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Light: Northern Potters Association at Newcastle Cathedral

‘Light’, an exhibition by the Northern Potters Association, runs at Newcastle from Saturday 28 May until Monday 27 June 2022 as part of our Wellbeing & Discovery season of events.

Responding to the theme of ‘light’, this collection of works by North East artists includes sculptures, pots and lamps, showcasing amazing skill, creativity and talent.

Here, each of the exhibitors tells us a bit about their work…

Jill Benson

“I studied 3D design at York school of art, then majored in ceramics.  I originally produced raku and smoke fired ceramics.  I took a break and worked in education for 20+ years, recently returning to ceramics just before covid.  These days my work is mainly colourful and detailed, using slips, underglazes and transparent glaze. 

“However, having pondered over what ‘Light’ means to me, I decided to return to experiments with smoke fired ceramics. The light of the flames licks the work in a tantalising and completely unpredictable, and sometimes delightful way. The fire creates a magic of its own as it dances across the surface of the piece.  It’s an unpredictable practice; no two pieces are ever the same! Some don’t survive, and piercing the work renders its fragility even further.

“I began by creating some candle burning pieces through which the light permeates, and this led to further investigations.  I continued the theme of piercing my work, so the light then penetrates the ceramic piece.”

Alan Berry

“Pottery has been a late discovery in my life. I went to college in Reading and studied Graphic Design.  Since then, I have spent most of my working life as a chef, working in some high profile jobs. Head chef for a Formula One racing team and executive head chef for The University of Oxford, to name a couple.  Our industry was badly hit by covid and gave me a chance to evaluate my life and lifestyle. I was in Falmouth and kept walking past Michel Francois Pottery studio and saw the sign advertising pottery lessons. That’s how my enthusiasm and obsession with pottery started. When I moved up to Darlington 18 months ago, I spent time with Wendy Turner in her studio developing my techniques. I have my own pottery studio now, I’ve just bought my first kiln, and I’m still learning every day with the help of other potters.

“My only regret is that I didn’t find pottery and ceramics earlier. My collections of pots are called:

‘Light out of Darkness’

‘Tunnel of Light’

‘Waiting for Light’

‘Dark Inside

‘Bowl of Light’ ‘Reflecting Light’ “

Kate Buckley

“Painting Light in 3D: My practice focuses on light and shadow, and the starting point for my latest body of work was my Grandfather Silvester’s beautiful hand-carved oak mantle shelf which sits above the fireplace in our dining room. As a child, I would use my finger to trace the letters, and the words ‘POST TENEBRAS LUX’ and their meaning ‘Light After Darkness’ fascinated me. Over the last two years, our world’s extraordinary shared experience means they have taken on even greater significance. It feels like we have begun to emerge back into daylight having been thrown into darkness.

“This series of porcelain sculptures capture the changing hues of light through different time frames. In essence – painting light in 3D with porcelain. Colour is worked into the porcelain body; the surface and edge ripples come from pressing the porcelain onto moulds of folded origami. The porcelain is unglazed and fired to 1248ºC.

“Peaceful and contemplative works:
‘Day Break’   The dawn light breaks
‘Day’s End’    The golden hour leads into sunset
‘Midnight’      The moon’s light breaks through the clouds
‘From Dawn to Dusk’ 24 hours, because you can’t have dawn and dusk without the night.
‘Dappled Light’ 
‘Light Shards’  Fine porcelain tiles, hints of 24-carat gold, encased in resin and mounted on a heavy wooden block.”

Lorraine Clay

“I have been a professional potter and pottery tutor for 20 years.  My work is thrown and hand-built. I’ve exhibited regularly with the Northern Potters Association. These days I mainly make work for specific commissions or exhibitions, which often inspires me to create work related to historic themes. After a handling session with terracotta vases collected by Flinders Petrie in Egypt, I was led to consider how pieces reach museums and galleries and the people involved.

“Light has been a theme in my work more than once, the dark moody glow of light at night, stunning or subtle sunrises, and the light through church windows, casting a moving light over the stone.”

Carolyn Corfield

“My work first came to public notice as a figurative painter living in the Channel Islands. Returning to England I further developed my sculptural interests in tandem with a career in the education sector. Based in my Darlington studio I work on commissions in tandem with exhibition pieces for municipal and private galleries. My unique sculptures in porcelain and stoneware clay are frequently multi glazed and, on occasion, include metal or glass additions. They are held in collections worldwide.

