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Alex McErlainImage Gallery

Contact Details

Studio: ., Chorley, Lancashire, England, .
Email:
Joined on: 2012-05-22
Last Updated: 2014-03-28

Artists Statement

Artists Statement

Alex McErlain (1950-) was born in Chorley, Lancashire. He is a potter who has spent most of his career lecturing on the subject of ceramics at Manchester Metropolitan University.

He continues to make pots and works as a freelance consultant, lecturing, writing articles, working on curatorial projects, organizing ceramic events and undertaking educational work.

Originally taught pottery by Derek Emms at Stoke-on-Tent College of Art, he went to work for three years at Winchcombe Pottery under the guidance of Ray Finch. In 1976 he was appointed as a lecturer at Manchester Polytechnic, eventually retiring from education after 35 years. He continued to maintain a studio throughout his career specialising for the most part in saltglazed stoneware, later he began exploring wood fired earthenware in association with the potter Doug Fitch. He has exhibited widely and his work is in many public and private collections.

Collaborative work has been the focus of his activity in recent years, initially with the modernist potter Bethan Lloyd Worthington, working on a series of inlaid and enameled porcelain works. Other brief collaborations followed, with the ceramic artists Helen Felcey and Sharon Blakey. In 2009 he began what has proved to be a significant collaborative journey with the internationally renowned textile artist Alice Kettle. This fruitful collaboration continues and the resultant work has been exhibited in both ceramic and textile focused exhibitions.

As an academic Alex was frequently called upon to write about his subject for journal articles, books, educational slide sets and exhibition catalogues. His book ‘The Art of Throwing’ was published by the Crowood press in 2002. He continues to work on publication, helping to put together the book ‘A Japanese Passion’ about the potter Edward Hughes, (published 2012).

A visit to Switzerland in 1991 to document the work of Patrick Sargent led to the making of his first film ‘Made in Switzerland’. He subsequently directed ten other films, mostly of ceramic subjects but others are about metal and textile artists. Some of the films were selected for screening at film festivals all around the world including, France, Spain, Korea, the USA and the UK.

As an exhibition curator Alex has been particularly active since the nineties. He has worked collaboratively on curatorial projects and instigated many exhibitions himself. ‘Firing Thoughts’ brought the drawings and sketchbooks of ceramic artists to public display for the first time. The resultant catalogue was very well received. Working with York Art Gallery he has been able to draw on their outstanding collections of studio pottery and historical ceramics. The major exhibition, ‘Honest Pots’ (2010-11) explored the influence of country pottery on modern studio pottery and was particularly popular with visitors.

Background and Education

Background and Education

1967-9 Blackburn School of Art and Design
1969-72 Stoke-on-Trent College of Art; BA Hons 3 D Design (Ceramics)
1975-6 Part time lecturing at Blackburn College of Art and Runshaw College, Lancs
1972-5 Winchcombe Pottery, Gloucestershire.
1976-2010 Senior Lecturer, Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University. Retired Dec 2010

1977-80 Council member and Treasurer of the Red Rose Guild of Designer Craftsmen
1981-6 Member of North West Arts Craft Panel
1983-6 Chairman of North West Arts Craft Panel
1997-01 Executive member of National Association for Ceramics in Higher Education.
1992-4 Chairman of the National Association for Ceramics in Higher Education

1994-8 External examiner, BA Hons Glass & Ceramics, University of Sunderland.
1999 External panel member for the quinquenniel review of the BA (Hons) Studio Ceramics course, Falmouth College of Arts.
2002-06 External examiner, Limerick Institute of Technology. B Des, Ceramics.
2003 External panel member for the quinquenniel review of the BA (Hons) Glass & Ceramics. University of Sunderland
2004 External panel member for the revalidation of the BA Hons Ceramics & BA Hons Glass degrees, University of Wolverhampton.
2005-7 Co-director of EPSRC funded research Network in Ceramics and glass.
2006-09 External examiner, BA Hons Glass & Ceramics, University of Sunderland.
2010 External examiner M.Phil , University of Sunderland.
2008-12 External examiner, BA Hons Ceramics, University of Westminster, Harrow.
2013 External examiner for PhD candidate, University of Sunderland.
2014 External panel member, revalidation Ceramics & Glass course, Royal College of Art, London.

