Stoke-on-Trent is set for a festival literally enclosed in its manufacturing past next month. The British Ceramics Biennial has announced it will enlist 24 artists, potters and designers when it opens in the English bowl-churning mecca at the end of September, chosen from a national competition which attracted more than 150 entries.
© Katharine Morling
These headliners will take part in Award, a survey of current practitioners taking place at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and the likes of former Jerwood Prize winner Philip Eglin and porcelain perfectionist Carina Ciscato are among their ranks. The museum is one of the best in the land, but the epicentre of the biennial is one of the most fitting relics imaginable from the region’s centuries of craft.
The original Spode factory site, on Elenora Street, was the base for Josiah Spode’s pottery company when he founded it in 1770, creating a hugely popular Blue Italian range which remains highly recognisable today. The business’s descent into administration at the end of 2008 came partly because of its failure to sell the site, which was eventually secured by the city council as part of a blueprint to link the University Quarter, train station and town centre.
Rumours suggest it could be turned into a pottery factory, but for now it provides a stark venue for Fresh, showcasing pieces by 40 graduate “ceramic stars of the future” in a second strand of the festival. Eglin has also popped inside the factory for Mould Store, which will reclaim and rework discarded ceramic moulds from nine remaining stores at the original site, and five fellow artists will also respond to the site, allowing visitors to dart around the old workshops in pursuit of their works. One of the largest shop floors will also provide the setting for A Great Wall, a large-scale installation full of tableware which aims to highlight the brilliance of the national ceramic industry.
“The Spode Works site offers a wealth of opportunities,” points out Councillor Mark Meredith, who says historic buildings will form “an integral part” of the local regeneration masterplan. “It is pleasing to see the site being brought back in to use with creative projects like the biennial.”
- The British Ceramics Biennial takes place September 30 – November 13 2011.