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Ask the Expert Q&A 3 October: Top of the Pots! – Helen Walsh and Fiona Green

Helen Walsh and Fiona Green will be answering your questions on Ceramics on Friday 3 October  2014 between  3-4pm BST.

Top of the Pots!

York Art Gallery is home to one of the UK’s largest and most important collections of British studio ceramics. Containing more than 5000 pots by over 500 different artists, the collection covers the whole studio ceramics movement from its roots at the beginning of the 20th century, through to the work of contemporary ceramists.

It is a collection of collectors which began with the Dean of York Minster, Eric Milner White’s collection of early 20th century pots. The collection grew substantially in 2001 with the acquisition of 3500 pots that comprise the collection of Wakefield librarian WA Ismay. Since then, these have be joined by pieces from the collection of Henry Rothschild and the long term loan of the Anthony Shaw Collection.

In 2015 York Art Gallery will reopen following an £8million capital development project. We will also be launching CoCA, our Centre of Ceramic Art, two brand new gallery spaces giving us the opportunity to show more of our collections than ever before.

If you have a burning question about pots, potters, our collections and collectors, or want to find out more about CoCA, this is your opportunity to ask.

Helen Walsh and Fiona Green

You can post questions before the Q & A session, on 3 October, or you can converse in real time with our expert. You can use the comment box below to post a question, or you can use twitter with the hashtag  #mdyask.

Comments have to be moderated, to protect the blog from spam, so if your comment doesn’t appear straight away, don’t worry. We’ll get to it as quickly as we can.

If you have a problem submitting questions, either in the comment box, or via twitter, please email your questions to gillian.waters@ymt.org.uk

If you have ideas for subjects you’d like to see us cover in future, or would like to take questions yourself, please get in contact with us and let us know.

Your Comments

  1. Mike Linstead |

    Which individual work do you feel holds the most significance in the York Art Gallery collection and why?

  2. Fiona Kelly |

    How do you decide which ceramics you want as part of your collection?

  3. Gillian Waters |

    What is CoCa? And what are the plans for CoCa?

  4. Lisa Gaunt |

    Are there any pots in the collection that have personal inscriptions?

  5. Kate Charles |

    What exhibitions do you have planned for the CoCA galleries?

  6. Gillian Waters |

    Rachel Wade ‏@YMT_asks “how will #CoCA reflect the history of local ceramicists and collectors?” #mdyask

  7. Fiona & Helen |

    Hi Mike Linstead
    The Leaping Salmon vase made by Bernard Leach in 1931 and purchased by Dean Milner-White, is undoubtedly our most famous pot. Bernard has been called the ‘father of British studio pottery’ and the Leaping Salmon vase is said to be his masterpiece. The shape is inspired by the Chinese ceramics he loved. The decoration shows his skill with a brush (only twenty brush strokes to create the motif). The creamy bracken ash glaze with its satin surface was only achieved on this one vase and despite trying, Bernard was never able to replicate it.It also reveals some of Bernard’s philosophy of the collaborative nature of making pots at the Leach Pottery in St Ives, as it appears that the vase was thrown by another potter at the Leach Pottery and decorated by Bernard (who it was that made the pot remains a mystery even today). It is often requested for loans and has gone to Japan on loan for exhibitions on a number of occasions, where it is revered.

  8. Fiona & Helen |

    Hi Fiona Kelly
    There are several things to be considered when deciding what to add to the collection, and it is difficult to say which is the most important. We consider the importance of the potter, the quality of the pot and the significance of the collector (if it is a donation). We also take into account the context and provenance of the object and whether it has an interesting story to tell that will help bring it to life for our visitors. We also think about practical issues such as when it can be displayed, whether we have the space to store it when its not on display, if there is a cost implication.

  9. Fiona & Helen |

    Hi Gillian
    CoCA is short for Centre of Ceramic Art and is a new resource we launch in York Art Gallery when it reopens next year. CoCA aims to raise the profile of British studio ceramics through exhibitions, displays, new research, events and activities. It will be based in two architecturally stunning new gallery spaces on the first floor, with lots of natural light. We will be able to display more of our collection than ever before and present it in different ways to highlight this little known aspect of British Modernism. Every year we will hold a ‘CoCA Lecture’ which will be given by important artists working in clay. This years lecture is on the 1st Nov and is being given by International artist Clare Twomey- tickets are free and can be booked here- http://goo.gl/7bVMQP There are loads of exciting things being planned for CoCA, so keep watching!

  10. Fiona & Helen |

    Hi Lisa

    There is a long tradition of personalising ceramics and examples can be seen in museums and galleries across the UK and beyond. Many pots in our collection have personal inscriptions put on them by the artists who made them. These range from marks identifying the maker to inscriptions placed on them for the person commissioning the pot or receiving it as a gift. Other inscriptions reference special dates or significant events. For example there is one teabowl made by William Staite Murray for the collector Dean Eric Milner-White as a thankyou gift for buying his work over a number of years. We also have a dish that was commisioned from Eric James Mellon by close friends of collector WA Ismay as a gift for his 80th birthday and features images of Ismay and some of the pots from his collection.

  11. Fiona & Helen |

    Hi Kate
    We have lots of exciting and interesting displays planned for CoCA, but we are keeping the details a secret for now! However, they include a ‘wall of pots’ featuring hundreds of ceramics from our collection, a display of ceramics and art from the Anthony Shaw Collection curated by the man himself and an introduction to the important figures from the British studio ceramics movement… as for the rest you will have to wait and see!

  12. Fiona & Helen |

    Hi Rachel
    Yorkshire can boast of having a rich history of ceramic production with many talented potters working in the region, we will be highlighting this in our displays and exhibitions. Collectors from Yorkshire and beyond have been very generous in gifting us with beautiful, interesting and much loved objects from their personal collections, many of which will be on display when we reopen.

  13. Gillian Waters |

    What’s your favourite ceramic object?

  14. Fiona & Helen |

    Hi Gillian

    Helen- My favourite pot changes every day! However I have always had a soft spot for The Bather by William Staite Murray. It is a 70cm tall pot representing a 1930s gentleman dressed in a striped bathing costume. And if I could take one piece home, that would be it.

    Fiona – I agree with Helen it changes on a daily basis, I like all the different types of teapots we have but especially like pieces that have an inscription or tell a story. We have two jugs called the Conversation Jugs that sit on an embroided cloth by Alice Kettle and Alex McErlain – these are my favs at the moment

  15. Gillian Waters |

    Susan Sharpe asks “When pots are in storage are they wrapped to guard against dust and dirt? Or do you have to have someone to clean them. And what about pots that are in cases, how are they kept clean?”

    1. Mike Linstead |

      Hi Susan
      The pots are either stored in sealed cabinets, on open shelving or wrapped in acid free tissue and bubble wrap. When work is on display it is shown in cabinets that are sealed to keep them dust free. If they are on open display, we carefully dust them regularly. If a pot is a bit grubby we do trry to clean it before displaying it, how we do this depends on the nature of the pot and what its surface is like. For robust pots, a soft cloth removes any surface dust. For stubborn marks, a wet cloth and gentle hand can do the trick. For anything ground in or for very delicate works with unstable surfaces, we would get a professional conservator to sort it out for us.