Category Archives: lecture

Gathering of the Pot Clan-19th 20th September 2013 Bideford North Devon

 North Devon Festival of Pottery Logo May 13. Drawing RS Lettering other.THE STORY BEHIND



                                              AT THE ARTS CENTRE BIDEFORD

                                19TH & 20TH SEPTEMBER 2013


The story began it seems like ages ago. Following the initial inspirational idea of Philip Leach to hold an event celebrating the early years of the pottery industry of North Devon, through focusing in particular on pots found at Jamestown in the 1930s, the idea has lately seemed to grow like topsy. However, at the start, we needed to flesh out the concept to structure a project likely to appeal to funders like Arts Council England with their particular focus on the contemporary rather than just heritage.

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Historic Harvest Jugs of North Devon

Philip had made me aware of initial friendship contacts made in Virginia by Sadie Green [ ], with generous funding from the Winston Churchill fund. Whilst I did initially speak to my existing museum contacts in Williamsburg, for comparison I decided to approach Merry Outlaw, a curator based at Preservation Virginia, Historic Jamestown [ ] . Ruth Spires, formerly at Barnstaple Museum, had done a lot of spade work on Anglo-American trade links back in 2006-2007, with a view to holding a centenary celebration for Jamestown in Barnstaple (1607-2007), which sadly never happened, and had been in touch with Merry’s department at the time.

It’s not always easy to cold call complete strangers, particularly on the other side of the pond, but Merry had written an excellent piece on the 17th century sgraffito wares found at Jamestown for the leading US pottery journal, Ceramics in America [ ]. CiA as it tends to be called is highly regarded over here, both by academics, specialist dealers and collectors, so I was already sort of aware of her. She was an absolute delight and so helpful when I rang: I wanted to invite her over to speak about the Jamestown pots, but also to get her recommendations for potters working in the slipware/redware medium to come over and demonstrate.

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In a weird twist of fate that almost makes you believe an idea is timely, she said that I just had to consider her friend Michelle Erickson – and gosh, she was currently over here in London. Spooky or what? Within two days back in September last year, I was on the doorstep of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and then met by arrangement with Michelle who was coming to the end of a summer residency. It also turned out that the previous day, her partner Rob Hunter who is editor of CiA [ ] had arrived back from his travels. So here was the flesh on the bone of a good idea.

Michelle [ ], whilst possibly best known for her amazing and thought provoking contemporary work, has also a tremendous command of pottery skills and an endlessly enquiring mind as to the techniques and skills behind the making of historic pots.  Being based in Virginia, a poetic idea of ‘bringing coals to Newcastle’ sprung to mind, to invite Michelle over to make and demonstrate slipware in Bideford using the very same local materials that went into the early Jamestown examples of 1650. However, and with a conscious nod to the contemporary remit of Arts Council England, I hoped that she would take the opportunity to freely reinvent things in her own inimitable fashion.  I wasn’t to be disappointed, as you can see from the photos of her current New England Cargo project work.

Michelle at the V&A ME DEVON SKULL -1 of 3- Michelle Erickson

To bring things alive from a more academic standpoint, we have also put together a group of top speakers and experts on historic ceramics of the West Country, with representatives drawn from the Bristol, Taunton and Exeter areas. With Merry additionally talking about both plain and decorated wares in a Jamestown context, and an old contact Niek Hoogland [ ] from the Netherlands, who has a great resource of knowledge about early pottery of his region – the Symposium on 21st September will represent a unique opportunity for those interested to have an overview of the 17th and 18th century pottery scene in our area and Northern Europe.

Niek Hoogland image Niek Hoogland

Winding things right back to the 1960s, it was an American academic, Malcolm Watkins then at the Smithsonian Institute, who was an early influence and mentor of Devon’s own Harry Juniper, 80 years young this year. Watkins was acting as a bit of a pot detective, in trying to track down the source of the Jamestown pots which were then under-researched, and he and Harry couldn’t help but see similarities with sgraffito wares in local Bideford collections. The rest is history, as they say, but Harry’s own story is recounted in a new book and DVD sponsored by Arts Council England that we are launching over the main Festival weekend.

Harry Juniper  Country Potter Harry Juniper in the 1970s Harry Juniper

So it’s entirely logical for Harry and his son Nick, who now does most of the throwing at Bideford Pottery, to be lead demonstrators on Saturday 21st September, complemented by representatives from the Studio pottery movement, Joe Finch [see earlier blog on the Petroc kiln] and from Harry’s days at Beaford in the person of Maggie Curtis [ ].  They follow on from masterclasses by Michelle and Niek on Friday 20th, and in a more contemporary West Country twist, we are delighted that Sandy Brown [  ] has offered to talk about her approach to mark making and the use of local materials.  Enjoy !

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Harry Juniper harvest jug . Sandy Brown. Harry Juniper harvest jug.

A rare post from The Man Who Ran a Pottery Festival.


