Carshalton Artists Open Studios

This article was written by my friend and potter Caroline Warwick who I exhibited with, along with ceramicist Sarah Hillman, as part of the new Carshalton Artists Open Studios (CAOS) event that proved to be more successful than any of us imagined and now likely to become an annual fixture. Written for London Potters magazine, Caroline talks about our practical experience of being part of this event and some lessons we learned along the way …

It started in October 2016, a text from Kathryn asking whether I would be interested in joining a group of Carshalton artists in planning an Open Studios event for Summer 2017.

Since we’d already done a few local craft fairs and the Carshalton Frost Fair together, it was worth going to a meeting to find out more about this Open Studio.

By the first meeting we attended in December a lot of the initial planning had been done, bank account set up, dedicated CAOS (Carshalton Artists Open Studios) website up and running, grants applied for (Sutton Neighbourhood grant and Arts Network Sutton).

It was surprising to both of us to learn how many artists were in our local area – both Kathryn and I had artists living in our roads!

The priority for that meeting was marketing the event – an approach to local estate agents to sponsor signboards at each of the Open studio venues was discussed – this proved successful. The boards were very prominent and supplied and erected by Goodfellows estate agents at no cost. They were put up about a month or so before the event and in themselves, started to generate a buzz around Carshalton and interest in the event.

Next for discussion was a publicity leaflet, this eventually turned into an A3 fold out pamphlet, showing map of venues, including a list of other locations worth a visit while in the area and the artists taking part represented by a picture of their work Having artists with graphics and marketing backgrounds certainly helped in the production of this leaflet. All the marketing material used the same colour purple, this included the signboards, maps, leaflets and even balloons. A local printer, who produced cards and prints for many of the local artists was also used to produce all the publicity material for CAOS.

Since Kathryn had a side entrance to her garden studio, it made sense for her to offer her house as the venue for our Open Studio (mine being in the loft of my house!) This meant persuading her lovely husband to vacate his office space in the garden studio to give us the space to show our pots. He packed up all his books and decanted to the house for the duration. Kathryn’s cunning plan is to take over the whole studio for her pottery and not allow him to return!

We all did leaflet drops in our local roads, posters were put up all over, maps were distributed through libraries, galleries etc and banners erected. Social media, Facebook and Instagram were also used with all artists being urged to send pics of preparations for the event for regular postings. These generated a lot of interest in the event.

Kathryn and Al researched and purchased a card reader for the event so we could accept debit/credit card sales (definitely worth doing as about 50% of our sales were card payments).

In the meetings running up to the event we met more local artists and it was lovely to network and share ideas/recommendations for good card printers etc. In the two weeks running up to the event some of us opened our studios so that other CAOS participants could see our work. Though we weren’t all able or ready to do this, it was hugely beneficial for us to be able to see other set ups, learn from what they were doing, discuss pricing (generally we felt people were under-pricing their work and it was really helpful to get opinion on what was a realistic price). A bonus to these previews was that we were able to heartily recommend other venues to visit, having seen the work first hand

We got together before the event to run through a checklist of do’s and don’ts (again provided by our wonderful organisers)   including accessibility, identifying potential risks/hazards, were we offering toilet facilities? Making sure public liability insurance was in place. Letting the neighbours know – Kathryn posted special invites to them and many turned up during the event. Pricing up our stock, ensuring we had packaging etc.

We spent a day putting up signs, hazard tape on steps, an information board about us and our work and setting out our work in the studio, as well as optimistically designating the dining table as the sales/packaging area.

Following the record 35o temperatures the week before we were relieved that the weather for the first weekend had cooled somewhat. It remained dry, and a pleasant temperature but not too sunny to tempt people to stay in their gardens or go to the seaside. In fact perfect weather for visiting Open Studios!

Along with all the other venues, our opening time was 11am and shortly after putting out the easel with balloons and more signs to show we were open, our first visitors arrived and they kept coming all through the day. We kept a tally of numbers, along with a visitors’ comments sheet and were amazed to tally 140 visitors on the first Saturday.

Visitors enjoyed Kathryn’s garden as well as seeing her immaculate studio set up. Though we both produce functional tableware, our styles are very different and we also had another local ceramicist showing her decorative sculptural pieces. Having 3 makers in one location showing a variety of work was a definite plus point in attracting visitors.