Publication History

Publication History

Book
2002 The Art of Throwing Crowood Press, (paperback edition 2010)

Articles
2014 ‘Passing it On’ NPA News March April 2014.pp 10-12.
2014 ‘50 Years of Brookhouse Pottery’ exhibition review, Ceramic Review issue 265 Jan/Feb ISSN 0144 – 1825
2013 ‘Fireworks Now’ CPA News no 152 Nov/ Dec 2013.
2013 ‘The Goat with Lady Rider’ NPA News Nov-Dec 2013.pp 10-11.
2013 ‘More than Ten a Penny’ Ceramic Review issue 263 Sept/Oct 2013 ISSN 0144 – 1825
2012 'Edward Hughes, A Japanese Passion' CPA News no 145, Sept/Oct 2012.
2012 'Edward Hughes, A Japanese Passion' Scottish Potters newsletter, Autumn 2012.
2012 A Japanese Passion NPA News July-August 2012
2012 Memories of Ray NPA News, May-June 2012
2012 Selection Day NPA News, May-June 2012

2011 Cinematic Ceramics Ceramic Review issue 251
2011 Urban Traces (exh review) Ceramic Review issue 251
2010 ‘What If’ Ceramic Review issue 245
2007 Exploring a Hidden World, Firing Thoughts catalogue
2007 Ray Finch, exhibition brochure essay, Aberystwyth Arts Centre,
2007 Doing What Comes Naturally, Ceramics Monthly - USA Vol. 55 No1
2006 Seventy Years a Potter, Ray Finch. Ceramic Review 220
2006 Book Chapter for ‘Ray Finch, Craftsman Potter of the Modern Age’. Chapter 7 The rhythm of making.

2005 Thoughtful Sadness, Ceramics Art & Perception, Australia. Issue 62
2005 Claire Curneen - Succour. Exhibition review, Ceramic Review 212
2005 Rediscovered Beauty, terracotta architecture, Ceramic Review 211
2004 Language of Expression, William Plumptre Ceramic Review 208
2004 Stephen Dixon: 21 Countries. Exhibition review; Ceramic Review 208
2004 Drawing it Out, Susan Halls Ceramic Review 206
2002 Throwing,a Language of Expression Ceramics Technical iss.15, Aus.
2002 Trendy Terracotta Museums and Heritage magazine, issue 3.
2002 Putting Life in Clay the work of Edward Hughes. Ceramic Review 197
2001 Architectural Terracotta Museums and Heritage issue 2.
2001 Going to Art School Potters, 12th edition.
2000 Revelations Ceramic Review 185.

1999 Make the Move- Art School Ceramic Review supplement. Issue 179.
1998 Teaching or Learning Ceramic Review 172.
1996 Jim Malone at Alpha House Gallery Exhibition introduction
1996 Finding Direction Ceramic Review 162
1995 Will Levi Marshall - a Review Ceramics Monthly - USA Vol. 43
1995 Kiln Design by Intuition Ceramics Technical issue 1, Australia.
1995 Sidney Tustin - potter of Winchcombe Audio tape interview-published by The National Electronic Video Archive of the Crafts; University of the West of England.

1993 Momentous Momentum Ceramic Review 139
1993 Jim Malone in Conversation Ceramic Review 140
1992 Cajoling the Donkey Review of the International Potters Festival, Aberystwyth. Published by The South Wales Potters Association
1991 Patrick Sargent- Potter of Conviction Ceramic Review vol. 130.
1991 Jim Malone-potter Ceramics Monthly USA Volume no 39.

Educational slide sets with text, published by Manchester Metropolitan University
2005 Body of Work, the ceramic art of Claire Curneen.
2004 Cooking Pots
2004 Ceramic Contemporaries 4
2002 Felicity Aylieff, Sense & Perception
2000 Architectural Terracotta - Vol.2

1999 Architectural Terracotta - Vol.1
1999 Patrick Sargent- A Potters Art
1999 Studio Pottery in the Decorative Arts Collection of MMU
1998 Winchcombe Pottery
1998 Jim Malone, Artist Potter

Curatorial History

Curatorial History

2013 ‘Fireworks Now’ Craft in the Bay Cardiff. 7 September - 3 Nov 2013 and touring,includes catalogue.
2010 ‘Honest Pots’ traditional English country pottery and its impact on studio ceramics. Oct 2010- Sept 2011. York Art gallery, York.
2010 Pairings, July – Nov Special Collections Gallery MMU and touring.
2010 A Japanese Passion the pottery of Edward Hughes. Special collections Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University, March –June.
2007 Spotlight on Slipware, York Art Gallery, September 07 – March 08
2007 21st Century showcase, Chien-Wei Chang, M/chester Art Gallery, July 07 – Mar 08.
2007 Firing Thoughts. Exploring the relationship between drawing & ceramics. Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University, Jan – March Special Collections gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University May – October.

