Lisa Hammond / Future Perfect
The strength of British studio pottery is exemplified by an established ceramicist and her flourishing former apprentices.
12th February – 2nd April 2022
Make Hauser & Wirth Somerset
THIS CURRENT SHOW at Make in Somerset is a homage to studio craftsmanship. In the contemporary art world, value is most often put on craft materials and craft techniques when they are in clear service to art. This show champions a different vision – where craft itself, in this case the artisanal production of functional ceramics, is pursued to such a pitch of perfection that it becomes an art in and for itself.
Lisa Hammond has been a leading figure in the revival of British studio pottery over the last twenty-eight years. Her own distinctive practice is focussed on producing an extensive range of thrown functional ware for the preparation, cooking and serving of food, alongside the creation of single one-off vessels. Known for her soft but well-defined forms, which riff boldly on traditional models, it is her mastery of different glazing techniques, including salt and soda firing, and the lustrous Japanese-inspired Shino glazes, that exemplify her commitment to constant experimentation and the pursuit of ever more technical expertise.
Hammond has also been an indefatigable educator. The passing on of precious skills, far from being a generous afterthought, is, for her, a central part of her practice. Since 2009, she has run the apprenticeship scheme ‘Adopt a Potter’, with the clear ambition of helping ceramic students bridge the skills gap between graduation and the setting up of their own studios. Eight years later, in 2017, Hammond founded Clay College Stoke, a skills-based, full-time two-year ceramics course offering students the opportunity to study under the best national and international potters.
Both initiatives embed her own work within the context of a tradition that reaches into the past but is also looking always to the future, and the new directions tradition might take. The idea of a relay is beautifully expressed by this exhibition, where in one room we see the work of Hammond, and in the other, the work of three of her apprentices, now flourishing independent makers.
Hammond’s London studio is sufficiently constrained to allow only one apprentice at a time, and Hammond says that the idea of allowing someone into her space was, at first, quite difficult. But in each instance – Darren Ellis, Florian Gadsby and, more recently, Francis Lloyd-Jones – the pleasure of seeing these individuals flourish so differently has, she suggests, been highly rewarding. All three are dedicated to the production of functional ware, but their work varies greatly from the sumptuous utilitarianism of Ellis’s stoneware, through the immaculate formal precision and refined glazes of Gadsby, to Lloyd-Jones’s idiosyncratic and subtle variations on traditional forms and glazes.
So why, you may ask, is Hauser & Wirth, one of the world’s most powerful commercial contemporary art galleries, supporting a craft gallery? Part of the reason is that Manuela Wirth originally trained as a teacher, and spent several years teaching children arts and crafts. As gallery director Jacqueline Moore explains, “The gallery is driven by Manuela Wirth’s personal passion for craft and making.” Beyond that, Moore continues, “Make is regarded as a natural extension of Hauser & Wirth Somerset and the wider gallery ethos, embracing art, craft, gardens, food and architecture.”
Visitors to the main gallery in Bruton, currently showing the radical work of American artist Ida Applebroog, are invited to dine on locally produced food and wander the Piet Outdolf designed gardens as much as to contemplate art. Make’s programme offers a complementary approach to a sense of place, showing work by artists, many of them local, focussed on process and materials, who speak, Moore adds, about “material truth, provenance, sustainability, the value of the handmade and one’s emotional engagement with the work.” The continuity of vision between the institutions is underlined by Make’s next show, in April: ‘Five Seasons’, inspired by landscape designer Piet Outdolf’s philosophy.