We both did a few throwing demonstrations, which the children particularly enjoyed, especially when pushing the pots to their limits so they wobbled and collapsed. Note for future, instead of doing these off the cuff when we had a moment to think about it or when there seemed a few children looking bored and needing some entertainment, for next year we plan to schedule demonstrations at certain times and publicise when we will be demonstrating.

Many of our visitors expressed the wish to try out pottery and we signposted many to our local Sutton College which runs day and evening pottery courses and has excellent facilities.

We ensured we were around all the time we were open so we could explain our work and answer questions – it was hugely rewarding to chat to people about our work and to have our work admired and appreciated. It made me return to my wheel with renewed vigour this week.

Kathryn had large boxes of samples/rejects which she put out for sale. These were snapped up by visitors at very much reduced prices (not really seconds at all) Though Kathryn was happy to see them all go, sales of her good pieces suffered during the first day but picked up once the samples had gone. A lesson learned for next time.

I had some old Raku pots which I brought along to show, more for interest than with a view to selling. I’d prepared a laminated sheet illustrating the Raku process and this proved very popular – much to my surprise I ended up selling all the Raku pots!

After the two weekends we had totalled over 520 visitors – far exceeding our expectations. Luckily, we had plenty of family support to ensure we had enough manpower to tally visitor numbers and encourage them to leave contact details for future events, handle sales and wrapping and allow to talk to visitors and do demonstrations. Reports from the other venues had similar numbers, especially the venues with more than one artist present. Only those venues slightly out on a limb had fewer numbers but everyone reported sales, interest and commissions generated from the event. Through one of the other artist’s regular Instagram postings about the event, a gallery has already been in contact with Kathryn.

We all got together in the local Hope pub, where the conversation about Open Studios had started, for a celebratory drink the week after. We all agreed that CAOS had been a huge success, all artists had been really supportive of each other, new friendships forged and we will certainly all be planning for an even better event for next year.

Studio visit from made by Mrs M

Last week I had a visit from fabulous textile designer and blogger Kate Marsden, aka made by Mrs M. She and I are both going to be taking part in Carshalton Artists Open Studios in June/July and Kate is going to be exploring the studios of several artists before it all kicks off, starting with mine. You can read the article here


Working at the wheel in my studio that is by a railway embankment, that’s the Victoria train going past


Making my porcelain plates for “Dish”

Shortly after Christmas I was catching up with Lotte Inch who then invited me to make some plates for an exhibition called Dish, that will be running at Lotte Inch Gallery from 9th March to 6th May 2017 – co-curated by chef Tom Kerridge.

Until recently I would have struggled to throw wider forms, especially when trying to wire through the bases without warping or wiring straight through. However, before Christmas, some very kind friends (thanks Jeremy and Sharon!) had showed me an article from Ceramics Monthly on how to use canvas bats to solve my problem. This was my opportunity to put it to the test properly.

The plates are now ready for the show and this blog is a short record of my making process that I hope might be useful for other potters …

First, here’s that page from Ceramics Monthly article that proved so useful and some snaps of how I followed the technique, with wider forms such as plates and bowls. I throw the form on a canvas bat on my wheel, then I can safely wire through under the canvas.  Then I wait for it to dry until the rims are leather hard, flip it over onto another bat, peel off the canvas and then turn it the right way up onto a dry bat for the base to firm up …

Once the bases have all dried to leather hard, I put them back on the wheel and turn in the foot rings. For particularly wide dishes, I turn in two foot rings to support the dish during firing, stopping it from slumping in the middle during firing …

The dishes are then biscuit fired and ready for glazing …


For this project, I wanted to try something  different with the glazing but still using my standard palette of grey, black and azure. So first I tried some glaze tests using a group of small pots. The first picture below shows those tests and I ended up using the ‘double dip’ method shown on the two on the far right side of the photo. The next pictures show the before and after glaze firing, with the transformation of the glaze and the shrinkage. During the glaze fire, I applied a silica hydrate to the bases to stop them sticking to the kiln shelf and allowing them to freely move and shrink without warping. So that meant they needed a good wash afterwards to remove the sandy residue …

Here’s the finished set of plates, most of which have been packed up and sent to Lotte Inch Gallery …



Shades of Black & White at Lotte Inch Gallery

Well it’s really not very often that my name appears alongside David Hockney and Salvador Dali! … but it does in the forthcoming Shades of Black & White Exhibition at the Lotte Inch Gallery in York, starting on Friday 2nd September and running until 15th October.

