3 March 2010

GRAYSON PERRY OFF-CENTRE

Here is an article Grayson Perry wrote in Ceramic Review a few years back.

"A ceramics centre in North Devon? Why not go the whole hog and put up signs saying 'You are now entering "Leach Country"?' After all, we've got Bronte Country and Hardy Country. A Potter's Book should be made into a TV mini-series with Colin Firth as Bernard Leach.


"Pottery has been trying to shake of the smock of those kickwheel wurzels for more than a generation. Most good functional ware now seems to owe more to Philippe Starck than Michael Cardew and the arty farty ceramists all want to be Rachel Whiteread or Gilbert and George, not Barbara Hepworth.

"If you stick the centre down in that caravan traffic-jam called the West Country, nobody but grockles and trainspotters will ever visit the place. If we have to have an institution that is defined by its material like some medieval tradesman's guild, then bung it somewhere in the middle.

"I'm sure all those 'liddle' potteries tucked away in Windchime-upon-Jostick churning out sub-Keeler and owls would benefit from exposure to Islington Man, but most pot-knockers live in lovely towns. I for one do not want to traipse out into overrated Devon countryside to avail myself of the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome seminar. Even Essex has more thatched cottages in one village than the entire West Country, so why not plonk the centre in Castle Hedingham.

"I have always needed a reason to go to Birmingham. Why not a disused council tower block in Britain's second city? The centre could provide some of the following invaluable services:

"Pot recycling: Bring along all those god-awful pots, i.e. 99% of them that clog the nation's shelves. Make space for good work and supply a profitable hardcore business.

"Careers advice: This could just consist of a sign saying, 'Don't become a potter we've got enough, go and do something useful.'

"Self-help group: For potters addicted to rabbiting on about firing cycles and their home-made pug-mill. Hopeless cases could sit in a room boring on until, after several days of trading tips with other technical know-alls, they might run out of things to say.

"For the public, we could jazz up pottery's dreary old evening class and beard image with a few theme park style rides. They could have names like The Whirler, Slab Roller and Quartz Inversion Point.

"If this centre ever gets off the ground, please let it not become another place for families to drive to on a Sunday afternoon; whisking round the exhibits in ten minutes, half an hour in the shop buying Lucie Rie tea towels, Hans Coper fridge magnets and Philip Eglin scented candles, then an hour trying to swallow dry carob cake served on half inch thick 'real clay' crockery that cools tea to room temperature in thirty seconds. Outside the kids playing on a huge fibreglass harvest jug. It's enough to make we want to throw."

The Bideford pottery centre was never built.