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Michelle Erickson

Contemporary ceramic artist Michelle Erickson will be talking at The White Moose Gallery as part of the North Devon Festival of Pottery. North Devon Festival of Pottery Logo May 13. Drawing RS Lettering other.
Thursday 19th September 2013 in the evening.


Potters Field

During my tenure as Artist in Residence at the V&A in 2012 I developed a concept I call Potter’s Field; exploring ceramic life cycles of form -function -fashion and design as the perishable body that leaves behind the bones of world ceramics- that is- the history of us.

Clay used in all cultures in every conceivable manner, fulfilling our basic needs and demonstrating our highest aspirations, is a truly democratic material.  It is the unique inheritance of the ceramic medium that records our most ancient past, and is simultaneously indispensable to advancements of space travel, weapons manufacture, ballistic armor and even what is yet to be conceived.

I have used the iconographic element of the skull to suggest the circumstance of our shared past and a contemplation of the future.  In the 18th century cognoscenti’s cabinets of curiosity, objects including fossils were displayed in combination with memento mori incorporating the human skull.  These juxtapositions served as means of both scientific study and philosophical contemplation of mankind’s place in the universe.

My work in experimental archeology has exposed me to fragments of bone and sherd alike imbedded in an earth whose natural resources, and specifically fossil fuel, are being voraciously consumed in the 21st century- ultimately our dependence on this resource may present the circumstance of our demise.

Michelle Erickson




Collection of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts VMFA

PHOTO: Gavin Ashworth NY

09 Weapon of Choice  -  c


Collection Cincinnati Art Museum

PHOTO: Robert Hunter

21 VA London Clay Skulls   c

V&A RESIDENCY. studio shot skulls made indigenous clays  i foraged off a construction site in East London.

PHOTO: Robert Hunter

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Filed under Barnstaple, ceramic, conceptual, contemporary, lecture, North Devon, pottery, White Moose

Saturday Symposium -21 st September 2103 Bideford Arts Centre


NEC ND Festival of Pots copyright  smallcurator April 2013                             North Devon Festival of Pottery

                                                                                     Bideford & Barnstaple

                                                                                                       16th to 22nd September 2013


International Pottery Symposium              ** CLOSING DATE FOR BOOKINGS 16/09/13 **

Bideford Arts Centre & Burton Art Gallery and Museum

Saturday 21st September 2013

9am to 5pm


A day of talks by 5 speakers from the West Country and Overseas complemented by

a handling session of early Devon and Somerset slipwares


Venues: Bideford ACL, The Arts Centre, The Quay, Bideford, EX39 2EY (main talks); Burton Art Gallery, Kingsley Road, Bideford, Devon, EX39 2QQ (handling session)

Entry:  Strictly by advance day ticket only, covering events at both venues.

Cost: £75. Please note only 20 paid delegate places available. Charge includes a quality buffet lunch plus tea/coffee.



Speakers/presenters (in alphabetical order) and topics:

John Allan [Archaeologist]: The post medieval archaeology of the North Devon Potteries (talk)

David Dawson [Archaeologist]: An introduction to post medieval West Country slipware (handling session)

John Edgeler [Proprietor, Cotswolds Living Publications]:  Later North Devon and Studio Pottery sgraffito slipwares and their firing (talk)

Niek Hoogland [Slipware potter, Tegelen, Netherlands]: Low Countries slipware, its influences and development from post medieval times to the present day (talk)

Oliver Kent [Lecturer, Bristol School of Art]: The Bickley Ceramics Project: a 17th century kiln reconstruction (talk)

Merry Outlaw [Curator of collections, Jamestown Rediscovery, Virginia]: Plain and Fancy: North Devon Pottery in Colonial America (talk)




Provisional running order (all timings approximate):


9am     Commencement and welcome (John Edgeler), followed by John Allan (talk)

10am    Niek Hoogland (talk)

11am    Coffee and private handling session with David Dawson (Burton Art Gallery education room)

1pm     Buffet lunch (Bideford Arts Centre)

2pm     Merry Outlaw (talk)

3pm     Oliver Kent (talk)

4pm     John Edgeler (talk)

5pm     Close

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Michelle Erickson at the White Moose Gallery Barnstaple

Michelle Erickson

Ceramic Artist
Thursday 19 September at 19.00

Will be at the contemporary arts gallery in Barnstaple
Working in Virginia (USA) Michelle’s practice is rooted in the historic traditions of pottery making. Her work is narrative in nature, creating contemporary pieces that deal with the human experience through a framework of social, political and environmental issues. During 2012 Michelle undertook a residency at the V&A, London. Michelle will give a presentation as part of the North Devon Pottery Festival which runs from 16 to 22 September.

Michelle Erickson Devon skull 3 110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024 212 874 3879 110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024 212 874 3879 07Virginiaside


NEC ND Festival of Pots copyright  smallcurator April 2013

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