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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This weekend was the deadline for all the Korean work arriving; the private view is on 4th May, in 9 days’ time, and on Monday I have an installer booked in to hang the wall-based work. And where is the work? At customs!

Yesterday I spent the whole morning wrangling with border control trying to get the boxes cleared. I checked it out on the government website and it states quite clearly that if the work is for an exhibition, it does not attract any duty or customs charges. It seems the problem lies in how the work is labelled. As long as it labelled ‘temporary admissions’, customs will let it go through. So now we know! It’s all about the labelling. Some of the artists labelled the work ‘sample’, some ‘gift’ – some got through, most not.  I already had 5 boxes delivered at the beginning of the week and had been wondering why there was such a lull. Then a clutch of customs charges arrived. Apparently, the worst-case scenario is that I have to pay VAT and claim it back. If they let me have it back! At least a minor triumph occurred yesterday when Wook Jae Maeng’s boxes arrived. Especially so as his is some of the wall-based stuff that needs to go up on Monday. Veronica’s shoes are stuck at customs though, one of the main pieces going on the gallery wall. Oh my. Definitely do not have time for this! So, everything has been delayed according to my schedule. All of this was compounded by the fact that my full-time studio assistant had a crisis last weekend and disappeared off the scene overnight! Hopefully she will return in May but all the plans I had for these last two crucial weeks have had to change drastically.

The main injury is to my own design process for the new Korea-inspired work that I am making for the Sladmore show and BCB (British Ceramics Biennial). By the time the show opens, I need to have those designs finished and ready to start making prototypes and of course this is no longer going to happen! Ceramics is such a laborious, time-consuming process that the making/drying/firing/glazing schedule is absolute and I’ve got it worked out to the day. The only way I can stick to the schedule is to simplify the designs. Rather than design the whole piece the way it will go on the wall, I can alter the process by designing the main components and then assembling them once they are made. Thinking back to last year, when I made my Shetland Flora roundels, one kiln overfired so badly that I had to redesign most of the work using the glazed pieces, discarding the original layout, and it actually led to some unexpected improvements. So that is the new plan!

I’ve had two journalists interviewing me at the house this week. Viva Brighton, a really good monthly local, are doing a feature in the May issue and Sussex Life are doing a 4-page feature for their At Home section. The photo-shoot was an experience! (very detailed). I am looking forward to seeing the photos. It’s brilliant as both will come out in time to advertise the exhibition. Crafts Magazine are also doing a piece for May along with my advert. So hopefully some of the press will draw crowds!

The Ceramic House has been undergoing a tiling frenzy for the last two weeks. All the new pieces I have been making in the studio are now installed and looking good! I can hardly believe that it went so well without any major hitches! Normally, when tiling bits of the house, I am running to the studio to remake and fire and giving hot tiles to the tilers to apply! Actually, this did happen with the In Camera Gallery tiles – the first glaze firing underfired and they had to be refired, but it all worked out in the end. I am proud to show off my new grand Asturian entranceway into the house – the tiles were originally designed for El Llanu, a casa de campo on the top of a hill in northern Spain. And four new floor pieces – the front mosaicked path, the Gallery terrace with tiny handmade tiles and the lower terrace and path. Oh, and three fireplace hearths as well as the In Camera Gallery sign. This is a minor miracle that the weather behaved, the tilers did not let me down and everything has been finished on time! Triumph!


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Good news again! Hankil Ryu, our lead Korean sound artist who is helping organise the Korean trip in the autumn has confirmed that Mullae Arts Factory have put us into their programme for November. Dates TBC but we can plan for an exhibition of my work and a concert night of sound art where we plan to launch the sound app and also the film that Tela Films are going to make documenting the project. I think I might see if I can make a ‘miniature’ (well, that’s a bit unrealistic for me, as I usually make large scale work!), so perhaps a smaller scale series of pieces so the shipping is not too much of an encumbrance.

I still haven’t had time to even think about making the big piece for Sladmore Contemporary yet. Which is worrying me. There is simply too much to do. This is normal for me, so it’s just a matter of prioritising, but in the end, it still all has to be done.

