Worcester Porcelain Museum
"I have been given a Leverhulme Trust grant to fund a residency at Worcester Porcelain Museum. I intend to utilise my skills as a contemporary printmaker. I hope to draw inspiration from both the former workers of Royal Worcester and collection at Worcester Porcelain Museum. The making of a video is also being planned. The residency will run for ten months with a final exhibition."


Yesterday was both physical and smelly. I was intent on finishing the preparation of 18 etching plates . I began by polishing each with Brasso which made the 20th century gallery reek of metal polish. Then I degreased all 18 plates with cream cleaner and the lemon smell was everywhere. Finally I brushed hard ground onto each of the plates, dark and treacley, leaving me, and the visitors, slightly heady, to say the least. The white spirit finished us off nicely.

Today I worked on four monotypes, developed two stencil drawings, and started a digital photo documentation project of museum visitors. The four large monotypes were soft edged, velvety black and white. The first was produced, kneeling down, the plate on a tray in front of me, looking directly at an 18th century jug behind glass downstairs. This was the least successful. I found that the other three, of stacked cups, a banding wheel, and a flute edged plate, were much stronger because they were interpretation of conte crayon drawings. The drawing process was essential as a middle stage to find the essential information needed to convey the essence of the form. The paper was dampened and the monotypes taken through the etching press, and the results dried between boards. A direct and immediate approach. The black and white impact is so striking and the press picks up the delicacy of the marks. I have always admired the monotypes of Degas.

I then played around with the stencils I had made a few weeks ago. These are possible ideas for a series of etchings. I am trying to really work the drawings so that there is no room for error at the etching stage. These I have put up on the studio wall to live with before I make any decisions.

I then moved onto my linocut. Many jug profiles had been drawn on with carbon paper. I realised that if I trimmed the lino down to a square format, three profiles remained which interacted beautifully, with three generations of jugs superimposing each other, and occupyiong the space. I cut the lino down therefore, and used my Dremmel tool to work the lino. I just had time to do a quick proof, too grey, but hey, and was delighted with the impact. A strong white line on a black background. It isn't far off to being printed onto Japanese paper next week. I shall print 20 initially, rest the block, knowing that the edition may reach 100.

Finally, throughout the day I started an ongoing digital photo project called 'Museum Visitor'. Since my studio is close to the exit I have been asking visitors at the end of their visit if they would very much mind if I record them a) looking at the Worcester Porcelain collection, and b) looking directly at me. 99% have kindly obliged. I have noted down their names, occupations and where they are from.It is a great way to start a conversation! Talking to one American lady from the East coast, her sister's ex husband is Professor of Painting at KU University, Lawrence, Kansas, where I currently have an exhibition!

I shall be gathering this information over the ten months. It will be fascinating to see the range of places and occupations of the visitors. Yesterday the visitors came from Vancouver, Monmouth, and Maryland Delaware, and occupations ranged from ceramics restorer, to retired IBM/RAF, to welder! Fascinating.


The etching press is now installed upstairs in the 20th century gallery. It is wonderful. I have already taken a series of conte crayon drawings and develped them into rich, soft edged monotypes. I used dampened paper and they are so densely black. My studio space is looking creative, lively and I feel at home there. Might bring a radio in and have it on quietly 9 radio 4, naturally). The museum hush is deafening.

It is fun to strike up incidental conversations with people from places like Surrey, Scotland, Sydney, and Brussels. On Tuesday I chatted to a man from Barnt Green, Worcestershire, who knew exactly where I was born!

The track lighting over the press is great, the window overlooking Worcester Cathedral divine, and the Air Conditioning switch very handy for the summer heat. The local press have been in to take my photograph.. so really, we are up and running! Come and see me!


Last week I had a glorious time pushing oil paint about. I began four new oil studies, selecting pieces of china here and there which caught my fancy. Being in such an environment, filled with the most amazing, colourful, delicate range of goodies, it is difficult to know how to select out the pieces you want. The key is to begin at an instinctive point, and adjust if necessary. One theme which really rang out loud and clear, is my love of green. I was very much drawn to the green in the Earl of Coventry service, which, with sight failing, is raised green, for tactile purposes, even better! It has been a delight to study and paint the green and whiteness of this green and white china. I have been abstracting out the essence of the porcelain, editing out that which is not essential. The subsequent studies I have to say I am pleased with. I find them relaxing to look at.

I have also been working today on a series of stencils. The profile studies of varying cups, jug and teapots I worked on last week, have now been traced onto thick paper, in order to create a series of handcut stencils. These will be invaluable as I draw into the hard ground of my etching plates. I am hoping to have a linear series where the stencils are freely used to create overlays, for visual complexity. There will be numerous versions. Tomorrow I am also hoping to begin drawing the collection with a series of graphic sign writing stencils. Through them I will find approximation, and fresh, new profiles. Invention will be the by product. Had an interesting conversation today regarding the resident ghost. Shall be aware, and welcoming, if he wishes to make himself known. The etching press is now insitu, just waiting for the tables to arrive. I feel as though I am relaxing more and more into the role. My latest exhibition has just opened at the Signs of Life Gallery, Lawrence, Kansas, USA. Next week will be the Press Launch of this Artist in Residence experience. I am very lucky.


April 15th

This is nerve wracking. Tomorrow I start the residency and who knows what will come out of it. I have never before worked in a public space and I know not what I will see, nor how I will use the information. I will try to begin humbly, just trying to look closely and listen carefully.

April 16th

Having produced a number of drawings from the porcelain collection I am exhausted. I decided to spend the day considering the profile of a number of pieces of porcelain, and ignoring all detail. I coupled the simple, linear profiles with comments overheard from the visiting public, and sounds overheard. To return to looking at form and proportion was very refreshing, and exacting. Half of me was screaming, colour, collage, tone, pattern, but in a self disciplined fashion I stuck to the task of focusing on profile, outline. The results are simple, direct and covered in handwritten notations, they will make an interesting series of etchings.

April 17th

It was completely different to make a start on a draft of a children's book, "Storm in a Teacup". I mentioned the concept to Henry Sandon and he said he and his dog had featured in the film of the same name. I was then allowed behind the scenes to see the archives, for example the Prince Regent's Service pattern book, unbelievably extensive and moving. Twenty uears ago 1500 were employed at Royal Worcester, now 50, so sad. It feels such a privilege to handle the old leather bound pattern books, and leaf through the age browned pages with their intricate and delicate designs. The skill and mathematics in each design is awesome. I like the idea of taking the circles and playing around with the space within it. The archival boxes contain typewritten sheets with additional copperplate handwritten notes, very beautiful in themselves. I like the crossings out and mistakes. Everything is stamped and dated, ticked off in pencil etc. These are working drawings, ongoing documentation. A true record.


I realise, as I consider this project, that I will come face to face with aspects of my past, and remnants from my heritage. My grandfather, Samuel Lea, worked very successfully in the Potteries, in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, for many years. Sadly, he was forced to find better paid work elswhere in order to support his family. However his portfolio, showing many wonderful designs, and the letters congratulating him on winning various art competitions, is currently in my safekeeping. It is humbling to realise that this was the area where he was most successful, and sad, very sad, that I never got to meet him.