Last Sunday I finally made it to the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Leicestershire. An exhibition of Lisa Hammond's work provided the impetus but they've been on my hit list for a long time so it was great to finally visit. What might have been a pleasant family outing turned out to be surprisingly inspiring!
They had over 200 pieces by Hammond in a wider range of forms and finishes than I had seen before. It was intriguing to see her distinctive approach carrying through these explorations. According to the catalogue she had recently stayed for some months in Japan and worked in other studios, using her host's clays, glazes and kilns so the exhibition was a record of that journey. My mum's questions probed the outer reaches of my understandings of wood and soda firings, shino glazes and slip work - and it all served to rekindle my interest in this more organic approach.
However, the surprise star of the trip was another maker. The evening before the visit we watched their film about Lee Kang-Hyo (they make a lot of films about the makers they exhibit and are well worth watching), a Korean potter whose work had previously caught my attention at Collect, but about whom I knew little. It's a fascinating watch and the pots at the end literally took my breath away. I was therefore delighted to discover several of his pieces in the many spaces of the gallery.
Lee trained with traditional masters making large onggi jars and using the punch'ong style of decoration, and remains intentionaly rooted in these traditions. But he is another explorer. After a period of intense reflection he now works more freely using his skills in new and more personal ways to express his energies. I found both the journey and the pots he produces very powerful, moving and inspiring.
After last year's challenges of conceiving and designing my new collection my creative work had settled into more routine making that had begun to feel not entirely satisfying. I was becoming conscious of this at the same time as I was fortunate enough to see these two great bodies of work by infinately curious, talented and skilled ceramic explorers and together they have galvanised me!
The team at Goldmark have also played a part - the custodian of the ceramics gallery was encouraging me in all seriousness to apply for funding and make a trip to Korea myself! I might put that plan on the back burner whilst we move and set up the new studio, but the spark of inspiration and exploration remains. I'm not sure yet where it might take me but I hope to be able to share some of the journey with you as it unfolds...