A trip from Ledbury to St Ives coincided with one of those May days when the sun is hazy, the temperature mild, and the rolling landscape, as you enter Cornwall (or Kernow in Cornish), is sprinkled with mayflower and a roadside flora that does not seem to belong to any other part of the country. When you lower the car window and breathe in the fresh smell of early summer and gaze at the way the blue hills recede into subtle greys and you get your first peek at the sea between clumps of trees and rocks, you could easily bring to mind the painters Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon and Terry Frost. On the other hand, a lot of people go to St Ives for its ceramic associations, thanks mainly to Bernard Leach and his Japanese-inspired studio pottery, and visit not only the Tate gallery there, but also the fine independent galleries that exhibit both painting and pottery. There is no doubt too that a lot of people take advantage of what is on offer there and stuff their faces with Cornish pasties, fudge and ice cream. I know I did.
St Ives Ceramics is on Fish Street, right by the harbour, and was opened by John Bedding back in the 90s. Bedding worked at the Leach Pottery and is now an influential presence in the ceramic world. It was he who introduced us to the idea of a dedicated ceramics gallery that would show work to its best and as primary exhibits. The gallery has since expanded and now shows a range of the best in contemporary studio pottery. The entrance appears small but once inside you realize that it is a treasure trove of ceramic pieces shown in four generous and well-lit spaces. The size of the whole space is a surprise.
I would urge you to drop in when you are in the South West, not least because some of my new ceramics will be on display, but also because you can enjoy the exhibits in a very quiet and cool place, away from the bustle of St Ives, and then consider going onto the Tate St Ives – at this time there was an exhibition of Patrick Heron’s which was inspirational. By the way, it is best to walk – avoid driving in the town and leave your car at one of the car parks further up the hill. Or better, arrive by train.
On the way back to Ledbury my head was full of the possibilities that clay offers us, and of the complex ways it can express moods and feelings depending on the way the material is used. It can do “sombre” and “flippant”, it can invite you to touch or it can repel intimacy, it can sit heavy and unfathomable on a plinth or seem to want to fly away. Most of all it reminded me how much human pleasure is achieved through making.
Which in turn made me think of CUP, and what follows is another reminder of our open-access ceramics studio situated in Hereford which we aim to open in Autumn 2018. We want to provide a unique and creative community for beginners, intermediate and advanced ceramicists to share ideas, skills and friendships in an inclusive, relaxed and ambient environment. Excellent facilities, storage and expertise can be accessed for an affordable monthly fee allowing time for experimentation and extensive development of skills. CUP Ceramics is a social enterprise, so our profits are committed to providing access to ceramics for all in our local community.
CUP is currently running a crowd funding campaign to show that there is a demand for what we offer in Herefordshire. Here, you can find out more about us and pledge for discounted courses and membership. Or you can simply make any donation, no matter how small, to help make it happen.
Please have a look at the new website for Peter Arscott Ceramics.