The Democratic Dish
9 November 2018 – 14 January 2019
In the process of curating the exhibition ‘The Democratic Dish: Mintons Secessionist Ware’, the curator, Cherie Silver, wanted to develop a public programme where people would get a chance to have a go at using techniques used to create the ceramics in the exhibition. Several of the Mintons Secessionist ceramics incorporated ceramic transfers or decals. Decals are designs prepared on special paper for durable transfer on to another surface such as porcelain.
The curator, together with Amy Hughes, ceramic artist and specialist ceramics technician at Chelsea College of Arts, conceived the Transfer Project, where visitors to the exhibition were invited to submit designs inspired by the ceramics from the collection of Alessandra and Simon Wilson, and/or drawings and archive material from the Minton Archive at Stoke-on-Trent City Archives. Judged by Grayson Perry, Donald Smith and Amy Hughes, four entries were selected and the artists invited participate in a workshop to transform their designs onto plates.
Over 150 entries were submitted by visitors ranging from young children, students, professionals and enthusiasts. The challenge to reduce 150 down to 4 was a challenging one. Here are some examples which shows the diversity of the entries:
We were delighted to have Grayson Perry announce the winning entries at the finissage of the exhibition, introducing the presentation by highlighting his passion for ceramics:
“I started off painting ceramics because I thought there was some mileage in it in the art world because they didn’t like ceramics because ceramics were from where I like to call the suburbs of culture. The high concept high art was like the metropolitan sophisticated centre, and then the art history, the great old masters were like the beautiful countryside and then you always drove through the suburbs on your way to your second house. The art world was quite happy to drag something from the distance like a urinal or a shark, but they didn’t want to visit the suburbs. So I thought it was my job to rehabilitate those suburbs of culture and ceramics was certainly part of that.”
Perry then went on to highlight the reasoning behind his selection, deliberately trying to represent a broad cross section of the entries.
“The first one here is by Eva Scott, I don’t know how old she is but there is a myth that all children are good artists, no they’re not, most of them are rubbish, but Eva is a good one. I love the strength of the blue, good work Eva.”
“This one looks much more sophisticated, the person who did this is a professional I think, this one here is by Emma Neuberg.”
“I’ve got to say this one spoke to me straight away, the final one, it’s high heels, its toilets and its toilet paper. And it also echoes many of the best qualities of a perfect Minton plate, I could just imagine these pipetted on or however they are put on with the plates with slip trail, and I think these Tudor roses are speaking of an alternative Britain that we are about to enter.”
Got a little bit of punky Russian constructivist vibe there, very political artist.
Eva Scott is 4 years-old and from Musselburgh, Scotland. Chelsea Space is a gallery for everyone, and it was great to see entries from several children, including several from a Scottish school – Loretto, and one from Mayfield Girls.
Rosemary Cronin, UAL Insights Outreach Practitioner visited the exhibition with several groups of students from The BRIT School, and utilised the Transfer Project to engage with them. Melissa Newbery-Welcome is one of those students, using collage materials sourced by Rosemary.
Ella Rose Caton is a student at Chelsea College of Arts and her design was inspired by a previous project on her Textile Design course at the university – an interior/exterior project, in which she redesigned a toilet for girls on a night out. What inspired her at the exhibition in Chelsea Space was the use of shape and composition on the ceramics. The specific designs that inspired her can compared with her final drawing:
Similarly, professional artist Emma Neuberg took inspiration from designs that appear on Mintons Secessionist ceramics, while using her own technique and familiar methods to curate a unique design, from which her textiles expertise comes through. You can read all about Emma’s process in this dedicated blog (link to be added).
We had a fantastic day in the workshop with Amy Hughes working on the transfers.
The finished designs are installed in the Chelsea Café until January 14, 2019.
You can also check-out this great blog by Nathan Holmes for Chelsea College of Arts:
About the project The Chelsea Cafe Project is a series of displays of work by students and staff from Chelsea College of Arts. These changing displays are a chance to see some of the talent here at Chelsea from across a diverse range of disciplines. The series is curated in collaboration with CHELSEA space (opposite) as part of the Public Programme.