2006 21st Century showcase, Suresh Dutt, Manchester Art Gallery, Sept 06-June 07.
2006 21st Century showcase, Matthew Blakely, Manchester Art Gallery, March -August.
2006 Magnificent Pitchers The influence of medieval English jugs and pitchers on studio pottery. The Yorkshire Museum. 28.01.06 –3.09.06
2005 21st Century showcase, Junko Mori., Manchester Art Gallery,Sept - Feb.
2005 21st Century showcase, Claire Curneen., Manchester Art Gallery, Jan- Aug.

2002-3 Sense and Perception the work of Felicity Aylieff , Manchester Art Gallery Sept - Nov 2002 Victoria Art Gallery, Bath , March - April 2003; Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere, May - July 2003. An exhibition jointly curated with Manchester Art Gallery.
2002 The Art of Throwing curated for Rufford Craft Centre, Nottingham Sept - Oct

1997-8 Jim Malone Artist Potter a touring exhibition, Bolton Museum & Art Gallery, The Yorkshire Museum , Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Sept 97 -Sept 98
1997-8 Drawing in Space a touring exhibition of ceramics. N.W .venues
1992-3 Ceramic Contemporaries exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Member of the curatorial team.
1990 The Pure Art of the Potter Drumcroon Education Arts Centre, Wigan

Film Directing History

Film Directing History

The majority of the films were made together with Steven Yates (cameras) & John Davis (editing).

2010 Hollyford Harvest, Doug Fitch, modern day country potter. 13mins.
2008 Looking Forwards to the Past; a film about the artist Alice Kettle.
2007 On the night of Feb 5th; a film about the work of Victoria Eden. 11mins,
2007 Firing thoughts, three interconnected films; 15 mins
2007 Making-Drawing The art of Sharon Blakey, 6 mins

2005 Junko Mori artist in metal 8 mins
2005 Claire Curneen 7 mins
2002 Felicity Aylieff, Sense and Perception. 13 mins
1997 Jim Malone-Artist Potter 9 mins.
1991 Made in Switzerland - a film about Patrick Sargent, 55 mins.

Exhibition History

Exhibition History

2013 Mathew Derbyshire,The WA Ismay Collection. The Hepworth Wakefield, 12 Oct 2013 – 26th Jan 2014. Three of my works from the Ismay collection included in this exhibition.
2013 Winchcombe Pottery: Britain's most famous craft pottery. Court Barn Museum of Craft & Design, Chipping Campden. 4th July – 22 Sept. Includes my Winchcombe prototype decanter and a loaned work from the Ron Wheeler collection.
2013 Drawing in Between: Interdisciplinary Learning Through Drawing. Pop up, one day exhibition, of  work done with Alice Kettle.  21 June 2013 Cardiff Metropolitan University.
2013 Pairings, Conversations & Collaborations. Contemporary Applied Arts, London. 22.03.13 – 13.04.13. Collaborative works  with Alice Kettle shown. Discussion led by A.Mc on 21 March.
2012 ‘Select, Pairings II’ Stroud international textiles. April-May 2012. Collaborative work with Alice Kettle included in this exhibition.
2012 ‘Loss’, Chichester Cathedral. Collaborative work with Alice Kettle included in this exhibition.
2011 Clay Connections, Royal Exchange Craft Centre, Manchester; exhibited pots made with Alice Kettle.

2010 Honest Pots, York Art Gallery. Oct 2010-Sept 2011, includes collaborative work with Alice Kettle.
2010 The Narrative Line - exhibition of work by Bernie Leahy & Alice Kettle Kilkenny Design Centre, Ireland, & touring. Includes collaborative ceramic work with Alice Kettle.
2010 Telling Fortunes: New work by Alice Kettle Exhibition, Platt Hall art gallery Manchester Includes collaborative ceramic work with Alice Kettle.
2010 ‘Pairings’, Special collections Gallery, MMU and touring. Chichester; August 2010-; National Waterfront Museum Swansea Nov 2011- Jan 2012 Pairings: A Conversation. Craft in the Bay, Cardiff. Jan - Feb 2012.
2010 ‘Power of Copying-2010’ International Contemporary Design from Selected Art Academies’ Xuzhou Museum of Art, China. May –July.
2010 ‘Artefact’ Group exhibition, Platform Gallery Clitheroe. May -July
2009 The Knitting & Stitch Show, Alexandra Palace London, October.
2009 The Knitting & Stitch Show, Harrogate, Nov. Exhibiting collaborative works with textile artist Alice Kettle.
2009 ‘Art School’, Historic perspectives, contemporary reflections. MMU Special collections gallery March - August
2008 Reflective Stories Using sketchbooks and journals in art, design and related subjects. Holden Gallery Manchester Metropolitan University, Nov- Dec 08.
2008 ‘NPA 30’ Thirty years of the Northern Potters Association; PR1 Gallery University of Central Lancashire, Preston. July.

