Exhibit of week: Passage to India for exquisite ceramics

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Pollie and Garry Uttley work together to create unique ceramics inspired by their travels throughout India.

This started with a journey as Pollie explained: “On November 6, 1995, we landed in India for the first time and the start of a fascination with the country and its tribal textiles began.

A fascination with India and its tribal textiles began

Pollie Uttley

“Since then there have been many return journeys, usually by train across the length and breadth of India.

“It is the richness, vitality and colour of the textiles that provide constant, ongoing inspiration. We make a range of ceramic wall panels and platters as a response to our almost annual visits to India, a country that we find endlessly fascinating.

“Having a major exhibition ‘Indian Inspirations’ at the Rufford Craft Centre Gallery in 2014 gave us the opportunity to develop our work further and, whilst still inspired by India, it has moved away from the purely textile influence to a much wider appreciation of the colour of everyday life and the many festivals as well as the art forms to be found in tribal decoration.”

Indian culture has influenced Pollie and Garry in every way in the development of their ceramic work, initially with its vibrant tribal textiles and in the development of a wide variety of wall panels, bowls and platters from the never ending rich colour and pattern.

Following early retirement from teaching of arts and ceramics, visiting India was to give them both a renewed direction and creativity.

The impact of this, and subsequent visits provided the foundation for the richly patterned ceramics they now produce.

During their almost annual visits to India they have conducted a workshop at the national Institute for Design in Ahmedabad.

They have been artists in residence at the Global Arts Village in Delhi, leaving behind an installation by the meditation centre, and they have run workshops for potters at Sanskriti Kendra also in Delhi. Pollie and Garry have also run tours to India for fellow potters and artists, sharing their love and knowledge on the way.

As their emphasis is on decorative work, a wide range of techniques are used as a response to the vibrancy of the tribal textiles. Their range of techniques is impressive, and these include impressed and added decoration, mono and screen printing, free painting, slip trailing, raku, decals and lustres. These are all combined with less obvious decoration such as stitching, adding sheesha glass and camel bone beads.

Wall work is often manipulated into folds to try to emulate the look and texture of the fabrics.

When asked about their technical skills Pollie said: “As almost every piece of our work is the result of an input from each of us it is not easy to define our roles. We are both more interested in surface decoration and pattern rather than form but Garry certainly has most technical knowledge.

“We use slabs of clay as the basis for a whole range of decorative techniques including screen and mono printing, decals, impressed and applied work, slip decoration, graffito and lustres.”

Both Pollie and Garry trained as painters at Sheffield College of Art.

“Hence the fascination with surface rather than form,” said Pollie.

“As teachers of art in secondary education we involved pupils in all aspects of art, including ceramics which had been included in our fine art training. Garry gradually specialised in ceramics whilst I mainly concentrated on apects of screen printing pattern again.”

Love of pattern, shapes and colours are all utilised in their unique take on creating ceramics.

Mirrors, gold details and texture are interwoven which blurs the distinction between the softness of fabric which is translated onto their bowls, plates and wall hangings.

They bring their appreciation of textiles into folded clay and then infuse it with all the familiar colours of an indian market. Hot spicy orange and ochre inspired colours with reds and blues span the continent of their travels and favourite places. Bringing home a vibrancy and subtle appreciation of the ethnic and sophistication of the India they love so much.