BWB: the Brexit Ware Blog
The Brexit Ware project has produced china that followed in the centuries old tradition of political pottery that recorded the political issue of our time - Brexit, in the hope that in 300 years time there might be a piece in a museum somewhere. Next to the china would be a small label briefly outlining what Brexit was. Fast forward. Today, I was contacted by the Director of the Ariana Museum in Geneva - Isabelle Naef-Galuba - to tell me that they have acquired some Brexit Ware for their permanent collection. This is indeed an honour as the Ariana Museum is the Swiss museum of ceramics and glass. It is also the seventh museum around that world to now have Brexit Ware in their collections. All of the Brexit Ware pieces have also featured in temporary exhibitions, at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. So in one sense at least, job done. What an extraordinary journey through even more extraordinary times...
The Christmas rush of sales is on me once again. interstingly this year I have fewer orders but they have been for complete sets of Brexit Ware. Whilst I don't enjoy the puzzling out of how to pack large orders in set box sizes, in total I have had to work less hard for my earnings this year.
I feel Chirstmas starting up. Sales are on their way up, visits to the several patient sub-post offices around me are getting more frequent and I look forward to that Chirstmas Day feelling of people around the country opening up a parcel containing Brexit Ware. This has been an unexpected joy for me from the project, and just about pulls me through the whirlwind of online sales over the next month.
Nicola Scott, curator at Liverpool's Walker Gallery, has created an exhibit 'Politics on Pots: From John Bull to Brexit' at the Walker Gallery of political pottery from 1780 to Brexit which puts Brexit Ware with its ancestors. It is a good moment for the project to be celebrated at such an august institution and with an immaculate sensibility for what Brexit Ware is all about. One of the greatest moments for Brexit Ware. This diplay is on until January 2020. Nicola has produced 2 great information boards to accompany this mini-exhibition. And Brexit Ware is displayed with amongst other pieces a jug from 1803 expressing the growing unease about Bonaparte (or Boney as the Brits came to call him in his day). The drawings on this cream and black jug are a perfect style for Jacob Rees-Mogg; a hand-painted project for Brexit Ware in 2020 perhaps?
I spent an engaging afternoon with Ahmed from the Norwegian press. He came up for a visit to the studio/warehouse/house and we had some interesting discussions about the wide range of British people's responses to Brexit. He is running a great project for Norway's second largest Newspaper, touring Britain and interviewing people from all kinds of backgrounds about how this period has effected them and their work.
Even the summer holiday in Greece with the family - 12 of us - has provided plenty of material for bringing Brexit Ware back to the pottery after the mass production phase has ended. I have been working on images to invade Spode's 'Greeks' design...
A real treat this month working with Jane and Dylan Bowen for a 4-day workshop on working with slip. I couldn't have asked for better teachers or better fellow students either. My next project - involving working with slips on hand built flatware is getting off the ground. Many thanks to both Bowens!
The DesignLab project in Stoke is now starting up. Meetings and exploration of the collections at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery (PMAG) in Hanley one of Stoke-on-Trent's six towns and the V&A in London have kicked off preparations for the workshops with Staffordshire schools which start in September. The team are really switched on, I'm looking forward to the coming academic year immensley.
FOOD: Bigger than the Plate opened at the V&A on the 18th. This feels like a ground-breaking display of concepts - engaging, wide-ranging, stimulating. I am excited by such curatorial boldness in pursuing an investigation into our relationship with food production and consumption and the politics of both. It was very affirming to see Brexit Ware displayed in the exhibition, representing all the tradition of political pottery. And an honour to be with the amazing Lubaina Himid, whose political pots are just wonderful. I am excited that the V&A has put on such a new, challenging exhibition and am looking forward to them leading curatorial innovation into the future.
After meeting with the inspiring Kate Kennedy at the V&A it has been confirmed that I shall be the artist / designer for the V&As DesignLab project for next academic year. Really looking forward to using print and clay (piles of it) to explore social commentary with KS3/4 school students from Stoke. We are going to take the project name literally and do loads of designing and loads of experimenting with different materials and techniques.
I am very excited that the Potteries Museum has contacted about me joining them as guest designer to deliver the laudable DesignLab September 2019 project in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum.
I have just sent off a complete set of the Blue and White Brexit Ware to The Walker Gallery, Liverpool's museum of the decorative arts. They have purchased the set for their permanent collection. I am delighted that the pieces have found a safe perch in such a fine institution. Beyond that, my original aim for the project was that I record this period in Britain on bone china in the centuries' old tradition of political china. One fantasy was that a piece of Brexit Ware would turn up in a museum in 300 years time and there would be a sign explaining what Brexit was. Fast forward: thank you The Walker Gallery for realising this dream in my lifetime!
Tomorrow I am expecting delivery of the final 200 egg cups pairs to send out for Christmas orders. Graham Lockett tells me that he is also sending what he thinks may be the last proof of the large oval plate. I am excited to see this, he has worked patiently with me to get the design and tonal contrast just right. I hope that there will be time, amidst the frantic packing, to fully appreciate the plate. Perhaps I can serve Christmas lunch to my family on it?
