The Stone Roses’ influence on ceramics? Potters making clothes? Work created with no artist credited? We enter the colourful, contradictory world of The Grantchester Pottery.
Colour in contemporary ceramics is often muted, downplayed and tasteful. So when we saw the bold work of The Grantchester Pottery at the ICA (ICA Edition, below) we were blown away with the shock of something different. Chunky, imperfect and often displayed against jarring, tribal graphic backdrops, the work of this collective is vibrant, vital and very modern.
However the roots of Grantchester come from models for artists and craftsmen during the last century. Their desire to blur the boundaries between fine and decorative arts recalls the Bloomsbury Group’s Omega Workshops. Similarly, though regularly working with guest artists, The Grantchester Pottery doesn’t attribute specific works to specific people. Instead all work is released under the TGP banner. And as Giles from the collective admits in our interview below, they don’t even just do pottery – textile, furniture and glass design all appear in their catalogue.
What gap did you see in British craft that you hoped Grantchester would fill?
“We felt it important that artists produce functional works for the home. We felt that artists should contribute to the applied arts and are questioning why there still seems to so much negativity surrounding artist’s involvement in this area. Our works are functional whilst not physically crafted to perfection.”
We were struck by how colourful your ceramic works are. Was this a conscious decision?
“The palette changes with each series. For the first work, The Coffee Service, 2011 (below), we made a conscious decision to draw our palette in line with fashion. This initial palette was settled on after immersing ourselves in next season catwalk shows online. We still like to do this, but now we have favourite combinations of colours and glaze with clay body. For example we are very keen on the appearance of pastel glazes over pink stoneware.”
Can you name any specific influences on your use of colour and pattern?
“Our influences change with our interests. Recent discussions have focused on The Stone Roses, Faust, Kraftwerk, David Hockney, Roger Fry, Eric Gill, Henri Matisse, Rosemarie Trockel, Sophie Tauber-Arp, Franz West, Ralph Adron, Andy Warhol, Sturtevant, Shoji Hamada and the Cubists.”
What is The Grantchester Free Press and why is this important in your work?
“The Grantchester Free Press is the self-publishing arm of TGP. It produces printed matter alongside each significant work and exhibition, serving to record each project or series of wares. Initially we had hoped that each publication would act as a sales brochure from which a buyer could commission specific objects. In practice the brochures don’t elicit orders! We figure they are too obtuse for sales catalogues, bearing more in common with artist books.”
Can you tell us about upcoming projects or exhibitions.
“When we started working in our studio it had suffered from being pretty much unused. We had always thought it would be nice to fix it up, make it a better place to work. It took some time for us to really turn our attention to it but we have finally managed to sort through the contents, strip it back and repaint. As with anything like this it is not entirely finished. A work in progress. As for our creative work, at present we are working on a new line of TGP clothing.”