The Ceramic House is my home, in Brighton. I have converted it into a showcase of my architectural ceramics practice by cladding many – (most!)- surfaces, inside and out, with tiled installations. It is also a pop-up gallery. Every May, during the Brighton Festival, I open the house to the public and curate exhibitions of international contemporary ceramics within this unique domestic context.

Each year the ambition of the exhibitions has grown. In 2013 The Ceramic House was voted best Artists Open House, and since 2014 I have been curating themed exhibitions, selecting artists from around the world, usually building the exhibition into a bigger project. In 2014 it was part of a Danish exchange project, whereby I made new work in residency in Denmark, invited 14 artists to exhibit at The Ceramic House in Fantastic Tales, and then I took my work back to Denmark to exhibit in the Biennial, European Ceramic Context. See blog link below. In 2015, I curated Dark Light, black and white ceramics from five continents.

This year (2016) it was part of a 14 month long project called Landscape Islands, a collaboration with sound artist Joseph Young exploring the intersection between sound art and ceramic practice. It involved multiple exhibitions and events and the first international residency programme for sound and ceramic artists hosted by The Ceramic House. See blog/film links below.

Made in Korea has been in the planning since 2014, when I met Kyung Won Baek, a young Korean ceramist, on a residency at Guldagergaard International Research Centre in Denmark. Based in South Korea, she has been an invaluable contact, introducing me to artists, curators, academics and ceramic residency centres and helping me to plan everything. Myung Nam An, a Korean artist based in London, exhibited at The Ceramic House in 2012 and introduced me to Sladmore Contemporary in London, who is hosting Made in Korea in July 2017.

The success of the Landscape : Islands residency programme has led us to continue offering residencies at The Ceramic House and, moreover, to continue the investigation between ceramics and sound.

Sixteen Korean ceramic artists have been selected to participate in the exhibition, who are based in South Korea, Switzerland, Germany, USA and UK. Two or three artists will be invited to participate in a residency hosted by The Ceramic House during June. They will be paired up with sound artists, to create new work for an exhibition in the autumn (venue to be confirmed). I have received an AIDF grant from the Arts Council to travel to Korea to research the project and a new body of my own work that will provide the context for Made in Korea.

I have just arrived in Korea! The story continues from here…

Links: http://www.theceramichouse.co.uk

a-n blog Danish-UK ceramic exchange project

a-n blog In A Shetland Landscape, my collaboration with Joseph Young that provided the context for Landscape : Islands

Youtube documentary about Landscape : Islands project, starting in Shetland and tracing journey through exhibitions and residencies

 

 


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It’s been such a non-stop few weeks that I have got a lot of catching up to do with this blog!

The last month in a nutshell: Made in Korea opened at The Ceramic House, with a wonderful, buzzy, well-attended private view, immediately followed by the first weekend.

A bit of background about AOH. We are one of Brighton’s Artists Open Houses and the model is to open for the four weekends of the Brighton Festival. It is the longest running Open House organisation in the country and is divided into groups, by area. The Ceramic House is in Fiveways, the original trail that was set up over 35 years ago, so it is well-established. We usually attract between 150-200 people per day, many of whom have been recommended by previous visitors to the house, or people have even told me that The Ceramic House is literally ‘the word on the street’, with people hearing it mentioned as the go-to place, which is quite wonderful. The Ceramic House reputation extends far and wide!

Following a hugely successful first weekend, we shot off to the opening of the Venice Bienniale, to get back just in time for the second weekend, which was, again, busy, and full of delighted, interested visitors.

On the Saturday evening, we were out when I got a phone call from UK border control. Jin Kim, one of the Korean artists coming to do the residency, had been stopped at customs and interrogated. They kept her for a couple of hours whilst they contacted me and decided whether she was ‘allowed’ to stay in the country! This is outrageous and totally unnecessary. If this is a portent of the new immigration policy then I am disgusted and worried. South Koreans are allowed to come into the UK for 3 months, I believe, and do not need a visa. Why they picked on her I do not understand. The poor thing was forbidden from answering her phone (I kept trying to call her to reassure her, once I knew she had been detained). Eventually after deferring in a most subservient manner (as one must do to a figure of power and authority), I managed to persuade them to free her. Oh Britain.

Gerry Farrell, the director of Sladmore Contemporary (where the exhibition will transfer to in July), came to visit the exhibition on the Sunday and was genuinely thrilled and is obviously excited about having this collection of gorgeous work in his gallery. A great endorsement.

Then Kyung Won Baek arrived back from Germany (where she had gone after the private view), and we made preparations for our site visit to Stoke on Trent and spent the rest of the week there – Joseph Young, the Koreans and me. Barney Hare-Duke, the director of British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) had organised an itinerary which involved a whirlwind tour of the potteries, taking in the Wedgwood Museum, Johnson Tiles Factory, Burleigh Pottery, Emma Bridgewater and a site visit to Spode Works. We saw the space that has been allocated for our installations in Spode – crucial in terms of planning what to make for it.

Additionally, we visited Airspace Gallery, which is run by an a-n colleague of Joseph’s, Glen Stoker, where we also met Phoebe Cummings who is making an installation for BCB (looking forward to seeing that). Joseph recorded the sounds as we went around Johnson Tiles and is so pleased with the results he is now planning to include them in the work he makes for the sound aspect of the project, which will include a concert by the UK-based sound artists for the opening weekend of BCB. Joseph selected the sites for the geo-locative mobile phone app featuring sounds by 3 UK and 3 Korean sound artists that will be launched at BCB and has finalised the line-up of all the artists now. Hankil Ryu, our Korean lead sound artist, has sourced the Korean artists.

We also crammed in the Potteries Museum and Gladstone Museum, so the artists got a very good sense of the history of Stoke and the pottery towns and also an insight into new developments. There is definitely a feeling of change and optimism in Stoke-on-Trent at the moment, although I may be looking with my ceramic-tinted glasses on, as it’s easy to think that BCB is having a profound impact on the fortunes of Stoke because it’s gaining traction and is becoming an important event, but not only that – the bid for City of Culture is also buoying enthusiasm. Good luck Stoke!

Again, we arrived back from Stoke just in time to open for the third weekend. I finally got hold of the last box from Chun Bok Lee, whose three boxes were separated and ended up all having different journeys through detention at customs (a bit like Jin Kim) before finally being released. The customs fiasco lasted for nearly a month in the end but I actually manged to get every box cleared without having to pay any charges. Chun Bok was very late sending his work anyway, so he is partly to blame!

As a result of all these trips, we only had one week here during May so we crammed a few festival events in and then the final weekend was upon us. By that time, the garden was looking absolutely spectacular with the roses in full bloom (I’ve got loads of roses, one of which is a 65 year old tree and they come out in perfect timing for a May exhibition) and with the sun shining, the whole house and garden really does make for a visual feast.

The exhibition was our most successful to date, in terms of sales, standard and selection of work and how it was curated throughout the space. Our little white cube In Camera Gallery provided a totally different feel to the rest of the (very colourful) house, with only white work displayed in there, including a fabulous installation of white mice by Wook Jae Maeng.

We ended the exhibition with a finissage (to borrow the term from our German colleagues, having been to not only finissages but even midissages in Berlin), which was a really special, lovely evening, with a good mixed crowd, a sizzling barbecue, free-flowing vine on a gorgeous summer’s evening. With the floodlights lighting up the external tiled installations, groups chatting on all four levels of the garden terraces and in every room in the house, it was a memorable evening indeed. We even made some final sales including selling out of one artist’s work completely. And not only that, the torrential rain forecast for earlier on just while the party was going on held off until the small hours. Hooray!

 

 

 


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The Made in Korea show at The Ceramic House has now ended after a hugely successful month. Everyone who stepped through the doors to the Ceramic House was (variously) overawed, amazed, filled with delight and wonder. This is know because of the visitors comments to me and in the visitors’ book! It makes me realise how special and different it is to hold a show of this quality in a domestic space. People really do not expect it! Also the house is a wonder in itself and the month of May really brings the best out with the roses blooming, filling the air with fragrance and the garden with beauty. The sun was shining every single day we opened, which helped too, filling the house with colour and light. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to come and make it all worth while.

The exhibition opens at Sladmore Contemporary on 12th July.


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Tela Films have made a short film of the exhibition at The Ceramic House showing the breadth and diversity of the remarkable works by 15 Korean ceramists currently on display. Three weeks have flown by, one weekend to go! If you are anywhere near Brighton this weekend come and check it out. I promise you are in for a treat! Not just the exhibition, the whole house and garden is a living artwork. This is a ‘must-see’! Everyone has been wowed who has visited so far…


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It’s been a very busy couple of weeks but we got there. All ready and looking gorgeous, on time. So much has happened it’s hard to think back in order.

