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

Last chance to see…

British Ceramics Biennial

As well as the chance to buy some of the ceramics on display there’s still plenty to see and do over the last weekend of the British Ceramics Biennial which ends this Sun 13 Nov.  

  • Have a go at making your own pot on the ‘Book a Slot – Throw a Pot’ activity on Saturday 12 Nov between 2 – 5pm.  Booking essential but you can do this on the day. 
  • Exhibitions to view include A Great Wall, Exploring Spode, Fresh, Mould Store, Open Store and Sunday Morning @EKWC all at the original Spode factory site.
  • Have a brew at the Factory Refectory.
  • Don’t forget to go to the City Centre to see the ‘Stick Up – Unpredictable Collaborations’ exhibition at the Airspace Gallery (ends 13 Nov) and the Award Show at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery that continues until 11 December.

More details on the festival website www.britishceramicsbiennial.com

Top things to do in Stoke-on-Trent for free!

Here are just a few ideas to keep everyone happy through the school holidays that don’t have to cost you lots of money. Enjoy!

  • Staffordshire Hoard at the Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent City Centre.
    Staffordshire Hoard
    Staffordshire Hoard

    Discover the world famous Staffordshire Hoard now on permanent display at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery with enhanced interpretation for 2011. Also at the museum explore the history of the Potteries, including the world’s greatest collection of Staffordshire Ceramics.

10 reasons for visit the British Ceramics Biennial

  1. Enjoy afternoon tea at the Factory Refectory. No ordinary tearoom!  It is run by tea experts dedicated to bringing you the best cuppa alongside tempting homemade cakes, sandwiches, pies and soups.  
  2. Get some hints and tips from celebrity chef Brian Turner CBE. There are still tickets left for this special event on 23 October 2011.
  3. Buy your Christmas presents early. A special selling weekend has been scheduled for November 12/13, the final weekend of the BCB. 
  4. “Have-a-go” yourself at creating your own ceramic art by going along to one of the BCB workshops.
  5. The Great Wall….of Stoke-on-Trent! See the best of British industry on display.
  6. Visit the “Award” exhibition at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, to view the work of 24 artists and designers who have been specially selected.
  7. Explore the original Spode factory site.
  8. Invest in a ceramics star of the future at the “FRESH” exhibition on at the original Spode factory site. Can you spot the next Tracey Emin or Damian Hirst?
  9. See one of the premier art installations in the West Midlands this year. “Mould Store”, by the internationally acclaimed and world-renowned ceramics artist Philip Eglin
  10. Enjoy one of the associated events taking place across Stoke-on-Trent.