Culture & Creative IndustriesNews

For the first time, Watts Contemporary Gallery will present a group ceramics show, bringing together work by ten leading contemporary artists to demonstrate the diversity of contemporary practice and to celebrate the long tradition of pottery at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village.


Inspired by the legacy of ceramic artist Mary Watts (1849 – 1938), the artists in this exhibition are all women.  Mary Watts was the co-founder of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, teaching clay modelling to local villagers and subsequently helping them to establish a pottery co-operative that provided employment in the village for over 50 years.  Between 1900 and 1956 the Compton Pottery flourished, selling at Liberty & Co and receiving commissions from the most eminent architects including Lutyens and Clough Williams-Ellis, for his Italianate village, Portmeirion. 


Significantly, the exhibition takes place in one of the original Compton Pottery buildings, remodelled as part of the restoration of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village to provide a gallery space in which the charity can show and sell work associated with the ethos of the Artists’ Village.  Proceeds from Watts Contemporary exhibitions directly benefits Watts Gallery Trust’s Art for All learning programme.


Work selected for this exhibition – which includes terracotta, stoneware, earthenware and porcelain – will show how leading contemporary makers are exploring new techniques and pushing artistic boundaries whilst acknowledging the influence of the past.  Studio potterJulie Ayton makes exquisite stoneware and porcelain pieces and, in a career spanning 25 years, has exhibited widely across the UK; as the daughter of renowned potter Clive Bowen, Helena Bowen always had clay ‘at hand’.  Inspired by a love of horses, Helena creates carefully modelled ceramic horses; Lucy Burley draws inspiration from the still-life paintings of Giorgio Morandi and from nature’s palette to create her elegant sculptural vessels; Penny Green’s detailed ceramic figures and objects include references to the past, including medieval illustrations and Elizabethan miniatures; Felicity Jones decorates her fine porcelain and white earthenware pieces with plants she collects while out walking with her dogs, adding underglaze to create a beautiful watercolour effect; award-winning Silvia Komodyova makes tableware and terracotta vessels inspired by the folk traditions and artefacts of her native Slovakia, tapping into the idea of social history to create modern interpretations of traditional designs; in the course of her 40 year career, Myra McDonnell has collaborated with illustrious clients including Raymond Blanc, Soho House and Watts Gallery. Myra’s tin-glazed pottery has been exhibited internationally and for this exhibition Myra will be showing highly decorative platters and bowls; Sophie MacCarthy’s slip-painted earthenware is widely admired for its distinctive imagery and bold, joyous colour; Stephanie Robinson takes inspiration from the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and from the Arts & Crafts movement to create elegantly patterned work inspired by nature, and Jane Sarre will present her tactile serving and table-ware, inspired by family tradition. 


Commenting, Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said: 


“It couldn’t be more fitting to celebrate some of our best ceramicists in the very building where Mary Watts established the Compton Potters’ Art Guild. Today Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village continues to be a centre of creativity and production, offering art and craft education to local people through artist-led workshops, courses and social enterprise projects. As we explore the art and ideas of ten leading potters through Watts Ceramics 2019, we also record how Mary Watts invited the people of Compton into her studio to learn different art based skills. Today local charities, community groups, prisons and schools continue to create their own art with Watts Gallery through the Mary Watts Pottery Revival Project using ceramic press moulds similar to those used at the Compton Pottery, to make terracotta ceramics inspired by the methods and ideas of Mary Watts”. 

Watts Ceramics 2019 opens at Watts Contemporary Gallery on 7 September (until 20 October).  All work is for sale, with prices ranging from £30 to £600.  


For further information:          @WattsGallery         facebook/thewattsgallery