It’s a bit late to say Happy New Year but it’s good to be at the beginning of another year with lots of plans and projects under way. Even when there are so many things happening simultaneously, a natural break provides much needed breathing space to reflect, see what needs to be done and prioritise.

I am predominantly spending my time right now working on my current public art commission, which has been much neglected of late. This is allowed, as unusually I have a 6 year timescale! But of course I want to get it done much sooner than that. The first week of January was spent driving around Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire researching the piece of work I am designing, which is sited in Bedfordshire. I also have a new studio volunteer and another who wants to become my apprentice. So I need to make time to work with them in the studio and teach them useful skills etc. There are always things to do in the studio! So the second week of January was spent in the studio beginning a new tiled gateway for The Ceramic House, which I plan to be finished by the time the exhibition opens in May. So finally there will be no mistaking which house is the one that is covered in tiles (currently hidden behind a facade of ordinariness!). I am also working on a private commission for a domestic fireplace, which is in progress.

Anyway, behind the scenes, I am chugging away with the preparation for Made in Korea. Even though I have to wait until the end of March to find out the results of my arts council funding bid, there are many aspects of the project that will happen regardless, in particular the two exhibitions at The Ceramic House in May and at Sladmore Contemporary in July. I am currently waiting for the artists to send me information for the press release so I can begin the PR campaign. This is no mean feat with 16 exhibiting artists. The deadline I set for this first stage is tomorrow and so far I have heard back from 6 out of 16 (some of whose work is shown here). So there is much chasing up to be done, which takes time, of course.

The other thing that I have already started setting in motion is the redesign of The Ceramic House website. There is a huge amount of archive data on the website at the moment, so we need to find a solution to move it all over to a new site without having to rewrite and reload it all. I plan to have this ready for the exhibition in May too.

I went to visit Gerry Farrell’s Sladmore Gallery stand at London Art Fair a couple of days ago. It was good to see him and great to see such a variety of work throughout the fair. We are planning a mini Made in Korea show upstairs at Sladmore Contemporary for London Craft Week, which conveniently coincides with the opening of the show in Brighton. The selected artists for this are Myung Nam An and Jin Eui Kim, both British-based ceramic artists from Korea, and I will present a taster of my new work inspired by my trip to Korea which I am making for the opening at Sladmore in July. I need to start sifting through the reference and research material I gathered in Korea to start the design process for my new body of work too. So I think a good start to the year will be efficient time management and planning what happens on each day of the week, or it will all become too unwieldy and difficult to effectively achieve everything simultaneously.


I am finally emerging from 7 weeks with my head inside the computer! Or that is what it feels like. Mainly writing a funding application for the Arts Council to fund this project. I submitted it last night! Two days before Christmas and two weeks over due but IN. Now three months waiting to find out if success or no.

But as part of the pain of going through that (let’s face it, it isn’t exactly a joy, feels more like wading through treacle at times), I have actually accomplished many positive things for this project on the way.

The biggest plus is that British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) have agreed to partner on the project. This took a lot of wooing, mainly because the director is so busy, so it was difficult to obtain a meeting, but in the end he loved our idea. Which, by the way, has changed! Of course. That’s one of the interesting things about planning a project like this with so many partners, that things keep moving around and shifting, new ideas and suggestions take the place of previous intentions that seemed solid. Also by spending that much time and energy on the details of the funding bid, by the end of it you really know exactly what you are doing inside and out. Which is good. But it still keeps you away from the studio for weeks on end.

The residencies we will be running at The Ceramic House will be for two Korean ceramists who have now been selected: Kyung Won Baek and Jin Kim, both living in Seoul, who will collaborate together on a piece of work in response to the ceramic traditions of Stoke on Trent that will be shown at BCB next autumn. I will also make a new piece of work for BCB reflecting on my trip to Korea and the inspiration I gathered there pertaining to Korean traditional ceramics and ceramics in architecture. This I will place in the context of Stoke-on-Trent and its heritage of pottery production, so I will be making visits to the city to lay the foundations for the new work.