“In this exhibition, my sculptures, hand-built in porcelain and stoneware, allude to several facets of light. Referencing the light of knowledge, a key pillar of wisdom, my work also features pieces which portray a cosmic explosion and aspects of the sun.

“The sculpture entitled ‘Sunrise’ illustrates the following text:

‘She rises from the ashes of the night before

Who wanders with the morning through the ever-open door.’

Caroline Orr. 1996″

Sue Dunne

“I have been a working potter since graduating from Bath Academy of Art a long time ago. During the last few years, I have won several awards and featured in a few publications, including Craft and Design and Die Zeit. I have been a regular participant at Potfest in the Pens and also Potfest in the Park.

“I concentrate on using real plant materials as my starting point in designing. By close observation of the growth and change over the seasons, both in my garden and in the woods and fields beyond, I am always finding new ideas to experiment with.

“When Storm Arwen roared last November, the power at home went off. Tea lights and candles were rapidly searched out and lit, but electricity wasn’t restored for another thirteen nights. Only having jam-jars for containers wasn’t a problem, but I did find myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be nice to use something I could make myself?”

“Having begun playing around with the idea of a little book design for tea lights, the opportunity for exhibiting here at Newcastle Cathedral arrived – perfect! Candlesticks just had to follow, and I have enjoyed making ‘sprigs’ of vegetables that lend themselves to the traditional columnar shape. The feather and egg tiles are my play on a different meaning of ‘light’ as personified by birds.”

Claude Frere Smith

“I studied ceramics at college in Norfolk, then was apprentice to Tom Plowman. Awarded Craft Council Advanced Training Award, working with Sally Dawson, David Leach and David Lloyd Jones. Established my first pottery in 1976. Present pottery in Saltburn by the Sea.

“Moon Jars were first made in the thirteenth century in Korea. They were originally thought to have been used for containing wine, food or flowers. Later their form became more appreciated for its natural beauty. Becoming a much sort after and admired shape, it attracted spiritual associations from Confucians and aesthetic critical praise for its simplicity and beauty. Association by name with the moon and therefore with light gave the form an even more mystical and enigmatic aura.

“They were mostly made in porcelain or glazed in white, which both reflect light. I’ve long been an admirer of Moon Jars, so it seemed like the most appropriate pot to make for this exhibition.

“Now, as we see war in Europe again and new challenges for us, the Moon Jar may, in some small way, bring a ray of Light into our lives?”

Anne James

“I love to make both functional and decorative ceramics using hand-building techniques. My work is greatly influenced by my garden, by holidays to lovely exotic locations, and a childhood growing up in Scotland, especially holidays to the West Coast. I work mostly in porcelain and white stoneware. Originally a scientist, the chemistry of glazing fascinates me. I love to experiment with layering of glazes and often fire work multiple times. The work in this exhibition on the theme of ‘Light’ is inspired by the view from my studio in rural Northumberland, where the changing light levels are filtered through the many mature trees in my garden. The glazes reflect the varying intensity of the light throughout the day and into the night.”

Elaine Jones

“I first experienced porcelain clay in Copenhagen, working as an assistant to ceramicist Christian Bruun, a graduate of the Danish Design School, and was immediately drawn to its creamy and fluid-like qualities. It was my interest in its fluidity and similarity to matter, such as bone and shell, which continued throughout my Masters Degree in Fine Art at Grays School of Art in 2004.

“As a coastal dweller, my work is inspired by the fragments of shell, fossil and bone washed up with each tide – vessels imprinted with traces of life and contents that have long gone.

“I use the organic process of the wheel to make sculptural forms, as it captures the porcelain in its fluid, moving state. With its rhythms of cyclical growth, it is very close to the way that Nature makes a form; in a semi-liquid state, exerting pressure from the inside and then solidifying with time. Porcelain reflects light more than any other clay and can even be translucent. I often combine each porcelain piece with found objects from the beach, such as rope, metal and driftwood, as these too have their stories of transience. Within the hollow of each form lies a pool of sea-glass, reminiscent for me of the pools of aquamarine left by the receding tide”

Karen Lewton

“I came late to ceramics, qualifying in 2012 in Contemporary Ceramic Practice, with Distinction, at Newcastle College, after retiring from a career in teaching. I regard myself as a skilled amateur potter, working primarily to develop my level of skill and understanding of ceramics rather than as a business.