The artwork for UncertainTea is now completed and production is waiting its turn at Edwards and Lockett. Decorators and kiln space are working flat out in the run up to Christmas. This is the busiest period for the china producers in Stoke - from early September through to November.
Apologies for this gap in the blog. Sometimes life intervenes, but the creating has continued. A broken machine piece in Stoke on Trent has delayed production of the large plate - now called The Union Plate. But a new design has overtaken the platter called UncertainTea. So let's see if it can be on sale in November?
Sad and troubled times in my life. But I woke up in the middle of the night recognising that I had done it. The rim of Brexit Ware's tasseographical teacup and saucer can carry the incantation See where the tea leaves remain to read the future... I'm chuffed to get those two words leave and remain onto the main message of the rim. We are all on this one folks - whatever you voted / think.
The 'Harry Potter - a history of magic' exhibition at The British Library was rich with visual material reaching back into history. One thing that caught my 'Brexit Ware eye' was a fortune-telling cup and saucer. The Victorians used cups adorned with symbols to practice the art of reading the tea leaves or tasseography. With all of this uncertainty swilling around the UK's future there may well be scope here for a new piece for Brexit Ware? Let's see...
Best wishes for the New Year!
I am working hard on the third piece in the range - a large oval serving dish. I wonder whether walls will be as much in the news this year as last? Either way there is a wall making its way into the first draft of the serving dish. Keep an eye on Instagram and face book pages to see other source material for this third design in the Brexit Ware record of our times.
A great visit to Stoke-on-Trent today. First port of call was to Spode to drop off more Hard and Soft Brexit egg cups to the Spode Works Visitors Centre shop. The shop manager, writer and art historian Michael Escolme kindly advertised his first batch on social media and they rapidly sold out. 2 days later he emailed me for more. So this time I quadrupled his delivery. It was amazing to discover that he had created a Brexit Ware display in his Aladin's Den of a shop. What a joy to have Brexit Ware sharing a building with some of the giants of blue and white china.
I can't recommend the shop enough. I managed to spend my entire earnings from the sales on plates featuring classic Spode designs - including Greek and Caramanian - on the spot. So much for earning anything from Brexit Ware. But a lot of it is vital R and D....
(watch this spot). The prints from original Spode engravings are on my wish list too.
As I was settling my bill who should turn up but a man who was master engraver at Spode before it closed in 2008. Here is some background to what happened:
It was a privilege talking with the engraver as he looked at my choice of plates and described how he had engraved the background to one of them. Michael also introduced me to a slip caster who was delivering some work. We discussed the possibility of him being involved in the prototype for another piece that I am developing for the end of next year. Another fortuitous, chance meeting with a creative person that just seems to happen in Stoke. Just as you need a slip caster one walks through the door.Then on to Edwards and Locket to the important business of production. The team were filling kilns and packing orders well after 7pm. That is the silly season before Christmas for you.
One last look at the BCB on the afternoon of its closing day after a busy morning with Graham at Edwards and Lockett getting the design for the egg cups finalised. Then on to the Spode Works Visitor Centre on Elenora Street. What a fabulous, emerging resource. Volunteers, amongst whom were some extremely skilled craftsmen - including the engraver Paul Holdway - who used to work at Spode, were busy installing a new case for showing china from their amazing archive. I spent a couple of hours researching in their collection in the Blue Room for my third piece in the Brexit Ware range now that the second is on its way to the kiln. There were experts demonstrating some of the painstaking techniques used in producing china, the mark of the hand is irreplaceable in crafts of all kinds. It is well worth a visit, check first to find out when they have demonstrations (and don't forget to make a donation towards this great project celebrating our heritage of innovation, industrialism and expertise):
Alan of Assured Packaging was very helpful. We managed to sort out the exact specifications of my order for cardboard boxes for my next piece in the Brexit Ware range...
I'll be back next week to see the proofs of the Hard and Soft Brexit egg cups.
Visit to Stoke-on-Trent to get a blank serving plate ready for painting the design. Graham at Edwards and Lockett had found me a super oval serving dish from Pollyanna China, top quality British made, bone china plate. I have all the elements of the design now and need to start painting them on to the plate shape before Graham can work his magic and make the cobalt carbonate transfers.
It was a great time to visit, the city of Stoke-on-Tre
ge. I also saw the haunting solo exhibition of Emilie Taylor's political ceramics 'Edgelands' which is currently touring the UK: this small exhibition is well worth a visit and is on in Stoke until 12th November 2017.
The British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) opened at the old Spode factory. Quite a visit in that huge hall. I was interested to see that 3D printing is now being developed for making the clay body of an object (making a teapot for example ) and for applying pigment in varying depths to get the whole range from strong to faint colour. These 2 innovations were at the back of the hall; I wonder if the organisers thought they should remain there! The range of hand built and thrown claywork was superb. Lovely mugs for sale from different creative groups in the re-emerging city of art and culture (!) - STOKE-ON-TRENT. I bought 4.
Am left reeling after the referendum results. I was such bad company at home that I took myself on a leave of absence and drove up north. Rufford Park's Earth and Fire ceramics fair was a super pit stop. I enjoyed so many exhibits including Stephen Parry, Ruthanne Tudball and Paul Young.