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Icon Ceramic and Glass Group Study Day and AGM 17th November 2018

Melanie Howard, Museum of the History of Science, Oxford


Image: Group members at a special guided tour to the archive of the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham, led by Simon Olding (right); Melanie Howard

Though a member of Icon for some years, it was only recently that I attended my first event run by the Ceramics and Glass Group, which met in November at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham for its AGM. I had intended to visit the Crafts Study Centre (CSC) for a number of years so this was the motivation I needed. It enabled me to access this amazing resource and combine it with a visit to the annual Art in Clay event at the Maltings Centre.

First, the group was to benefit from the knowledge and experience of the Centre’s Director, Professor Simon Olding, who summarized the history and establishment of the Crafts Study Centre and its collection. The Centre was founded by a group of likeminded individuals, led by printmaker Robin Tanner, for the purpose of making a permanent collection of works by the finest twentieth century artist-craftspeople working in the UK. The Centre’s ability to meet its objective greatly improved following the 2004 opening of the purpose-built museum and research centre at Farnham. The collection focuses on quality works by pioneer craftspeople that might otherwise have been lost, particularly in the areas of modern and contemporary ceramics, textiles, calligraphy, furniture and wood, paper, film, photographic and other archives of makers for the 20th and 21st centuries.

The ceramics collection, which was the primary focus of our visit, dates from around 1920 to the present day and represents the work of many pioneer and leading studio potters. The Centre holds an outstanding collection of objects central to the history of 20th-century studio crafts movement in Britain and it is supported by archive materials relating to makers represented in the collections. From a research perspective, the archive is crucial to understanding more about the collections and individual artists and their work. After our introduction to the Centre and its work, we were divided into two groups for guided visits to the Research Room where there was a display of ceramics from the collection, among them works by William Staite Murray, Richard Batterham, Eric Mellon, Michael Cardew, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, and Katherine Pleydon-Bouverie. This small selection of pots by key 20th-century makers demonstrates the depth and richness of materials held by the Centre. After a brief overview of the ceramics on show and their origins, Simon Olding explained how and why recent acquisitions were purchased. It was evident that commitment and hard work go into maintaining and developing the collection.

The other group had the opportunity to explore current CSC exhibitions including Brought to Book that investigates the way that particular collections relate to a book of some description; Richard Slee’s Framed wall mounted ceramics; and David Grimshaw: Crafting the Digital, an investigation into material and process-led digital making. After the tours, the formal business of the AGM was dealt with swiftly. New members were voted in and those leaving the Committee were thanked, in particular the Group acknowledged the hard work and commitment of Jasmina Vuckovic and Roland Pile. The Committee announced a three-day conference at the British Museum (5-7 September 2019) staged collaboratively between the Icon Ceramics and Glass Group, ICOM-CC, and the British Museum. This conference will bring together specialist professionals in a prestigious location and will generate a publication that advances the study and care of ceramics and glass. Members were reminded to promote the biannual Nigel Williams Prize, which rewards conservation work in ceramic, glass or other related materials in the past three years.

The afternoon was spent visiting Art in Clay at Farnham Maltings. Now in its twenty second year, the event showcases a diverse range of modern ceramics by UK and European makers. The variety of works from emerging ceramic artists and established makers illustrated the wealth of talent around who continue the tradition of the potters we had viewed in the morning. There were talks and demonstrations by makers and the opportunity to learn more about their materials and techniques. Film screenings included a series of pottery films and documentaries including The Leach Pottery (1952) with original footage of Bernard Leach, which linked back to our morning visit to CSC. The Ceramic and Glass Group AGM and study day provided the opportunity to network as well as visit an amazing collection, to focus on and engage with the very material that made me pursue a career in conservation. At such events, I am always interested to see what various institutions hold and fascinated by the connections I make to other collections or ceramicists I have studied or admired. It was informative and inspiring and I look forward to attending the conference in 2019.


Icon Ceramics and Glass Group Conference September 7th and 8th 2017

Chair's report on Conference and AGM, by Dana E. Norris ACR

The conference was very successful this year due to the number of vibrant speakers and a fantastic setting.  Based on Magdalen College’s historic cloister, the delegates were also able to visit many of the college chapels across the city, which are well known for their wonderful stained glass windows.  We were particularly fortunate to have presentations by conservators working in the UK, Germany, USA, Australia and Russia.

The AGM was held on September 8th during the conference in Oxford this year.  Our committee saw a number of changes, most importantly that our Chair Rachel Sharples stepped down after seven years of dedicated volunteer work.  The committee wishes her well in her new endeavours and is very grateful for all the time that has gone into chairing the group and supporting events for the members. We also welcomed our newest committee member, Holly Daws, who was elected Treasurer.   Dana Norris ACR was elected Chair, Helen Warren Secretary, and Tiago Oliveira Nigel Williams Prize Coordinator.  The group is also fortunate to have continued support from Jasmina Vučković ACR and Ronald Pile as Events Coordinators.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to the CGG Events Survey conducted during the summer. From the survey, we were able to better understand what subjects our members are most interested in, a valuable asset in events planning.  Responses were received from 46 ICON members. The results showed that tours of museum conservation departments were by far the most highly rated. The survey also indicated a high interest in visiting commercial conservation companies, galleries and artist’s studios.  When asked about potential speakers, Conservators were preferred for lectures and presentations, in comparison to professionals in related disciplines such as Art Historians and Scientists.  A range of workshop topics were rated with Colour Gap Filling, Gliding and Stain Removal being the most popular. The committee will strive to plan 2018’s CGG events with these results and those from the conference feedback forms in mind.

The conference booklet with abstracts from each presentation is available on the group’s page as a PDF under Resources. The conference posters are also published on the group pages. The committee is now planning events for 2018, the AGM will be held Farnham and include a visit to the Crafts Study Centre.