Profit in another Land

01 Jun 2002

Report by Eddie and Margaret Curtis on the June Fairs in Holland and Belgium.

Introduction:
Eddie and Margaret Curtis showed their new porcelain at fairs in Holland and Belgium in June 2002.

At the 27th Gouda Ceramics Festival they won the public prize for best ceramicists and at the 'International Keramiek Biennale', in Belgium, they won the sponsors prize for senior ceramicists (over 35 years old).

We are extremely grateful to Eddie for discussing the merits of taking work abroad to a wider audience and sharing his experiences for everyone's benefit. Eddie's review is set out below:

'In September of 2001 we showed our work at Keramisto, the ceramics fair at Milsbeek in Eastern Holland. This was the first time we had ventured beyond the UK with our work. Over the previous few years at ceramic shows such as 'Art in clay' and 'Potfest' we had seen ceramic artists from an increasingly wide area of Europe bringing their work to exhibit and sell in the UK. With the advent of the European Union there were no longer any barriers to cross-border trade, and, of course, the Euro has improved things for UK Potters travelling to European Fairs.

Keramisto had earned a long established reputation and we were delighted to be given an opportunity to be part of the fair. It was at Keramisto that more opportunities presented themselves to us. We were invited to submit applications for various European ceramic festivals and when we got back to the UK we decided to build on our success at Keramisto by booking a series of fairs.

The North of England is not usually looked upon as a convenient departure point for continental travel but the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam makes the overnight journey a pleasure and by the time we had reached Gouda I had only driven 70 miles from home. We drove into Gouda to get 'a feel' for what we might expect the following day when the market stands would be erected for the 27th Gouda Pottenbakkers Festival. The stands were available from 7 am and the show was officially open at 10 am. Looking at the very quiet bric a brac market on the day we arrived we were not convinced that the public would materialise at all.

On the day the festival began ceramic artists arrived from 14 different countries. There were a lot of familiar faces and a good number of new people to meet.

Belgium was the 'guest country' and an area was set aside for the Belgian potters. Horst Gobels and Enno Jakel were there from Germany, Richard Dewar and Ardine Spitters from France and Bernard Thiran and Mieke Selleslagh from Belgium. In all 147 potters displayed their work in the market place at Gouda.

It was so refreshing to have our work on display in such different surroundings and with so many well established ceramicists from so many countries. Around the perimeter of the market place every restaurant and inn had tables and chairs arranged outside for the expected visitors.

With a budget helped by sponsorship from 10 commercial companies, the show came together very well. The attendance was very healthy with buyers and browsers filling the market square both days of the fair. An evening meal was provided free of charge for all the potters at the end of the first day where everyone was able to socialise. At the end of the second day some of the potters were making a hasty departure for the drive to Krefeld in Germany where there was another ceramics festival starting the following day.

We had the following day at leisure and made the drive down to Belgium where we would next show our ceramics at the 'Internationale Keramiek Biennale' at Park van Brasschaat. It had become very evident that travelling to ceramic festivals was very much part of the lifestyle of European potters.

Ceramic fairs in mainland Europe are commonplace with some being held at the same time as others in different parts of the country. Toon Thijs and Willy van Bussel had displays at both Gouda and at Dwingeloo (Northern Holland) at the same time.

We arrived at Park van Brasschaat at 7 am. Some potters had arrived the night before and had had a very good night in the accommodation generously provided free of charge by the organisors. Park van Brasschatt is situated a short distance North of Antwerp in what appears to be a very affluent part of Belgium.

Here, ceramic artists from 12 different countries including South Africa, Uzbekistan, Lithuania and Finland, gathered to show their work on stands arranged around the grassed square in front of the castle. In the gallery close by, some of Belgium's leading ceramic artists had pieces of their work in a formal exhibition. Well respected artists including Herman Muys and Tjok Dessauvage had striking examples of their work on display there. Anima Roos, Fabienne Withofs, and Vincent Béague had work in both the exhibition and in the Park, lending a definate air of credibility and importance to the one day event.

Patty Wouters had invested a huge amount of time co-ordinating the event and showed some fine examples of her work.

The UK was represented by myself and Margaret, and Alan Freestone (Isle of Skye).

From the time the event opened, right up to closing time, a constant stream of visitors walked around the stands.
Sales were healthy and interest was astonishing.
Knowledgeable questions were asked and answers given with equal enthusiasm. The show was a high class event worthy of it's prestigious surroundings and a credit to the organisers' skill.

Six days later we took part in the 8th International Ceramic Market in Swalmen, Southern Holland.

This event competes with Keramisto in Milsbeek for the title of the most famous ceramic show in Holland. It's organisation is similar to Keramisto with on-site camping and the provision of an evening meal and breakfast being included in the exhibition fee. The market at Swalmen lived up to it's reputation.

The quality of work was outstanding with a very high level of presentation. Pascall Geoffroy from France, Yeung Yuk Kan from Holland and Emili Biarnes from Spain were among ceramic artists from eleven countries.

The UK was represented by nine ceramicists including Geoff and Christine Cox, Tony Laverick and Paul Smith. Genuine ceramic collectors travelled to this show and included a pair from Amsterdam, stopping off on their way to the ceramic fair in Andenne, Belgium, being held on the same weekend. Adolf Egner was there adding to his huge collection which he regularly lends out to museums. He seems to be the German equivalent of the late W.A.Ismay.

All three shows were well organised, sponsored, and well attended. The recent introduction of the Euro has made travelling and selling abroad easy. The expense of the ferry is compensated by the relatively inexpensive show fees and the opportunities for networking with other potters are endless. Swalmen, perhaps has an advantage over the other two fairs because of its 'campus style' organisation, keeping the potters on site together to eat, drink and socialise. The Brasschaat fair, only two years old, with the careful nuturing of Patty Wouters, could become Belgiums' answer to Swalmen and Keramisto.''

STOP PRESS
Patty Wouters writes "Two days ago I had a meeting with the officials to evaluate the last ceramic Biennale. They all seemed very satsified!

For the next ceramic fair, on May 23rd, 2004, we will be organising the next Ceramic Biennale and Exhibition (comparable to the Belgian one). I proposed to the mayor to invite another country every year and suggested to invite England for 2004 if we could find enough English ceramists willing to participate at this special exhibition and at the fair." - Anyone interested please contact Patty Wouters at email: patty.wouters@pandora.be.

Copyright Eddie Curtis June 2002. All photographs by Eddie Curtis except Patty Wouters by kind permission of Patty Wouters.

In all cases please mention that you found these details at www.studiopottery.co.uk

Useful Contacts:
Web-site: www.keramiekmarkt-swalmen.nl

For details of Brasschaat show email: atelier.circel@pandora.be.
For details of Gouda show email email: walter.van.leeuwen@planet.nl.

Examples of work at the Exhibition
Work by the following potters, from the top, left to right.

Yeung Yek Kan.

Eddie Curtis, straight jar.

Margaret Curtis.

Anima Roos.

Fabienne Withofs.

Horst Gobels.

Geoffrey Pascal.

Patty Wouters.

Eddie Curtis, black centre dish.