The work of Ashley Howard remains extraordinarily fresh. He is an assured but rigorous explorer and celebrant of the past, clearly indebted to a variety of ceramic traditions, but he has been able to absorb these ideas into a very modern, resourceful and uncommonly free language of his own.
His approach has always been one of physical expansion and openness, not precocity and constriction. He is the broadest, most gestural kind of thrower, leaving instilled in the finished form the richly, but too rarely explored, expressive power of the wheel. In this respect he is an inheritor of a particular dynamic in thrown work so famously achieved by one of his teachers Colin Pearson, a potter who brought a quite new and vigorous aesthetic to the discipline in the 1960s. It is seen too in other Pearson pupils — for example Dan Kelly and Colin Gorry — who, like Howard, bring out the clay’s special plasticity a preserved sense of wetness. There is also an antecedent in the sweepingly gestural pots of the late Janet Leach, who appeared to take her lead not only from ancient Japanese kilns, but from the ambition of so much post-war American and European abstraction.
Like Pearson and Leach, Howard builds and alters - making additions to the form after it has left the wheel - big bowls often starting in a dish mould, making up a lid, adding rims at the leather hard stage. In this way, Howard enjoys the process of construction too: indeed he is really as much a builder as a wheel potter, enjoying the limitless combinations of technical approach. This experimental, rather maverick attitude to making reminds me of the Japanese potter Rosanjin, who simply loved to play with the clay, with decoration and colour. Rosanjin wrote: "An artist must have unlimited freedom. To be bound by the customs and diehard ways of the past is to bound all potential for creativity.”
Howard is certainly no slave to history, even though he recognises something of it in his work; for example his more recent pots, increasingly simple and unmannered, have some of the qualities of Onbe and Shino wares, in part because of their thick glazing, another Howard hallmark. Particularly known for his luminous copper blues, he has recently developed some quieter creamy whites which help to accentuate character of form and add distinction in a more understated way. Howard remains, however, a potter of theatre. As much as his ceramics explore asymmetry, and revel in dents and warps of surface, so his pigments bleed and stain in the kiln, resulting in a patina of depth and variety.
It is the fluid sensuality of his pots that makes them so memorable. They emanate energy and an enthusiasm for making. “Good pots tell stories”, my father used to say, and Ashley Howard’s wear their history, their creative process, all over them. Rosanjin wrote of his Korean and Japanese sources: ”... I do not try to imitate them in a superficial way. I try to go straight to their inner values, their essence and their spirit” Ashley Howard is himself using tradition and his own idiosyncratic hand to enliven the language of the present, and in so doing, helps to give clay its continuing life.
Ashley Howard is steadily consolidating a reputation as a potter of integrity and a contagious theatrical physicality. A dedicated educationalist, he is currently head of Ceramics at the University College of Creative Arts, Farnham, and has exhibited widely and contributed energetically to the contemporary ceramics landscape. His appreciation of craftsmanship yet continual willingness to explore the potential of material, process and control, often in very fluid material handling, is an asset to the current pantheon of ceramics practice in the UK.
Ashley Howard produces porcelain and stoneware vessels in two distinct areas: a range of tableware informed by a dialogue between Far-Eastern and homespun pottery traditions, and one-off pieces that draw on his interest in ritual vessels, the spaces they occupy and the ceremonies that surround them. Notions of reverence and transience are also explored in this work are as well as notions of reverence and transience.
The work of Ashley Howard remains extraordinarily fresh. He is an assured but rigorous explorer and celebrant of the past, clearly indebted to a variety of ceramics traditions, but he has been able to absorb these ideas into a very modern, resourceful and uncommonly free language of his own. David Whiting.
Ashley Howard studied initially at the Kent Institute of Art and Design and combined teaching with a full and rewarding career as a potter. He became a member of the CPA in 1994, when he was known for his vivid blue thrown and altered jar forms. In 2001 he returned to full-time study at the Royal College of Art, and it this experience that was the catalyst for a dramatic change in his work. In 2004/5 he collaborated with friend and fellow RCA alumni Martin Lungley for the international touring exhibition Full Circle. The exhibition was designed to showcase the possibilities of wheel-thrown ceramics, and its catalogue included contributions by Alison Britton and Emmanuel Cooper.
Ashley Howard is senior lecturer in ceramics at the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham, Surrey, where he oversees both the undergraduate programme in 3-D Design and the MA in Contemporary Crafts. He has published a number of articles on technical and aesthetic issues.
Work generally available from:
Thomas Corman Arts.
New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, Surrey
Egg, 36 Kinnerton Street, London SW1X 8ES
The Gallery Upstairs Ltd, 81 High Street, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire B95 5AT
The Craft Centre and Design Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AB
Rye Art Gallery, 107 High Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7JE
Available for demonstrations, lectures and workshops.
If you are interested in attending a course please email me and I will send you details when they become available.
Oxidised porcelain, clear glazes, enamels.
