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Review - International Ceramics Festival, Aberystwyth Arts Centre

04 Jul 2003

Magical Moments at this year’s International Ceramics Festival Aberystwyth

This year’s festival was as popular as ever with 800 people attracted by its diverse selection of guest ceramicists, exhibitions, kilns, debates and socialising amongst people who share the same enthusiasm for clay in all its forms.

The universality of the medium encourages generosity of spirit- the willingness to share and communicate. It is the practice to juxtapose two ceramicists on stage and for them to share with the audience their methods of working and to answer questions - as well as entertain with anecdotes. Inevitably there are some intriguing contrasts in working methods and philosophy- for example the huge differences, mainly cultural, between the free and gestural work of Warren MacKenzie (USA) and that of Udai Lal Kuhmar, a terracotta relief maker from Rajasthan whose work is dictated by tradition. It was also interesting to watch the differences in working methods between Wally Keeler (UK) and Sandy Lockwood (Aus) working side by side-Wally assembling his meticulously constructed tea-pot and Sandy throwing her teapots in such a loose style.

This year there were no ‘big draws’-large scale ceramics and kilns such as Festival goers have become accustomed to in the past but instead, as one attendee remarked ‘ there was a series of magical moments’ - everyone had their own favourites and, judging by the results of the questionnaire, Festival goers were as bowled over as ever by the Festival experience.

A series of intriguing talks included Jane Perryman’s talk on traditions in Indian ceramics which threw new light on Udai lal Kuhmar’s work and Mehmet Gursoy’s talk reflected on the traditions of Cini pottery (Turkey).

Four Awards were made this year at the Festival.The Festival organisers had a difficult task deciding on award winners so in the end two Life-time Achievement Awards were made- to Warren MacKenzie (U.S potter) and Janet Mansfield( Australia- potter and editor of Ceramics, Art and Perception). The two Student Award winners were Alaisdair Bremner, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art with his ‘time-lapse’ ceramics and Tom Barnett , graduate of Cardiff who made and fired a kin-sculpture which made for a dramatic firing at the week-end.

The appeal of clay is obvioulsy as enduring as ever and no doubt an equal number of people will flock to the 2005 Festival to absorb and share ideas, be amazed and amused, shocked and entertained, and simply to enjoy being in the company of other enthusiasts in a wonderful atmosphere and in a beautiful place overlooking the sea.

ICF is a biennial event organised by Aberystwyth Arts Centre and North & South Wales Potters Associations.For further details see the Festival web-site www.internationalceramicsfestival.co.uk. Or phone 01970 623232.