After a busy August in the studio, my boxes of porcelain pottery were packed and dispatched to York last week (examples in the picture below). There are some great people exhibiting across a range of media apart from ceramics and it’s a real privilege for me to be invited back again.

The pottery highlights for me look like being the extraordinary miniature hand thrown pots from Yuta Segawa and beautiful ceramics from Kyra Cane. Here’s an extract from the press release …

True to form at Lotte Inch Gallery, the artists in the exhibition comprise a selection of much celebrated names alongside emerging artists and makers. Those showcased in this new show include: Anthony GrossColin SelfDavid HockneyDerrick Greaves,Florence Boyd,Jean Arp,Jonathan Bonner,Kathryn SherriffKyra Cane,Peter Coates, Shefford Smith, Salvador Dali,Tom Phillips & Yuta Segawa.

Showcasing ceramics from ‘of the moment’ maker Yuta Segawa, whose mini pots have taken the ceramic world by storm, alongside stunning works by potter Kyra Cane, drawings from monochrome-mad Shefford Smith and prints from the likes of celebrated artists Colin Self, David Hockney & Anthony Gross, the exhibition will offer up a comprehensive range of styles, media and scales, uniting once again, two-dimensional and three-dimensional art forms in a suitably monochromatic Gallery setting.



Porcelain Vases for Lotte Inch “Shades of Black & White” Exhibition

Mudge at Mine in March

Just over a year after first meeting photographer (and musician) Bill Mudge at the Frost Fair, the exhibition of his 20 in 15 – The Lives of Artists photography project opened at the Mine Gallery in Carshalton last night. The gallery has been completely changed around in the last week with photographs of the working lives of 20 creative people and organisations on every wall, including many examples of their work – including new works fresh my own kiln this week, a beautiful print by illustrator Alex Foster and an amazing galvanised wire sculpture of a hare from world-renowned sculptor Kendra Haste.  The show runs until March 27th – some photos below. 

And taking centre stage is the phabulous photobook of the project that was created after a successful round of crowdfunding on Kickstarter and launched yesterday at the gallery! The book is now available to buy in the Mine Gallery and also online here: 20 in 15: The Lives of Artists by Bill Mudge. After being the first to back the Kickstarter project, my family is now proud owners of the first two copies of the book and a beautiful enlarged print of my studio (the last image below) that has just gone to the framers today     🙂 

The Lost Works of Carl Lawson

Yesterday I popped into ‘my’ gallery which has been closed for a couple of weeks while mysterious activity went on inside, behind the blocked out windows … I was stunned to see the new gallery exhibition which really does take your breath away as you walk in. It’s a project that has been germinating for quite a while now at the [mine] gallery in Carshalton.

Huge, beautifully worked impressionist canvases are now adorning every wall. They are the work of Carl Lawson who was a leading light in the London art scene in the 1960s and 1970s and associated with Frank Auerbach amongst others. He became reclusive and basically forgotten. Carl has since died and a couple of years ago his boarded up house was finally bought and over 100 perfectly preserved crated up canvases were discovered in the darkness. They very nearly went straight in the skip! But fortunately the buyer had the presence of mind to recognise great art.

Mine Gallery owner Andrew Candy was teasing us yesterday that the whole story behind Carl Lawson is quite something and I really can’t wait to find out more as the exhibition continues. My pictures below don’t do the work justice at all, you really need to see them …

Tea and biscuits with Rye Pottery

Recently I was very fortunate to be invited for tea and biscuits with Connie and David Beighton, to have a look at their extraordinary home full of Rye Pottery. Having bought one of my pieces at the Mine Gallery in Carshalton, they thought it very similar to some Rye Pottery in their collection. They got in touch and I discovered a whole new world of pottery! Here are some photos from my visit …

The pot at the back on the left is mine, the rest are Rye Pottery. Mine is carved porcelain through slip, the Rye is stoneware clay slipped and carved as well but with a drip of white glaze in each cut.



Twenty in Fifteen Project 

I visited photographer and musician Bill Mudge this week as he has invited me to take part in his Twenty in Fifteen project to photograph 20 creative people/organisations in 2015, documenting them as they create and work in their environment. Below are some early studio shots he has created of some of my recent work. Really, really looking forward to seeing how this develops. Will post more as they arrive…

Bills photography can be seen here: