and pre-degree study across art, design, design craft and digital media. In 2014, Sir John Sorrell CBE, opened the college’s £8m Craft, Design and Fabrication Workshops, which house specialist ceramics and glass workshops that include 10 potters wheels, a well-stocked glaze mixing area, a glass furnace that works at 1,100 degrees, resources for hot, warm and cold glass processes, a plaster room for mould making, 16 kilns, and individual studio spaces for students.

Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor

Chris Taylor, a lecturer in Ceramics across BA (Hons) and Masters degrees at Plymouth College of Art, said: “I’m excited to be exhibiting at the Leach Pottery and this is a great opportunity for staff and students of the college alike. Seeing the different pieces of work side by side should give an idea of the breadth of different approaches from artists at the college.

“Thinking of my own work, I consider myself to be a ceramic designer making individual pieces of art, in clay, that celebrate the qualities of the materials and the art of ceramics. I use a lot of printing and painting processes as surface decoration, using traditional processes in new ways and introducing some methods that aren’t traditionally associated with ceramics.

“By using underglaze printing processes to build layers of colour and print before I fire the work, it gives an impression that the piece has been decorated and redecorated, creating a sense of history. I make items that you’d associate with everyday domestic environments, such as vases, then layer and disrupt the surface decoration, sometimes chipping off the glaze or using other erosive processes to reveal what came before.

“I took my influence initially from things like billboards, wallpaper and walls covered in graffiti, where you could peel back one layer and discover something else. There’s an accidental beauty there that felt like an appealing starting point, to deliberately decorate something in an unplanned way, where you’re not sure how the end product will look.”

Ellen Woods Ceramics - Ballymiscaw
Ellen Woods Ceramics – Ballymiscaw

Chris has an MA in Ceramics and Glass from the Royal College of Art and was potter-in-residence at Beaford Arts Centre. The White Moose Gallery in North Devon recently hosted his first solo exhibition, he has exhibited at Ruthin Craft Centre and has an upcoming exhibitions at Beaux Arts Bath.

Designer maker Jessica Thorn, who graduated in BA (Hons) Contemporary Crafts from Plymouth College of Art in 2013 and who won Best New Business at the Contemporary Craft Festival in Bovey Tracey, said: “I was so pleased to be asked to exhibit at the Leach Pottery and it is really nice that I will be showing work alongside my former tutors, technicians and a fellow graduate from my year. I have really been supported by Plymouth College of Art since leaving college, and am still in touch with lots of members of staff, technicians and very good friends.

“I used this exhibition as an opportunity to make some new work, exploring still life painters such as William Scott and Giorgio Morandi. From this research I designed and made a collection of still life three dimensional bottles.

“I hand-build each individual piece with porcelain, showing my construction process in which the subtle line detail decorates each piece. This is a technique that I developed during my final year of studying at Plymouth College of Art, and which I continue to use today.

“Since graduating I had a studio in Bristol where I continued to develop and improve my hand-building skills. However, I am currently an Artist in Residence at a school near Tunbridge Wells. I have a studio space where I can develop my work and I also teach adult pottery classes to the local residences.”


(from a press release)