“At present, my preferred activity is throwing in porcelain, as the clarity of the form and the range of colour that can be achieved, from subtle to brilliant, is supreme. I am interested in “inverted forms” and am working on the challenge of crystalline glazing. I find the contrast of the precision of the form in porcelain with the entirely unpredictable crystalline effect irresistible.

“My candle holders are inverted forms, made in porcelain, wheel-thrown, with a silk crackle glaze. In the context of the news from around the world, the two words “Cathedral” and “Light” immediately reminded me of some words from a childhood hymn:

“In this world of darkness

We must shine.

You in your small corner,

And I in mine.”

So this is what I am offering to this exhibition of light”

Diane Nicholson

‘Capela dos Ossos’: The skull frieze was inspired by the Chapel of Bones in Evora, Portugal. It’s here to remind us that we all have an inner light (an energy) that makes us shine, and we should learn to nourish this before it’s too late.

‘Strange Lights in the Night Sky’: Imagining unidentified flying objects and how they’d look after they’ve burnt through our atmosphere. Especially after flying into Newcastle! These have been burnished, and pit-fired to create individual, random patterns made by the flames and smoke.”

Marvin Kitshaw

“For this exhibition, I have made Mica Sodium Silicate pottery, which is low temperature fired, with a carbon reduction. These pots emit no light but reflect light around them. 

“We live in dark times, full of lies, hate, confusion and division. We must remember to reflect the good in the world, around us and within and be like these pots and shine.”

Together, Diane and Marvin run Muddy Fingers Pottery

“We make a wide range of ceramics from raku to bread ovens to tableware (think Tom Kerridge, Burberry and master chef!). We also specialise in alternative firing but enjoy the challenge of functional pottery. We run courses pretty much every day of the week in Jarrow, teaching our skills to anyone keen to learn. Marv and Diane also sit on the board of The Clay Team cic, a sister company to Muddy Fingers: we run community pottery events for people who wouldn’t normally be able to access ceramics.”

Carol Newmarch

“I trained at Middlesex and Northumbria Universities and in private studios with a number of inspiring ceramicists and teachers.  I have been making ceramics for over forty years.

“I use whatever making and firing method is appropriate for the form I want to make:  throwing, coiling, slab building or press-moulding.  I am particularly excited by low fired methods of making: ie raku, pit firing, smoke and saggar firing, and I also work in stoneware and porcelain.

“I divide my time between Middlesbrough and Tuscany, where I also run workshops and creative retreat holidays:  as a teacher, community engager and life coach, I love working with people as they explore their creativity and learn new skills.

“My response to this exhibition is to include work which has been fired by the very immediate methods of working with open flames of light which produce colours and patterns beyond my control. The pieces are all pit-fired or raku fired white clay, in temporary kilns outdoors under the open sky and in the light of the sun.”

Helen Pickard

“I trained in Cardiff, I am a thrower, mostly of domestic ware, but in this exhibition are larger individual pieces, multi fired with layers of texture. My inspiration is the local landscape of both moors and coast, in turn, both natural and very manmade. I add minerals and deposits I find in my environment to my glazes to emphasise and ground this. Light forms a key part of both ones perception and interpretation of landscape. I love the juxtaposition of texture within glazes and surface finishes that can convey subtle differences in light, mood and atmosphere. On my pieces, I use shine, lustre and metallic finishes to describe light on water and the sun breaking through the clouds.”

Maggie Thomson

“Since completing a Foundation Degree in Contemporary Ceramic Practice 2010 my passion for clay has continued to allow me to experiment, co-operate with teams of like-minded people on community ceramic projects, curate a North East exhibition of 17 clay artists, work with a potter in Greece and regularly sell work and receive commissions.

“Botanica Lumens: These hand-built porcelain lamps bring together a passion for clay and plants from the garden and the wild.

“Live plants, lavender, snowdrops, tansy and fennel, impressed into the clay leave their fine, detailed, fossil-like replica. When fired in the kiln to over 1200 degrees, their beauty remains for all seasons.

“The porcelain is delicate yet strong. When illuminated it creates a peaceful atmosphere – one which resonates with the quiet of the Cathedral.”