I have been trying to get my current public art commission designs to a place where I can send them off, satisfy the commissioner, and put it to bed until after The Ceramic House and Sladmore exhibitions are up/over. The problem is, it is a huge, ambitious commission and I am having to practically learn photoshop (which I’ve never been very confident with) to be able to do it. So, on top of everything else, I’ve been having photoshop sessions with my graphic designer to get those done! Every day this week I’ve said I can only spend one more day working on the designs for now. So today is the last day (again!). And then I will send off a package of work in progress so they can see what I am planning at least.

I now have an assistant helping in the studio, which is brilliant. The main things she is helping with are finishing the tiles for the grand entranceway and helping with my private commission for a fireplace which keeps being subject to kiln disasters. In the last firing, one out of four of the main big feature tiles came out perfect. So, re-make!

All this week I have had tilers tiling every unfinished surface of the Ceramic Garden. Last night I was at a private view and when I told this to a friend, she said, “So you’re doing that as well as everything else, right now?!”. And I found myself attempting to make excuses! But it’s always been in the plan. For years, actually. To make the last few external floor features and the grand entranceway, and those are the tiles I have been making with an assistant since January. Anyway, the weather was favourable and the tilers were accomplished. It’s looking great! Two floors done, three fireplace hearths and the front wall/pillars nearly finished. Just one pathway to go and the new tops for the pillars (second hastily remade batch currently in the kiln – fingers crossed!) and grouting the entrance feature to complete, scheduled in for next week.

The flyers have arrived, looking nice. The advert in Crafts Magazine has been submitted. I’ve still got to send off invites to the private view at The Ceramic House. I been compiling a new list of invitees (over the last few nights during my insomniac hours), which is taking a lot longer than one might expect. I have various lists from different years so I’m trying to get a definitive updated PV invite list together once and for all!

I saw some of my Korean exhibitors at Ceramic Art London last week, which was lovely. The first box has arrived from Jon Jin Park, still unopened, but I know what he’s sent me as I chose them after seeing what he had at CAL.

The other artists have been sending me selections to choose from. Some of them! Some just haven’t, but I guess if the work is still in the kiln… that’s OK, I know it will be brilliant work. I’m worried about customs, having had boxes stopped before when coming from overseas. It’s a tricky one, as the costs are astronomical and the chances are the work will go back again anyway. I have to trust that the artists know what to do. The last thing I want is half the work being held at customs and no budget to pay the fees!

Exhibition installer booked in, photography for PV/exhibition booked. It’s countdown time now. Less than 4 weeks to go!


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GOOD NEWS! The Arts Council have made me very happy (and relieved!). I have succeeded with my big funding bid. The 7 weeks of work it took to put it together has finally paid off, after keeping me on tenterhooks for 3 months. PHEW. So now the whole project in its entire glory (we hope!) can happen without having to make drastic cuts or compromises. I am truly relieved because, as usual, the time was so tight, I have put so much work in already and many aspects of the project had to happen regardless. There was just no other way to do it. I had to keep positive and believe! Now they will be fully funded happenings, which is a massive weight off my shoulders, I can tell you.

The main things that we can now do (which absolutely could not have happened without funding) are: the entire sound element of the project and the trip to Korea for myself and Joseph Young, including an exhibition, two concerts and collaborating with the Korean sound artists. The sound app will involve Joseph working with UK and Korean sound artists to create a geo-locative audio guide in Stoke-on-Trent and Seoul sited in places of significance for ceramic production (historical and contemporary). It also means the residencies can be properly carried out and managed. The Korean artists succeeded in raising some funds towards it, but I am so relieved we can now supplement that and the work they produce for British Ceramics Biennial can be achieved with support.

The publicity side of things can now be ramped up. There is just time for me to include an advert in Crafts Magazine on top of the listing I have already submitted. Luckily the flyer has just been designed by my graphic designer, last week, so with a few alterations it will be print-ready to send off before the deadline.

