I arrived at a very old age in 2015 and this made me think somewhat retrospectively in an attempt to quantify what I have done and to point to what I might go on to do.
Up until 1994 most of my work was thrown and handbuilt stoneware pottery fired in an electric kiln; but my introduction to new techniques by Jim Robison led to the production of handbuilt hanging panels derived largely from the study of landscape, especially that found in the foothills of the Pennines where I lived at the time (although a visit to the French Alps also influenced my imagery). I then became fascinated by the ‘Ulster Cycle’ and especially the tales surrounding Sgathaic & Cu Chulainn. So although landscape imagery still featured strongly in my work I began to search for other symbolic images to represent the heroic tales. It became clear that landscape hid a wealth of historical (and mythical) information which might be worth trying to discover. This caused me to produce work which I called my ‘Celtic’ series.
On a visit to my oldest daughter who lives in Crete I had a couple of interesting experiences which led me to consider more assiduously the secrets held by the landscape. Thus a body of work which I called the ‘Andartes’ series was produced. This work reverted back to vessel forms which I had not produced for some time.
My interest in the secrets of the landscape continued during my many visits to Northumberland where I studied a whole plethora of prehistoric art in the landscape. My ‘Cup & Ring’ series was the result of this.
I had also become moved by the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a short story by Richard Bach that had been published in 1972 but which I had not discovered until 1994. This short story was a strong influence. It was for me a consolidation of my Quaker beliefs. It contained a strong message of spirituality and because of this a simple motif representing Jonathan Livingston Seagull began to appear on all my work.
When I moved to Newbiggin by the Sea in south east Northumberland in 2005 I was, at first, disappointed by the unspectacular landscape. I had taken for granted the East Cheshire landscape where I had lived for twenty five years and my new environment was by comparison a shortfall to my expectations. But the sea began to take on a new meaning for me. And I also discovered a strong underlying narrative that related to the community and its history. It was at this point that my ‘Sea Series’ was developed and this took on a variety of forms ranging from hanging panels to free standing vessels.
My recognition of the strong community spirit led me, with a group of likeminded artists, to set up “Keap Creative”. As a group we engaged the community in a variety of ways in an attempt to contribute to the regeneration of the area. One way was the production of Newbiggin’s ‘Art Trail’.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull was perhaps now more significant so I revisited him and produced a major piece of work which was originally installed in the new Newbiggin Maritime Centre. The Centre and its main exhibit, the Mary Joicey all weather lifeboat also provided stimulus for new bodies of work.
My involvement in the community has resulted in a need to capture the spirit of Newbiggin and a recent body of work has developed along these lines.
The new work has taken me in a completely new direction. It has become far more colourful than my previous reduction fired stoneware which contained more subtle colour and texture combinations. The new work has been raw glaze fired to stoneware and then reglazed with a selection of earthenware glazes used in a painterly fashion. Where necessary further earthenware glaze firings have been carried out. I have become fascinated by the results achieved while experimenting with the new techniques. There are times when I have thought that had I pursued this path twenty years ago I could quite easily have ended up a painter. I am much influenced by the work of Jeremy Gardiner and Peter Lanyon whose whole new approach to landscape work opened up a new way of looking. I am suddenly no longer making pots or vessels in the quantities that I used to but am now producing hanging ceramic panels derived from my studies of the landscape and hopefully imbued with a sense of history and spirituality.
The techniques used are assuming much greater significance and my latest area of interest has come about by absorbing the imagery and atmosphere of Ardnamurchan in Scotland where I find the landscape imagery exciting and the sense of place overwhelmingly spiritual. Work is still in progress.
In addition to the production of my personal work I am responsible for organizing art exhibitions at Newbiggin Maritime Centre in Northumberland. I have been doing this now for four years and have managed to provide opportunities for a variety of artists and photographers to take advantage of the display space in the Centre’s Breakwater Café. It has become clear that the demand for such a venture is increasing so in 2016 (with the approval of the Centre’s Board of Trustees) I will be arranging three fairly major exhibitions in the Centre’s Latimer Room. I am hoping that this initiative will be well received and go some way to compensating for the loss of the annual Highlights Craft Exhibition which attracted large audiences and much appreciation until a lack of funding made it impossible to continue hosting. You can keep up to date with what is happening by visiting the Maritime Centre’s website at www.nmcentre.org.uk