Firstly, the customs problems did persist, with one box arriving the day before the exhibition (phew!), which meant I was able to finish the hanging in our mini white cube, In Camera Gallery. The third of those three boxes sent late eventually arrived over a week after the opening! But arrive it did. I had prepared the space for an extra piece of work and now it’s all complete.

The last couple of days leading up to the opening were full but measured. Everything got done in good time. My helper was an amazing aide and I really couldn’t have done it without him. He was with me every week day for 10 days leading up to the opening.

The 3rd of May our preview of Made in Korea opened at Sladmore Contemporary as part of London Craft Week. I had selected the three UK based Korean artists to participate, having made the wise decision not to attempt to make anything myself for it. Gerry, the director, was delighted with the work and Kyung Won Baek arrived from Korea in time to attend the opening, where she met Myung Nam An and Sun Kim, both London based.

Won arrived in Brighton later that night. It was lovely to see her again. Last time was in Seoul last November. First thing in the morning I picked up Nicki Lang (Tela Films who has made many films for me over the last few years). I deposited Nicki at The Ceramic House to film the exhibition and we set off for Brighton University where Won gave a fascinating talk about her practice to the ceramics department, which was well attended. From there we had to rush back home in time for Latest TV who were coming to interview us. Bernard G Mills, who has photographed the last few exhibitions for me, also arrived and at one point there were cameras and tripods everywhere you looked, all deftly keeping out of each other’s way! The interview was broadcast the following Monday in the news section and I confess I still haven’t managed to see it.

Won brought loads of Korean nibbles and Joe my helper manned the bar admirably. People started arriving at 6 and we had a lovely party with stories (speeches) relating the journey of the project and what is to come, Korean music, and loads of guests overawed by the artwork! Unfortunately, not many of the artists could come because most of them are in Seoul with a few sprinkled around the world (New Jersey, France, Germany, Wales and Myung couldn’t come as well as attending the opening at Sladmore the previous night – well, she did get married one week later!). Sun Kim and Kyung Won represented them all! An excellent start to the project.

Won flew straight off to Germany the following morning to visit family and we had one day before the Open House weekends started. I spent the day preparing my solo show for Charleston which was meant to have been hung on the 2nd (2 days before the Made in Korea opening!) but thankfully was changed to the following week.

Then into the first weekend, which was great. Lovely weather (always helps as the garden and house look so much better in the sunshine glinting off all the tiles and brightening the exhibition space), lots of people (considering the first Saturday is always quieter as the children’s parade kicks off the festival) and pretty good sales too. Feedback showed that some people were coming specially to see the Korean work. One of the problems I have discovered is that by creating an extraordinary, beautiful house, many people just want to come to see the house. Which is fine, but I do want the artists to sell too! The visitors book is crammed with compliments (so many ‘wow’, ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’ you end up feeling the words don’t really do it justice) and also the comments we get and the expression on people’s faces really proves how much they appreciate it. We know from our visitor numbers (around 150-200 people per day) that around 95% of visitors do not spend money in our house. Which is why I am thrilled to be taking the show to London and developing projects outside of the house. We simply would not be able to do projects on this scale without public funding. It’s a great way of introducing people, including children, to this level of art who would not normally engage with it or might feel intimidated going into a gallery or museum. So actually the public engagement aims spread more broadly than the more obvious participatory elements of the project and it’s an important way of increasing access to the arts.

Sunday was a reasonable day too for sales and good visitor numbers. And then 5pm the doors closed and we collapsed!

Monday, we basically caught up with ourselves before heading to the airport to catch a flight to Venice for the opening week of the Biennale. Joseph went with his a-n hat on, along with the rest of the a-n team, reviewing exhibitions. This year I knew a lot of people involved in it, including Claudia Fontes who made a stunning sculpture called The Horse Problem for the Argentinian Pavilion. Recommended!


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The last 10 days have been relentless. Setting up an exhibition in your own home is no simple matter, especially when nearly every room is open to the public. In fact, it is comparable to moving house. Furniture gets hefted down into the basement, the permanent collection of artwork has to be carefully and safely stored, and most disruptive of all, the shelves and cupboards in the kitchen and the utility room where we keep our daily crockery have to be cleared and totally rearranged, so that we don’t know where anything is any more and spend half the month walking into the wrong room to get a glass and then following the exhibition it happens all over again once we have got used to the new locations for everything!