2007 ‘200 years, Slavery Now’; Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool Oct- Nov. Gallery Oldham, Feb - March 2008. Work shown -‘Harvest’ a piece made in collaboration with Bethan Lloyd Worthington.
2007 Firing Thoughts. Exploring the relationship between drawing& ceramics. Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University, Jan –March Special Collections gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University May – October. Included examples of my pots and drawing.
2007 Made in Manchester, MMU Art & Design in China: Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing May 2007; Xiamen University in Xiamen City October 2007 -; Guangzhou
2007 Academy of Fine Arts in Guangzhou November 2007.
2006 Magnificent Pitchers The influence of medieval English jugs and pitchers on studio pottery. The Yorkshire Museum. Jan –Sept.
2004 Oxford Art Week, May
2002 The Art of Throwing exhibition at Waterstones Bookshop, Nottingham Oct - Nov.
2002 The Art of Throwing Rufford Craft Centre, Nottingham Sept - Oct
2002 Saltzbrand Keramik international saltglaze exhibition, Koblenz, Germany Sept
2001 Ray Finch and Winchcombe Pottery. Rufford Ceramic Centre Nottinghamshire

1999 'Connections' Rufford Craft Centre, Nottingham.
1998 'Pots of Life- Winchcombe Pottery 1926-98' Cheltenham Museum & Art Gallery ; The Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent (1999); Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance ‘99.
1998 Booth House Gallery, Yorkshire. Summer Exhibition.
1996 Booth House Gallery, Yorkshire. Summer Exhibition.
1996 'The Art of the Palatine Potters' - Lancashire. touring show.
1996 '8' Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.

1988 Holden Gallery Manchester Polytechnic
1988 Manor House Gallery Ilkley
1988 Booth House Gallery Yorkshire
1987 Craft and Design Centre Leeds-Saltglaze show
1987 The Workshop Gallery Chepstow
1986 Holly House Gallery Tynemouth-'The Saltglaze Show'
1986 Collection Gallery Ledbury
1985 Drumcroon Arts Centre Wigan
1984 Royal Exchange Craft Centre Manchester 'For the Garden'
1984 Bees Gallery Cheshire
1983 Harris Art Gallery Preston 'Crafts from the North West'
1981 Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool
1976 Red Rose Guild Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester

Work represented in public collections

Work represented in public collections

Bolton Museum and Art Gallery
Swindon Museum
Wigan Schools Loan Collection
Townley Hall Art Gallery Burnley
Manchester Art Gallery, (collaborative work with Alice Kettle)
Manchester Metropolitan University also includes collaborative work with Alice Kettle Staffordshire University
Rufford Craft Centre, Nottingham
The York Museums Trust, W.A. Ismay Collection. Also includes collaborative work with Alice Kettle.

Recent projects lectures and events

Recent projects lectures and events

2012 - Ceramic Art Japan, Ruthin Craft Centre Wales. Lecture ‘A Japanese Passion’ as part of a study day entitled Making, Firing,Collecting, Inspiring. 9th June
2012 - Pairings 2 Stroud International Textiles, Museum in the Park Stroud 29 April Illustrated lecture ‘The Work Belongs to Itself’
2013 - Drawing in Between: Interdisciplinary Learning Through Drawing. 21 June 2013 Cardiff Metropolitan University. Presented paper ‘Drawing together the Threads’ which reference work done with Alice Kettle.
2013 - Ruthin Craft Centre Wales, series of ceramic talks
- 28th April ‘Collecting, a private obsession made public’ with Helen Walsh & Liz Mitchell.
- 7th July ‘The hidden world of drawing by potters’ with Sharon Blakey.
2014 - Ruthin Craft Centre Wales, series of ceramic talks, 2nd Feb, Lunchtime talk about the Emmanuel Cooper exhibition and afternoon lecture ‘Almost Incidentally’ presented alongside Doug Fitch.
2013/14 - Consultancy work for York Art Gallery

Work Styles

Work Styles

Slipware
Mixed media
Earthenware
Thrown
Sgraffito
Vases & Bowls
Teapots
Sculptural
Kitchen & Tableware