2003 MA, Ceramics and Glass. Royal College of Art
1993 Fully qualified teaching status granted by DES
1987 HND, Ceramics, University of Creative Arts, Rochester
2006 – date Senior Lecturer:
BA (Hons) Three Dimensional Design & Contemporary Craft Practice: Ceramics
MA Contemporary Crafts
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham
2004 – 2006 Visiting Lecturer:
BA (Hons) Wood, Metal, Ceramics & Plastics
BA (Hons) Three Dimensional Design
University of Brighton
2004 – 2006 Visiting Lecturer: BA (Hons) Ceramics, Christchurch University College, Canterbury
2003 – 2004 Artist in Residence: University of Creative Arts, Rochester
2002 – 2003 Visiting Lecturer: BA (Hons) Ceramics, University of Creative Arts, Rochester
2000 – 2001 Acting Course Leader: BA (Hons) Ceramics, University of Westminster, Harrow
1989 – 2000 Practising Potter & Visiting Lecturer at various institutions
1987 – 1989 Technician: NDD & HND Ceramics, University of Creative Arts, Rochester
SELECTED WORKSHOPS AND SEMINARS
2007 Demonstrator, ISCAEE Conference, UCCA, Farnham
2006 Demonstrator, ISCAEE Conference, Tsinghua University, Beijing
2001 & Mo Jupp, Symposium, Tel-Hai, Israel
1995 – 2000 Demonstrations for numerous artists and potters groups
2008 Trustee, Farnham Pottery Trust
2007 Brother, Art Workers Guild
2001 Fellow, Higher Education Academy
2001 Member, General Teaching Council
1993 Fellow, Craft Potters Association
2002 Shortlist, Twyfords Bathtime project, Royal College of Art
1997 Peers Award, Art in Clay, Hatfield House
1995 Peers Award, Milsbeek, Netherlands
SOLO EXHIBITIONS INCLUDE
2009 Ritual and Setting, Winchester Cathedral
2008 Showcase, Cotemporary Ceramics, London
2000 One Two Five Gallery, Bath
1999 Lynn Strover Gallery, Cambridge
1998 Galerie van Meensel, Belgium
1996 Nijmegen Museum, Netherlands
2/3 PERSON EXHIBITIONS INCLUDE
2007 Bettles Gallery
2004 – 2005 Full Circle, & Martin Lungley, international touring exhibition
Brown, Bickers & Howard, The Tunnel Gallery, Tonbridge School
2003 Thomas Corman Arts, Cork Street
Brown, Bickers & Howard, Urban Interiors, London
1997 & John Pollex, Bettles Gallery
GROUP EXHIBITIONS INCLUDE
2009 Beyond Tradition, Bevere Gallery, Stroud
2008 Pothrminster Gallery, Cornwall
Ceramics In The Round, Buxton, Derbyshire
Jugs and bowls, Bettles Gallery
Ceramic Art London, RCA
Leach Pottery Restoration, Bonhams
Craft2EU Gallery, Hamburg, Germany
2007 ISCAEE, James Hockey Gallery, UCCA, Farnham
Ceramic Art London, RCA
2006 ISCAEE, Tsinghua University, Beijing
Ceramic Art London, RCA
Traditional Yet Contemporary: Modern Korean Ceramics (guest exhibitor) Air Gallery
2005 Table Manners, Crafts Council touring exhibition
Functional Form Now, Galerie Besson
Ceramic Art London, RCA
Chawan International, Belgium
Surfacing Now, The Tunnel Gallery, Tonbridge School
2004 Ceramic Art London, RCA
Feast Your Eyes, crafts Council, V&A
One Year On, Crafts Council at New Designers
2002 British Ceramics, France, touring exhibition
2001 Ceramic Contemporaries 4, touring exhibition
2000 NYAD2000, New York
1996 Keramuse, Netherlands
1994 Craft potters Association, V&A
2008 In Tune With Colour, Ceramics Monthly, Helen Bevis, December issue
The Leach Restoration Project, Bonhams
2007 The Beauty of Imperfection, Bonnie Kempske, Ceramic Review, 225 May/June
2006 Full Circle: David Briers, Crafts magazine 198
Vitality and Essence: Ian Gregory catalogue,
2005 Functional Form Now, preview, Daily Telegraph, February 7th
2004 Full Circle, catalogue, by Alison Britton and
Dead Ends and Possibilities, Alison Britton, Ceramic Review 210, November/December
Altered States, , Ceramic Review, 205 January/February
2003 Make Tracks To…, Daily Telegraph, May 31st
Homes and Property, Corrine Julius, London Evening Standard, May 28th
The Glaze Book, Stephen Murfitt
Ceramic Decoration, Jo Connell
Stoneware, Richard Dewar
2001 Searching & Finding: Kyra Cane, , Ceramic Review, 187 January/February
2000 Matt Glazes, Ashley Howard, Ceramic Review, 186 November/ December
The Complete Practical Potter, Josie Warshaw
1997 Strong Form Vibrant Colour, David Whiting, Ceramic Review, 166 July/August