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…
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!
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!