I’m still beavering away one day a week in the studio trying to finish the tiles for the new grand entranceway that will announce that The Ceramic House is HERE! Just realised, when looking at the tiles we made in January for one of the floors in the back garden, that I really should make some more that are thicker. The list really does never end.

And all the time, in the background, I know I need to be designing my own work for the Sladmore show. It’s not until July but it must be a good piece of work and I am not exactly able to take my time. As for my public art commission…! At least I have no deadline looming for that, apart from a personally imposed one that I have now superseded.

I’ve got a full-time apprentice starting with me in the studio in a week and an Erasmus student coming for two months in the summer. I’ve also just been contacted by another ceramist who wants to come and help before starting at the RCA in the autumn, so at least, by putting the public art back, I am reassured to know that I have capacity to get a lot done this summer. But all this juggling is a stress. And I want to do it all at 100% of course. What other way is there?

 


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What’s happening in the world is affecting my mood. Here I am feeling rather overwhelmed trying to get so many projects done simultaneously and then there is all this STUFF – bad news basically – happening all around me. It doesn’t make being creative very easy. But we continue. So, from my tiny perspective I am now in countdown mode. The exhibition opens in 7 weeks! And I am trying to get my public art commission designed and submitted before I can start on designing my piece for the Sladmore Made in Korea show. Of course, the only thing that is really going on is everything to do with The Ceramic House. This is always the way, and the fact that I have decided to make the final leap and try to finish all the permanent exterior features that have been in planning for years doesn’t exactly lessen the work load! Designing my public art commission is going to have to take back seat.

I am in the studio one day a week now, with my current volunteer, making the tiles for the new grand entranceway for The Ceramic House. Yesterday was a minor kiln disaster day and I opened two kilns to find that a lot of tiles had warped. Remaking them now must be factored in. Ceramics is, basically, a bit of a nightmare – any ceramist will corroborate this! However, the tiles for the front wall are done and came out well. The new mosaic front path is finally finished. It took the tilers about three months because of the vagaries of the weather from start to end. We made the tiles for the three new floorpieces in the back garden in January and I’ve just booked the tiler to lay them in April. Fingers crossed for dry, clement weather.

I’ve still got to wait 10 more days to hear about the ACE bid. Feeling very nervous in case I don’t get it, which is entirely possible. These days it doesn’t matter how strong your application is and whether you have ticked every box; there is simply not enough money to go around and it all depends on what else is on the table the week of the selection. The Korean artists got knocked back for their first funding bid but I just heard they got a smaller one from the Korean Design Foundation. So that means the AIRs can definitely come, and there should be enough money for the shipping too. So that is good.

I was Miss PR last week and it brought results. I fired off and followed up press releases and several magazines have said yes! Crafts magazine, Ceramic Review, Ceramics Monthly (US) will all do features, and a couple of glossies (home/lifestyle) too. So that lifted my spirits.

I spent most of the weekend testing out a new look for The Ceramic House website. I made the website myself (slightly amazing given that I am not naturally content in front of a computer, but it was not difficult on wordpress). I have been in discussion with my web/graphic designer about this for a long time now, and we haven’t really got anywhere. So, following a meeting last week, I decided to just try some new themes out, and I could see how different and fresh it can look. It’s good that I have my designer to help with the coding and technical stuff – like making it work on a mobile device. I feel optimistic that the new website will be done this year. Whether it is in time for the May opening is another question!

Joseph Young, my sound artist collaborator and I, met up with Hankil Ryu, our lead sound artist in Korea, who was in Europe doing some gigs. He has been immensely helpful and has translated our proposal to Mullae Art Factory in Seoul, where we hope to have an exhibition of my work and a concert of sound art by Korean artists and Joseph in the autumn. Hankil hopes that Mullae will support us in some way and Joseph has applied for a small fund that would cover the costs of going to Seoul as a backup in case the funding doesn’t come through. It would be a shame not to use this great opportunity.