The title Made in Korea refers to the correspondences between Korean and British ceramic traditions, in particular the dialogue between hand made and industrial processes common to both cultures. This will be the brief for the sound element of the project.

The sound and ceramic elements are now much more clearly defined as two strands of this project. Joseph Young, my partner and collaborator, who I worked with on this year’s Landscape : Islands project, is taking the lead for sound and this is now an augmented reality geo-locative app produced by echoes.xyz and it will be in the form of two audio trails in Stoke-on-Trent and Seoul. I will write more about that later as it needs explanations! Most people (like me) wonder what an augmented reality geo-locative app is, so keep reading this and you will find out!

Lots more updates to come. But I now have a Christmas lunch to prepare! At least it’s nice to be back blogging and even better to think I will be able to get my teeth into my current public art commission immediately after the New Year instead of stewing in front of a computer.

Merry Christmas!


(Written on the plane back from Seoul)

Today was going to be a busy one. Having made the appointment before realising that my flight, although leaving on the 2nd, was actually just after midnight on the 1st (which meant I was actually leaving a day earlier than I had thought), it was the fullest day you could imagine before heading for the airport.

First thing, after packing and checking out, I headed straight for the National Museum of Korea to buy some books on Korean ceramics. It was closed yesterday so today was my last chance! Last time I came to visit I was in a rush to make another appointment so had not time to check out the literature, and given that researching Korean ceramics was one of my main reasons for coming here, I feel some reading material would be a good thing once I’m home.

So, books in bag, I headed off to meet KyungWon. I must say I did spend a fairly large percentage of the day on trains. Seoul is massive, and getting around on the train takes a good while wherever you are going, and Icheon is actually a town well outside of Seoul. So we caught many trains and taxis today!

Icheon is actually one of the three ‘pottery towns’, Sugwang-ri, Sindun-myeon, Saeum-dong, and, together with Yeoju, it is equivalent to the 6 pottery towns that make up Stoke on Trent.

It is also home to Gyenog-gi International Ceramic Bienniale, one of the most famous ceramic events on the calendar. As a result, there is a massive site with several huge buildings that have been constructed over the past 10 years to house the Bienniale, the Permanent Collection and three temporary exhibition spaces. It also has a residency programmes for emerging ceramic artists housed in two well equipped, spacious buildings.

Jung Eun Han was the focus of our visit and has a studio there as an artist in residence. I was drawn to Jung Eun’s work when Kyung Won included her on the list of suggestions for the show – actually it is farily unforgettable, given that she makes large ceramic seats in the shape of bananas and quirky faces.

She showed us around. The two exhibitions I saw were excellent and I recognized many familiar artists from around the world whose work is in the collection and was part of one of the temporary exhibitions, Painting in Clay. What a luxury to be able to go through the archive and just pick world-class pieces to show as part of an exhibition.

I quizzed Jung Eun about how the residency programme works here. The main building for AIRs it turns out is quite tightly controlled and rather restrictive. It is extremely competitive to be selected, and seems to be a good place to start off after graduating. The emerging artists have one year and are paid a small stipend and have free studio space and firings. The main sticking point is that they are expected to be present from 10-6 every day and they are working in a situation where visitors can stroll past and watch – gives me a slightly weird feeling of being on display, perhaps? The artists who stay on for another year (Jung Eun is one) have much more freedom to do what they want and have really great spaces in a different building. Again, free firings, which is fantastic and low rent.

The best thing about this place must be when the Bienniale happens. I can just imagine how it must come alive with amazing art and artists, events, visitors. The whole complex is full of evidence of a rich ceramic tradition. Be nice to be there for that sometime. Even better to be in it!

