British Ceramics Biennial launch night

I’ve got to be honest, being invited along to spend a Friday evening in a disused factory would not normally sound like the most appealing start to my weekend. But this was not any disused factory, this was the original Spode factory – the birthplace of English fine bone china, and this was not any ordinary Friday evening event, this was the launch night of the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) – a six week festival showcasing a celebration of ceramics right in the heart of the World Capital of Ceramics between 28 September to 10 November 2013.

Our evening began however, not at the original Spode factory, but at another BCB venue, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in the City Centre, to see the preview of BCB’s Award 2013. Award 2013 showcases a broad range of work currently being produced by some of the UK’s finest ceramicists. This year, 22 artists have been selected from over 170 applications in a bid to be awarded the £10,000 winners prize, and I don’t envy whoever has the impossible task of picking a winner from this magnificently unique collection of pieces.

Award 2013

Award 2013

Having been wowed by the genius on display in the Award 2013 exhibition, we made the short journey down through the University Quarter to the original Spode factory in Stoke, which, from the moment we stepped foot into the factory grounds, displayed a magical energetic rebirth as we were transported into a magenta-lit ceramicists dream. Inside the original Spode factory in the vast China Hall space, the magic continued with breathtakingly creative displays and installations and innovative ideas.

The Original Spode Factory

The Original Spode Factory

Inside the Original Spode Factory

Inside the Original Spode Factory

Throughout the six-week festival, the original Spode factory hosts a number of exhibitions, installation and projects.

Fresh 2013 looks at the work of new graduates breaking through as they make the transition from learning to earning.

Fresh 2013

Fresh 2013

The Pavilions are four temporary structures that create unique spaces within which the public can engage with the artist’ response to their experience of the ceramic industry.

The Pavilions

The Pavilions

Explore 2013 has challenged four artists and one group of nine artists to make responses to the Spode site and Stoke-on-Trent itself. These range from an archaeological dig, through ceramic slip graffiti and the re-utilising of discarded moulds, to a poet’s lyric narrative.

BCB Design: Tableware is a strand of the festival that looks at limited edition and bespoke table-ware, created specifically to cater for a special dining experience. Case studies provide illustration of trends and trials that are currently underway and indicate one direction of travel for the ceramic industry, the creation and the capture of niche markets.

BCB Design: Tableware

BCB Design: Tableware

A particular highlight to me was the thought-provoking Made in China by Clare Twomey which comprises eighty red porcelain vases each 1.5m tall produced in Jingdezhen in China. Seventy nine have been decorated at the Chinese factory using transfers, one has been decorated at Royal Crown Derby using 18-carat gold. The latter took longer to complete than the 21 days it took to complete and deliver the seventy-nine. This placement unpicks “some of the issues faced by globalisation and outsourcing of production, and questioning the way in which value is assigned. The work also examines what else is lost, over and above jobs and knowledge, and where there might be the possibility of complementarity as opposed to opposition.”

Made in China

Made in China

One of the great things about BCB is that it is not a festival that is dominated by the “Please do not touch” sign. There are lots of opportunities throughout the six weeks for visitors to have a go, get messy, have fun, and get creative through various workshops and the BCB Family Weekenders.

Have a go!

Have a go!

The free festival is also really easy to get around with the main venues being in three locations – the original Spode factory in Stoke, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and Airspace Gallery in the City Centre, and Burslem for the Burslem Weekend in mid-October. The main Stoke-on-Trent railway station is 5 minutes’ walk from the original Spode factory site, and regular buses link it with the City Centre.

There simply was not enough time to take in all of the offerings on Friday evening and so it will be with great pleasure that I will have to return to this historic pottery site once again to see it all. And I urge you to join me – you will not be disappointed!

For more information about the British Ceramics Biennial visit http://www.visitstoke.co.uk/bcb.aspx

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British Ceramics Biennial

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I’m really excited for the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB), running from 28th September – 10th November at the original Spode factory in Stoke-on-Trent. With new exhibitions to be seen and special events to be experienced I cannot wait to celebrate the City’s history and culture. I think it looks like a great opportunity for the whole family to get involved in creating our own ceramics, apparently there will be sessions running where you will be expected to get clay in your finger nails!! I have never thrown a pot before but have seen people doing it at Wedgwood Visitor Centre and Gladstone Pottery Museum and this will be a great opportunity to make my own masterpiece. Also during the exhibition there will be amazing ceramics created from around the world from China, France and Norway. There will be huge pavilions housing really major pieces of work from all kinds of artists. The “new traditions of Spode” will be interesting, as we can see how ceramics mix with contemporary art. I have always wanted to see the production of ceramics in the studio and this Autumn I will be able to not only see this, but also join an artist in the Interactive Laboratory to help with a project that looks like it will be fun, messy, and free with no booking required. The ‘Burslem weekender’ is one of the events I am most looking forward to as I will be able to celebrate ceramics in the town where the potteries started.

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I’m wondering who will win the 2013 AWARD (the Biennial’s major survey exhibition of current ceramic practice in the UK) which will be on show at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. 22 artists have been selected for the AWARD and the winner receives an amazing £10,000 prize.

bcbb

Exploring Spode’ will offer a great chance to see the Original Spode Factory in different perspectives through artists adding their own personal touches, I especially want to view the large installation based on Spode plate design made by the winner of the award prize in 2011, Phoebe Cummings. And admission is free!!

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The large China Halls on the original Spode site will house a PieMinster for those very important refreshments after a session of pot making and there will be opportunities to buy items for your own collection as a memento to your visit here. I think I will book an afternoon tea experience in a unique setting of a teacup factory, getting the chance to use the some of the finest Staffordshire tableware.

bcbb

If you want to see the people who are going to be working in the ceramics industry in the future the FRESH exhibition will do exactly that, as it showcases the best of the current ceramics graduates. The graduates will participate in studio pottery, tableware, industrial design, installation, and figurative and abstract culture.

For those interested in the business side of ceramicists and the ceramics industry, the BCB is running a conference from 17th – 18th October with presentations by keynote speakers giving us the chance to understand issues and concerns, such as artists working with clay and globalisation

So save the dates for your diary and keep in touch with whats happening when on the visitstoke.co.uk/bcb.aspx website and on www.britishceramicsbiennial.com

Mother’s Day, 18 March

Spoil your Mum on Mother’s Day this Sunday 18 March. Visit Burleigh Factory Shop to see demonstrations (Saturday 12pm to 4pm and Sunday 11am to 3pm) of their unique under glaze tissue transfer process, they are the only factory in the world still using this 18th century technique. There is card making at the Emma Bridgewater Factory and they are putting on a special lunch menu for Sunday lunch.   

Mother's Day

There is free entry for Mums, when accompanied by another paying guest, at Trentham Gardens, spoil her with a high tea at Wedgwood Visitor Centre or a cream tea at Ford Green Hall.

Search our what’s on for more events taking place this weekend.