Wook Jae Maeng’s mice ready for installation

After my full-time assistant disappeared overnight, leaving me in the lurch with a full schedule in the run-up to opening, an angel appeared on my doorstep. My new volunteer has been a gem. He is one of that new breed of ceramic enthusiasts I have come across a fair bit recently who has no experience but suddenly has a huge passion for clay! Which is lovely and something I keenly encourage. He has been here every day last week doing everything that needs doing – assisting my exhibition installer, painting most of the house and gallery (or a lot of surfaces at least!), scrubbing the tiled terraces in the garden, delivering Open House brochures, putting up banners and so on. I have promised he will get his hands on actual clay once the exhibition is up and I am back in the studio.

All through the week, the customs problems continued. A jubilant day was Wednesday, when 11 boxes arrived, completely blocking my hallway, floor to ceiling. One of the boxes from the USA that had been cleared was left off the list and remained in the Gatwick depot until many more emails and phone calls had ensued. More boxes arrived into the country from Korea, and even though they had been clearly labelled ‘temporary admissions’, one got through on Friday and the other two have been held. I was told in no uncertain terms that clearing the first 11 boxes had been a favour and would be unlikely to happen again. I was meant to pay the dues and then claim it back. What a hassle! So, I chanced it one more time and managed to charm the official into releasing them! But it means that those two boxes, plus one more that still hasn’t arrived, are delaying the final hang, which should have been signed off days ago. Although on paper it is possible to curate an exhibition, in reality, until the work arrives and in your hands, you cannot really know how it will look in position and next to the rest of the work. Luckily, I know where these works will go, although the installation in In Camera Gallery cannot be finalised until Chun Bok Lee’s works are in place. The bank holiday Monday is not helping either. It’s possible the work will arrive the day before the opening! I also found out last week that one artist has decided not to send a whole box of work that I had prepared space for.

Somehow, I have managed to squeeze about 20 huge boxes into my basement along with the furniture and stored artwork and everything one normally stores in a basement (camping stuff, old ceramics, moulds, you name it!) My basement is a miracle Tardis. Those boxes are BIG. Just as well we decided not to have Wook Jae Maeng’s installation in the basement and put it in the Gallery instead!

Other things that have happened this week: a LOT!

One of my volunteers came for a day to put up Veronica Juyoun Byun’s shoe installation, and I got more than I bargained for when she kindly offered to pot up trays of flowers so now we have colour all over the garden. This is on top of my gardener spending a full day the week before making the garden presentable. The roses are just beginning to come out and should be in full bloom by the first weekend. Can’t wait for that annual treat.

My exhibition installer was here for a day and a half prepping for the installations and putting up my perspex mounted work, which is a laborious job. I have been unpacking boxes and unwrapping artwork all week long and hanging the show. I have nearly finished converting my office into The Tile Shop, which is no small job. Everything has to be cleared out and replaced with countless heavy boxes of tiles. Myung Nam An came to install her work, which she did, with help, effortlessly and quickly. Lovely to have her work back on the wall again. Last time she showed here was in 2012.

A feature about the exhibition came out in Crafts Magazine along with our advert, both of which look great, and I spent a fair amount of time with my graphic designer designing a handout for the exhibition which looks good (on the computer screen at least). Looking forward to seeing them.

Kyung Won Baek, the first of the artists in residence is arriving from Korea today! Our preview show opens at Sladmore Contemporary as part of London Craft Week on Wednesday. I have been curating the work the 3 UK-based Korean exhibitors are submitting for that and doing lots of liaising with the director and his team, one of whom came to visit The Ceramic House for a planning session.

All the PR, social media, emails, newsletters and general admin about the show has been continuing ceaselessly with a featured artist every day for the 15 days leading up to the opening on The Ceramic House FB page and lots of instagram posts documenting the set up. My instagram handle is @ceramicempress

Last week Joseph Young and I went up to Café Oto in London to meet our lead Korean sound artist Hankil Ryu who is doing a tour in Europe. He gave us the good news that our events will be part of a sound art festival at Mullae Art Factory in Seoul so we will have a ready-made audience. We also discussed which Korean sound artists to engage to do the sounds for the geo-locative app. Joseph still has to make a sound piece to accompany Wook Jae Maeng’s installation for Thursday which he plans to do using the sounds I recorded visiting ceramic artists in their studios in Seoul.

Thursday is going to be a busy day. I’ve got our filmmaker and photographer booked in to document the show on Thursday once it’s all finished and before anything gets sold! Kyung Won Baek is giving a talk to the students on the ceramics/3D materials course at Brighton University in the morning, and Latest TV are coming in the afternoon to interview us and film the show for a news item on live TV on Friday. Then the opening begins at 6! You probably won’t hear from me until after that date so wish me luck!


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