Weekend of terracotta wonder

Having set the scene for the findings of my Winston Churchill Fellowship in my presentation to Exporting Stoke Conference on Saturday, my mind is abuzz with plans for collaboration, industry meets arts and the possibilities for the future of terracotta in contemporary architecture.

The Conference was absorbing and thought provoking; exploring cultural shifts in export, tiles and terracotta from stoke and their journeys around the world with focused papers from Japan, Germany and Holland. I particularly enjoyed meeting in person some of the big names in the tile and terracotta world, as well as catching up with fellow comrades in terracotta. I look forward to continuing our discussions. I filmed the whole day and will be sharing some of what I captured.

It was a joy to catch the last day of the British Ceramics Biennial, around the corner in Stoke-on-Trent.

Exploring Spode was buzzing with visitors, coffee and cake and ceramics of all kinds. The mixture of contemporary studio ceramics, Fresh work from Central St Martins graduates and contributions from industry including examples of handmade bricks, cladding systems, clever ceramic filtration and tile printing, all made for a stimulating and vibrant exhibition.

The old Spode factory worked fabulously as a venue and shone as an example of well-worn industrial architecture. Clay, glaze, rust and mould left spattered on doors and walls, storage boxes tucked away in corners, abandoned work benches in the dark and bits of unexplained machinary and shelving all gave clues as to what the spaces were once used for. Whilst the ghosts of the processes were allowed to twist ones imagination to evoke a atmosphere of once thriving industry not without a hint of melancholy. The area around Neil Browswords installation of the remnants of clay production and a video honouring the legacy of Spode was particularly haunting. Opposite his installation, internal windows invited visitors to peer through the darkness into a whole area of untouched abandoned work space laying quiet, untouched and dusty.

Here’s the Director of the Biennale talking about Stoke’s blooming future in art and industry.

The European Ceramic Work Centre has a large area of exhibition space, showing the breadth of projects coming out of the research centre in the Netherlands. Cross-discipline residencies explore the technical an artistic posibilities of ceramics. Pushing the boundaries of perception of ceramics.

Its interesting to see such a successful public facing event in our industrial heartland and left me once again asking what is England’s contribution to ceramic research and innovation with a  clay material. I came across Universities and companies at the fore of material research in ceramics in the USA and feel that perhaps we have some work to do in catching up?

One Response to “Weekend of terracotta wonder”
  1. Hannah Padgett says:

    Lovely pics, I agree on the progress of ceramic research and development, we are behind on this. Also, what work was there from CSM? Wish I had a chance to see the biennale you make it sound magical! Was getting up close and personal with the beautiful terracotta at the russel hotel tonight, you must bring this fabulous medium back to British architecture Amy!

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