I've been out and about in Surrey recently. I'm keen to find a place in the creative community here as well as do some research into the arts heritage, without getting too National Trust about it all. As I said in an earlier post my branding seems to pay homage to the Arts & Crafts movement. This part of Surrey attracted many people in the movement and so I decided to do some more exploring. I see also that their approach, which gave emphasis to hand-crafting and traditional skills, is sympathetic with mine. I didn't set out with an 'Arts & Crafts' philosophy. It's just interesting that looking at my work, much of this has infiltrated my thinking. I wonder if by being brought up in this part of the world and having some awareness of the movement, it managed to infiltrate some how.
I might just add at this point that I find there is an awful lot of 'local arts & craft' in Surrey, as everywhere, which is just not good enough. I applaud effort and everyone's creative endeavour but I'm a bit tired of seeing stuff that's just a little too amateur. Each to their own, I suppose.
So my first move was to go to The Watts Gallery. In fact, Watts, a painter, is earlier than the Arts & Crafts folks but he overlaps towards the end of his life and his wife, Mary, tried to create something of a craft community in Compton. She build this extraordinary chapel as a mausoleum using local potters who she'd trained up. It's fantastically eccentric. The gallery shows a good selection of Watts' paintings and the tea room is highly recommended.
Whilst I attempt to reduce my book collection on a regular basis, I mysteriously come home with new books all the time. I bought this delightful book called 'Brickfields' at the gallery.
. The book is by Mary Wondrausch and she describes the book as "My Life at Brickfields as a Potter, Painter, Gardener, Writer and Cook". It's all about this quite famous potter who's house and garden were all works of art.. again extremely eccentrically so. It really reminded me of Charleston, the home to the Bloomsbury group in Sussex. Bricklands is also Mary Wondraush's shop and studio in Compton (same village as the Watt's Gallery, near Guildford and Godalming).
Finally, on Wednesday I made the visit to Brickfields. Wondrausch is still going strong at 84. She has exhibited extensively and some of her work is in the V&A. I'm not crazy about all of her work. It's European Folk-ispired slipware, as some of it's too bold, though I really like the later work, which uses a method called sgrafitto. It's much gentler. I saw she had some ceramic plaques with her name on with lots of bold ornamental lines and I had an idea. I've been wanting to get a wooden sign with my name & my squiggles made as part of my itinerant shop front. I can put it outside my studio and take it to shows and so on. So, instead of a wooden sign, I now have a pottery one on order.
Returning to the Watts Gallery briefly I also went to an excellent talk there about an Arts & Crafts illustrator called Walter Crane. I found this through the Society for the Arts & Crafts Movement in Surrey. I'm not wild about paintings but I do like his illustrations, especially the work on logos and signs. He, as were a number of the A&C movement, was an early socialist. They were mad keen about the dignity of workers and introducing art to the workers and also the power of imagery to inform and educate. It seemed to me to be an early form of branding.
Shortly after this I read about the Chalk Hill Contemporary Art Gallery in Guildford. This gallery is owned by Annabel Agace, who uses her home as a gallery. In fact, I was very interested to see her home, an optimistic beacon of modernist light in the otherwise safe and timid 'fake-country' style of nearly every new-build I see here in Surrey. I really liked the the way she'd integrated art into her living space. Annabel has been a keen collector for years now hosts three to four exhibitions a year and the work is of London gallery standard. I'm not saying everything in London is inherently good quality but I noted her different approach when she told me she doesn't do the 'local artist' thing. I think work should stand on it's merits, not just because it's from a local artist. There's a subtle difference. I mean, Mary Waundrausch is stands tall in her own way as a celebrated potter, and that she is local is an added dimension. This is what I aspire to with my work.
I also made a visit to Farnham Pottery, which is, confusingly, in a village outside Farnham called Wrecclesham. It's a Victorian brick kiln, which is being restored, in fact with the assistance, I gather, of the aforementioned Society for the Arts & Crafts Movement in Surrey. They have a pottery studio and tile company -- really good work -- and a smart new farm shop and cafe. I have been speaking to them about maybe having my business based there, considerably in the future. The location is a little off-the-beaten-track so would require a car journey, which I'm a little against, but the atmosphere, the quality and the charm of the place would sit really well alongside my work. Something to think about and I need the business to be much more established, but it's good to have an eye on the future.
Finally, I've joined the Surrey Artists network and will be showing at their June 2008 Open Studios event. I'll show in the barn in fact, rather than my studio, as it's a better space. They have a good list and have quite a lot of publicity so it will be an experiment to see what the response is. I should have some prototypes or even samples for my AW08/9 so it will be useful. They have asked me to display the process from inception to production, so that will be interesting (for me at least and hopefully others.)