After that several more trains back into Seoul and then a farewell dinner to say goodbye to Won, who has been a most excellent and conscientious host and has really gone out of her way with typical Korean hospitality in taking me to meet so many artists and exhibitions and ceramic institutions over the past 3 weeks. Next time we meet it will be in Brighton!



One of the missions I had set myself for this trip was to get some footage of the artist working in their studios. So I have been duly carrying my tripod and camera along to every studio visit and politely asking them if they mind being filmed working. I will hand the footage over to my usual filmmaker and hopefully some of it might make the cut for the eventual documentary that will be made about the project.

Alongside filming them, I have been attempting to record the sounds of them working in the studio. This is totally depends on how noisy their making processes are. I gradually got a system going where I set up the camera filming, then readied myself with the sound recorder (carefully managing to stay out of shot but as close as possible!) and with my mobile phone at the ready in my other hand to take photographs! A juggling game, but hopefully some of it worked!

Most of the artists took the challenge graciously and set about preparing things I could film/record. It was quite good to record and film BoKyung Kim and MinSoo Lee working on the wheel and using a clay mixer. Hye Mi Lee sat at her wheel carving the tiniest lids imaginable for her oil lamps, and KyungWon Baek ground up particles of fired black clay and sifted them into wet porcelain. Jongjin Park set about filing down his layered fired pieces, provided excellent material for sound recording. WookJae I filmed only, as his carving of a lion’s head was very quiet work indeed!

It was near the end of my trip when I suddenly thought that I needed to film the experience of me being in Korea as well! This realisation occurred around the same time that I realised I had one day less than I thought I did in Korea because my flight, although leaving on the 2nd, was actually just after midnight on the 1st which meant my time was very short indeed.

The last few days were filled with back to back appointments and I still hadn’t had even a few hours to go sightseeing. I had one possible day when I could attempt to carry out filming.

As luck would have it, the day in question, which was my second last day, was gloriously sunny, perfect for filmingI mapped out a route across Seoul, taking in as many interesting locations as I could. I started off at the Royal Palace (Gyeongbokgung) and continued along the Cheong-gy-cheon, a new waterway which replaces a busy highway where a long-buried stream used to flow.

I visited the City Hall, the statue of King Sejong who is a revered Korean figure and is remembered in particular for his accomplishment of creating the Korean alphabet, which I have been assured by many foreigners, makes learning Korean a lot easier compared to other Oriental languages.

I visited Dongdaemun, the Great East Gate that used to be one of the entrances into the walled city,

and Zaha Hadid’s huge and impressive Dongdaemun Design Plaza that dominates everything around it.

I then went to see Namsangol Hanok Village, pretty touristy but retaining many traditional Korean hanok buildings in a pretty setting underneath Namsan, the most central of the five mountains forming a ring around the city.

I caught a bus up to the top of Namsan, which was quite an experience. The 360 degree views of Seoul from a lofty vantage point were quite astonishing. (Brighton I360 eat your heart out!)

After watching a performances of traditional dances and mingling with about 5000 other visitors (really!), I caught the cable car down to Namdaemun Market, the biggest market in Seoul , where I tried a new dish for lunch that I hadn’t had before – very nice!

My camera ran out of space on the memory card and battery, so for a while I had to resort to filming on the iPhone, until I manage to get to the camera shop to buy the necessary back-up equipment to continue with the camera. After seeing Sungnyemun, the West Gate, I ended up after dark at Deoksugung, the only Royal Palace that you can visit after dark, which was lovely and peaceful with illuminated architectural gems.

Last stop was Myeong-dong commercial centre, heart of Seoul by far the busiest, most vibrant, neon-lit shopping area of any city I have ever visited. Defintely worth trying to capture on film except my new battery ran out in record time (probably wasn’t charged fully in the shop) so again I had to resort to the phone. Anyway by that time I was really ready to stop!

After a very long but productive day (at least I hope the filming is!), I went back to my guest house to pack – 24 hours to go before I have to be at the airport and still one major visit to go!