Last word – it was a pleasure to see two Korean ceramists I met at the Saatchi recently who were exhibiting in Collect. They are both AIRs at Yanggu Porcelain Factory. Months ago, Kyung Won translated a proposal I wrote to do a residency and hopefully a solo show or public art piece there, but nothing came back. They told me the curators are considering it. Things do tend to take a lot longer to materialise in Korea so it’s good that it’s still on the table. It’s a truly inspiring place, I would love to go there, even if it can’t be part of this project any more.


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It’s been a while again since I updated! Partly because it’s all behind the scenes stuff right now and I have been simultaneously working on three other projects on top of Made in Korea: my current public art commission, a tile commission for a private house and several new permanent installations at The Ceramic House. So, I have been a bit busy!

Obviously, the commissions are great, as it is how I make a living. However, I concede it is not ideal timing to be attempting to make three new external floorpieces and a grand new entranceway into The Ceramic House! In fact, I even have /(had) plans to make a ceramic water feature too, but I think I really might have to throw in the towel for that one at this moment in time! I have been planning, for quite some time, to have the house ‘finished’ (if that ever really happens!) by the time of this Korean show, as it is my biggest project so far and celebrates the seventh year of curating exhibitions here. Next year I plan to take a year out, so I really do want to get it all done now!

Another plan that has been in place for quite a long time now is to remake the website, and, again, this must happen by the time the show opens in May. So, I really do have my work cut out for me (as does my web designer).

So, what has been happening behind the scenes I hear you ask? A lot of admin mainly. I have been writing to the artists and gathering all the information I need to get this show on the road. Predictably, one artist has dropped out. There is always one. But that is fine, because I had a lot, maybe too many, already. So now I have a neat number of 15 Korean artists in the two exhibitions (Brighton and London), plus me in the London one, plus two artists in residence who will be here during May and June. (And that’s not including any of the sound artists, but that whole aspect of the project is pending a successful funding bid.) All the artists have been sending me all the things I have asked for – statements, biographies, photos, captions, and I have been duly chasing people up, re-writing or collating or sometimes actually writing statements for the website because they have been clearly translated from Korean in Google Translate (or some other such programme) and don’t make much sense at all! The website updates are done, with a page for every artist. You can see it all on www.theceramichouse.co.uk

I have been preparing text and images for various brochures that will feature the Ceramic House show. The good thing is, the quality of all the Korean work is consistently excellent, which helps to get media attention.

I have been having meetings with my web designer for months now about redesigning The Ceramic House website. The problem is, it is so content-heavy, that it is a mammoth task to port everything over, and so merely investigating how best to do this has taken all the time available up until now. I just don’t have the kind of budget required to build the entire thing from scratch, that is a lot of work for a designer to do. I’m getting a bit nervous about whether this will happen on time. I am also discussing the flyer/poster, which is imminent as I need to get postal invites out within the next few weeks.

I have been liaising with Sladmore Contemporary and discussing what needs to be done in terms of getting the show ready for them. I think this will be a good learning curve for me, to see how a commercial gallery operates. Already I have been sent a spreadsheet that requests minute detail about every piece of work that will be in the exhibition. Sometimes artists provide me with this kind of detail, and sometimes they don’t and I just have to wait and see what is in the box! So already I am learning to be a bit more assertive.

I have decided not to rush my new Korea-inspired work in time for London Craft Week, when we are having a mini preview of Made in Korea at Sladmore. It opens the day before my exhibition at The Ceramic House, so although I will curate it, to be trying to finish work that realistically needs more time is, quite frankly, mad, as I need all the time I can get just to get it done by the opening at Sladmore in July (on top of all my other obligations).

I have written the press release and have been sending it off to all the ceramic magazines I can think of. Next on my list are all the art magazines. There is a PR company who promotes the Artists Open Houses and sometimes they focus on my house and when they do, it works, and I get loads of press on top of what I can generate myself. So hopefully they will again this year… I’ve sent them everything they asked for. I reckon an artist-led sound and ceramics project about Korean and British work involving multiple artists, exhibitions, a new residency, new commissions and a geo-locative sound app in Stoke and Seoul merits the interest, so here’s hoping. Today I got my first positive response from the press I have been contacting. Ceramics Monthly, the foremost magazine on ceramics in the USA is going to do a feature!


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