Trip to Potfest, 25th-27th June 2021

Trip to Potfest, 25th-27th June 2021

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We took a trip to Potfest at the end of June 2021 as it was a quick drive from Birmingham. I’ve never made a trip to a pottery or art exhibition without ending up buying something. Even if I have nothing in mind to buy before I leave the house, there’s likely to be a piece of work that is affordable and really grabs my attention. Here’s a picture of some raku vessels made by John Scott of Sour Dust pottery, one of which I felt I had to buy. 

It was interesting to hear Johns’ methods for raku firings as his process sounds much tidier from what I’ve previously seen! No endless buckets of water poured on the sawdust 🧐. The colours are impressive too. You can view more pictures of Johns’ work on his website or on his Instagram page

What I enjoy most about these kind of trips is seeing the range of work on offer. I didn’t quite have enough time to view all of the stalls, you’d think three hours was enough but I’d suggest that you dedicate at least a full afternoon if you’re a ceramics geek like me. Probably between the two of us, we did get a good look around at everything and had some nice conversations with some new and old connections.

Below is the work of Ben Fosker. His playful ceramics appeals to the big kid in me! The characters are fun.

Porcelain is not an easy medium to throw on the pottery wheel and these miniature porcelain vases by Rachel Holian demonstrate the fineness and translucency associated with the clay body. If pieces are stated to be made from porcelain, I want to be able to see this quality, otherwise it may as well be made from white stoneware clay! Rachel explores the themes of relationships and family ties through her work. This can be seen through how the vessels are arranged together and the subtle similarities that connect these delicate pieces. 

These hand built vessels created by Katie Braida utilise slips for colour. The softness of the form can only be achieved through the use of handbuilding techniques. Her use of mark making gives the surface depth. I do like how the opening of the vessels and the forms themselves aren’t perfectly uniform. 

Pottery by Jane Plahe makes me think of lichen and mosses, organisms that grow freely in nature. This visual representation has been captured perfectly in her glazes. These look like a combination of dry and crawling glazes.

Paul Taylor’s terracotta pieces are the finest examples I’ve ever seen in this clay body. I’ve never seen such detailed textural work on this type of clay. Earthenware isn’t the smoothest of clays – the level of refinement is really high, it shows that there’s been many hours of work put into it. 

When a body of work really speaks to me, I make the time to let the ceramic artist know. From experience, I understand how difficult it can be to stand at a stall all day, particularly when the weather isn’t nice and sales are slow. An afternoon in June in the grounds of Compton Verney would have been a much nicer experience in comparison to the markets I’ve done but I’m generally sticking to the virtual world now. There were some pieces in particular that sparked some creative ideas, I didn’t want to copy them but I could see how they could be utilised within a multimedia setting, particularly for storytelling. The work of Jemma Gowland really did this for me, her ability to question the feminine form whilst using different materials within her process is innovative. There’s movement in the forms too. Ceramics isn’t always serious – there can be elements of fun too, as you can see with the little porcelain balloon dogs in the video below.

‘The Public’s Choice’ was my favourite part of the festival – an opportunity for potters to create a piece based around a theme. The theme this year was ‘Time & Reflection’, time being the commodity that many of us have had in order to reflect.

For some people, the last year has been an opportunity to rethink their ambitions and direction, if they’ve been using their time well. Working to a theme isn’t always easy but it’s a starting point and it’s interesting how individual artists interpret a concept.  All of the pieces varied in construction, clay type, scale and form, proving that three words can be translated in many different ways.

The medium of clay arrives to every maker in a solid or liquid form and, depending on our vision, can always result in something unique. It’s how we choose to process our visual thoughts and transmit that information to our fingers, our sense of touch, that gives us unique pieces of work.

Here’s a quick walk-around the display for ‘The Public’s Choice’:

Jemma Gowlands’ submission for ‘Time & Reflection’ really made an impact on me. In a time that is dominated by social media and broadcasting our own voices, it captures the essence of what many of us do, especially as creatives. How far we take this is entirely at our discretion. 

I’ve made a short video of some of the highlights from the June 2021 show which you can view here.

Potfest takes place every year at locations around the UK. If you’ve missed this event, there are more dates to attend later on this year. To find out when the next event is on, head over to the Potfest website.