These photographs catalogue my fascination with the connections between people and place, materials and function – a vital area of focus for me.. For me ceramics can be functional and beautiful – and so often have a really deeply personal connection to the people that use them everyday. However – as this growing series of photographs shows, the materials available to people are so varied, and there are so many considerations – size, price, availability, durability, weight etc…. that whilst some people do have a strong sense of attachment – many don’t – the emphasis being more simply and directly about utility.
My photographs fall into two main categories: landscape and human. I attempt to capture the sense of curiosity and fascination I have for the landscapes I am exploring as I search for clay and glaze materials. I want to convey the beauty a place has; it’s form, the light, the natural habitats and living things there, the layers there are – historic activity now only hinted at by a bank, ditch, soil heap…. and also the materials present that I may be able use to make small batches of ceramics. As I explore these places, I also wish to record the people who help me, either with the offer of access to materials, or in allowing me to capture their specific connection to the work I am pursuing – recently that has been through baking….. The photographs set the context for my work, setting the scene that the pots alone cannot achieve.
My connection with pancheons starts with a visit to the Piece Hall in Halifax, in 1985. There was a stall selling these beautiful, functional bowls for a few quid a piece, and I came away with two – one for my parents and one for me. I have treasured this bowl ever since. During my meanderings and exploration of Isaac Button’s old workshop site north of Halifax, I found rim shards from broken pancheons identical to mine, scattered around the area and along the bridleway that led down from the site (which was then being converted into apartments – or so I was told). The classic still photograph taken from John Anderson’s 1966 film, Isaac Button Country Potter, shows Isaac carrying a ware board with five medium pancheons – again identical to the one I bought all those years ago. Given that these forms were not stamped with a makers mark – I can only guess – or hope that, mine is one from this iconic workshop.
My pancheons are made primary from locally sourced, hand-dug clay (earthenware and stoneware), and echo the traditional forms associated with bread making, dairying and general home use (washing etc.) that were made in the centuries before plastics, pressed steel and other cheaper, more durable alternatives became widely available. They come in a variety of sizes, most commonly with a diameter of 35 cm and a height of around 15 cm.