Behind Closed Doors: Ceramics by Verity Howard at Manchester Craft & Design Centre

Polly Checkland Harding

What do empty Danish streets, Mr Smith’s Dream and darkness have to do with the 10th anniversary of Manchester Craft Centre’s MMU Graduate Award? We found out.

Manchester Craft & Design Centre’s exhibition space may be small, but it is mighty. For the last 10 years, it has launched the careers of up-and-coming graduates from Manchester Metropolitan University, offering them extensive promotion through a solo exhibition, alongside professional development support; over the last decade, the building where the term ‘the Northern Quarterwas first coined has become a major player in the promotion of craft. So, what sets the latest winner of the Manchester Craft & Design Centre’s MMU Graduate Award (whose exhibition Behind Closed Doors will run from 25 February – 29 May) apart?

Ceramicist Verity Howard specialises in slab-built ceramic forms that are ‘contemplative rather than functional’; each piece is monoprinted or stamped with window frames, so that the beautifully organic blocks come to seem like dwellings. In a serendipitous echo of Mr Smith’s Dream by Liz Scrine – a tiny, recessed staircase in the outer wall of the Craft Centre that leads out of sight – Howard’s pieces foster the curious sensation of being an outsider looking in.

The building where the term ‘the Northern Quarter’ was first coined has become a major player in the promotion of craft

Behind Closed Doors features pieces made for Howard’s final project at university, alongside new work made during her residency at Guldagergaard: The International Ceramic Research Centre in Denmark. Here, she worked with 11 other international artists from countries including Korea, Canada and Switzerland; the pieces she created were in response to her observations on the domestic buildings in the town of Skælskør, the richly-coloured Danish roofs, empty streets and ‘shadowy dwellings’.

Howard rather poetically describes her work as ‘ceramic forms which convey the volume and depth of darkness’. The launch of Behind Closed Doors (25 February, 6pm-8pm, free) will, however, be a lighthearted occasion, with music from DJ Ailsa McLaggan of Living Room Dance Club and rum cocktails from The Duppy Share. It’s also an opportunity to visit some of the 18 independent studio shops at the Craft Centre (here are our top five picks to whittle down the list) and, if you rock up early, grab a bite to eat in the excellent Oak Street Cafe.

It’s worth putting some of the special events and commissions that are being arranged around the 10th anniversary of the MMU Graduate Award in your diary, too. Our highlights have to be Future Makers, a showcase of the future stars of craft and design in selected studios, as well as a free, drop-in ceramics workshop (2 April, more details coming soon) and free artist talk (27 April, 1.30pm), both with Howard herself. There will also be a limited edition newspaper, featuring Howard and the previous nine winners, and a blog on the graduate awards season to look out for – as well as a special commissioned piece by Howard and studio ten’s Ella McIntosh. All to look forward to.

Culture Guides

HOME Reopening Programme

Cinema in Manchester and the North

We look at the socially distant screenings and digital releases you can enjoy as cinemas begin to reopen safely.

Images of protest: Black Lives Matter at People's History Museum

Exhibitions

Art and women’s wrestling, Ancient Akkadian gravesites and invented artefacts – check out this month’s pick of exhibitions from across the north.

Makefest At Home

Families

Need some inspiration for online activities and creative family fun? Look no further than our top picks online for families across Manchester and the North.

Poet Dean Atta. Photo by Hussina Raja.

Literature

Festival fever takes hold of Live Literature Land as it does every October, just this year it’s in the ether. Grab a glass and settle down in the Zoom room for some online readings.

Bicep

Music

Discover the best live-streamed concerts, broadcasts, musical activities and exhibitions on offer during lockdown Mk II.

Theatre in Manchester. Image courtesy of RashDash.

Theatre

We can’t wait to be back in the stalls again…until then our theatre guide brings the best of online theatre and interactive performance to enjoy at home.

Classical Music in Manchester and the North

We preview the standout classical music events and venues in Manchester.

Higher Ground

Food and Drink in Manchester and the North

For the August guide, we’ve dug out the best Food and Drink in Manchester and the North to explore now that lockdown has thankfully eased.

Isolation Broadcast

Online events

Discover the best things to do online from the organisations we love in Manchester and the North.

tours and activities

Tours and Activities

Socially distant walks and virtual tours are among the offerings in this month’s guide of Tours and Activities.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts