Though over-shadowed for many years by notions of utility, craft and the domestic, pottery and handmade ceramics are now undeniably in vogue. This is by no doubt largely thanks to the work of major artists such as Betty Woodman, Edmund De Waal, Ai Weiwei and Grayson Perry, who have ‘reinvented’ the form and made it acceptably ‘contemporary’. The fifth floor of Tate Modern’s new extension is about to be transformed into a working ceramics factory by artist Clare Twomey, and the highly successful reality TV programme, The Great Pottery Throw Down, once again attracted millions of viewers when the series aired for the second time earlier this year.
Yet this spike in popularity may also be attributed to the bold and progressive energies of the British Ceramics Biennial, which has taken place every two years in Stoke-on-Trent since 2009. The free festival showcases the very best in new and emerging ceramic design, driving the form forwards through its championing of innovation and fresh creativity among artists, and inspiring visitors to consider the clay-based practice in a new light. Now in its fifth edition, the 2017 programme looks set to be the BCB’s most exciting yet, combining British design with international talent, art with industry, and featuring a number of renowned names. Head down to the world’s pottery capital (once home to the factories of Wedgwood and Gladstone, and now Emma Bridgewater) to experience the cutting-edge future of one of the world’s most ancient disciplines.
Here are our picks
Celebrate the opening of BCB 2017 with a performance by Korean artist Juree Kim reflecting on the invisible sites of former ceramic production in The Potteries.
Keith Harrison has worked with over 200 people from Stoke-on-Trent to replicate the city’s local history archives in clay. The collection will be presented in a series of vast kiln-like library shelving units, fired in accordance with library lending figures.
How can we preserve the endangered skills and knowledge of pre-industrial ceramic production for future generations? Neil Brownsword explores.