I attended Earth and Fire at Rufford Abbey at the weekend. This was my first large festival as a solo stall holder for thirty-three years.
There have been changes in the intervening period. Earthenware and porcelain potters who use colour have been provided with a much broader palette of reliable colours than back then and have the expertise to use them to joyous effect. There is also a “monochrome school” whose cleanly crafted work in whites, greys and blacks fits into a contemporary minimalist context. Sculptural ceramics of all types is in robust good health. At the stoneware end of things, wood-firing and salt glaze which were still at the cutting edge when I became semi-dormant in 1983 are tame stuff compared with the long firings in “anagama” beasts of kilns by younger potters. The “useful pots at affordable prices” school is largely, with notable exceptions, in the hands of continental potters, particularly Dutch and German. Their stalls, stacked high with honest pots for cooking, eating and drinking, continue a market tradition going back to the middle ages and before. There was much to enjoy and much to think about.
It was fun meeting other potters. Ceramics/pottery is wonderfully free of the “irony” (and cynicism?) that has been a key element in fine art for several decades. I was even stupid enough to volunteer for the “Potters’ Games”, winning a losers’ medal in the relay and a winners’ in the “Pairs Throwing Challenge” in which Scottish-based potter, John Christie, and I (Welsh-based) made a bowl (one hand each) which we felt to be a “most vigorous contemporary expression of the English countryside” (Bernard Leach). Long live the Union!
Centring the bowl with John Christie My Stall
The Kids for Life scam does not seem to be over yet. Long after the Charity Commission told me it was investigating complaints about the “charity” and its printer/fund gatherer Inpress Media, I have heard from other potters and an architect who have been targets of the scam. My advice is refuse to do anything over the telephone; ask for a proper letter. I bet you’ll hear nothing more. If, as happened to one potter, they print your “advertisement” without your agreement and then demand payment, stand firm. They, Andrew Peter Ager and David Parker, are bullies, but will back down, either blaming the other for a “misunderstanding”. What they almost certainly won’t do, unless you are prepared to involve a solicitor, is refund money once it’s been paid.
Always report any approach from these guys to the Charity Commission. There is, by the way, a bona fideKids for Life in Australia, but they are unlikely to contact British artists!