Every fortnight, Ceramic Review magazine features a #shelfie from one of their followers. For me, this photo is a good chance to reflect on how objects I've collected reflect a short journey in ceramics.
The small black xarru (jarra or pitcher) is made by the Rodríguez family in a beautiful, but remote, valley in Asturias in Northern Spain. There were once many families making the traditional 'black ceramics' in the village of Llamas del Mouro, located in the province of Cangas del Narcea. Now only one remains. The descendants of Jesús Rodríguez Garrido have a beautiful workshop and gallery space in the village and graciously welcome visitors, demonstrating each aspect of a process that has changed very little over the generations. A brief visit to Llamas del Mouro left me awe inspired by their commitment to tradition - a tradition that is particularly marked by place. The family dig the clay and source their firing materials in and around the village.
I picked up one of Lawrence Epps’ extruded workers from ‘Take Stock’, shown in the China Hall of Spode Works during the 2013 British Ceramics Biennial. The reference to production lines had a particular resonance in a space that is now incredibly familiar to me - I am a member of the Open Studio run by the British Ceramics Biennial and located adjacent to the China Hall. The disposability of contemporary mass produced culture is directly subverted by the fact that the ‘salarymen’ probably have a place on the shelves of many visitors to the festival.
I met both Arjan Van Dal and Ned Davies at Turning Earth’s members studio in Haggerston. I was a member of Turning Earth from February 2014 to August 2015 and the studio under two railway arches in East London holds many happy memories. The generosity of its members - sharing their knowledge, skills and time - stands in direct opposition to any stereotypes you might have about Londoners! Arjan’s porcelain vessel is a treasured gift - even more because I’ve seen his careful trimming process firsthand. I bought one of Ned’s unique vases this year at Ceramics 274 a wildly successful pop up gallery space on Hackney Road run by a group of makers. Both Ned and Arjan represent a new wave of ceramicists demonstrating that it is possible to make a living, and to thrive, on your creativity and craft.