USE AND ORNAMENT - a manual for recovery through pottery and ceramics


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USE AND ORNAMENT is a multi-media group exhibition which explores contemporary understandings of clay, as material and resource, the role and purposes it might have today; and delves into what ceramics can offer us, as we move into a time of recovery and rebuilding.

Use and Ornament, creates a space for respite and refuge from a time of difficulty, setting out some practical uses for this very earthly of materials, and how it might help us to recover, when the time comes. But it also goes further, in the belief that the role of art, and therefore the occupation of the artist and maker, is to create moments that move us beyond the bounds of the earthly, to that important place of imagination, exploration and departure.

An exhibition in two halves, the works shown discuss the need to make more sustainable choices in how we make and consume, acknowledging a need to shift our value systems in relation to global resources. We then move on to recognise that there is good reason to celebrate the sublime; for as much as we need our art to have a role and a purpose, sometimes that role and purpose can be to lift us out of the hole we are in, even if just for a moment, to dream of the future.

The exhibition comprises works by 6 artists/collectives, including work made during a public facing and participatory artist residency, completed in August 2021.

USE AND ORNAMENT : A Manual for Recovery through Pottery and Ceramics
Essay by Anna Francis

Since its first iteration in 2009, every two years AirSpace Gallery has mounted an exhibition as part of the British Ceramics Biennial, exploring clay and its applications. As a visual arts gallery, we have always aimed to create space for dialogues and critique within our programmes, and often, in the works and projects we have developed for BCB, we have aimed to gain an understanding of what role ceramics plays in our place; what the material may mean to the people and communities here, and what significance this has had and still continues to have via our global connections as a city. For BCB 2021, the Use and Ornament Exhibition aims to examine and explore contemporary understandings of clay, via the work of 6 artists and arts collectives.
In describing the exhibition as a manual, the aim is to suggest something useful: perhaps a set of instructions that can be followed; a recipe for something certain, a set number of ingredients which always result in the same outcome.

As the first public exhibition that the gallery has been able to display since the pandemic took hold in 2020, perhaps the suggestion of a formula that can be followed provides some much-needed certainty. Life today looks almost unrecognisable in some respects; much of what we thought of as definite and fixed has changed and shifted position. An exhibition arriving in the wake of such unimaginable upheaval must address some of the difficulties and challenges which have impacted on every human being on the planet these past 18 months, but the need for recovery mentioned in the exhibition’s subtitle speaks additionally about the purpose and role of art, given the global context of climate change, and more locally, concerns of a city aiming to find a new identity, as much of its traditional industries have dwindled, these past 50 years.

The role of ceramic here then is of particular interest, being a city whose fortunes have been tied up with clay as far back as 2000 BC, but most notably, since the Industrial Revolution saw the region eventually defined and known for what it makes: ‘The Potteries’. How do you rethink the role of ceramics in the Stoke-on-Trent of today, and what relevance can be found in this material, clay, given the local and global challenges we face?

To download a PDF of the Full Essay, click HERE


Throughout the exhibition, Use and Ornament will be augmented by a series of public activities, taking the core underlying principles of the exhibition as a starting point and working outwards to explore contemporary societal concerns in visual arts and ceramic contexts.

The Public Programme will comprise
Artists' talks and public discussions - delving into the issues facing contemporary arts and crafts
The return of our Artist Soup Kitchen series, to explore support networks, good practice and sustainability of the arts and artists in an ever changing and challenging world.
Creative, hands-on workshops
A special Film Club with our Use And Ornament resident artists
A final Use And Ornament Social, hosted by renowned influencers Hayley and Bill - which will seek to make the case for beauty, and the arts.

All events will be FREE to attend, with BOOKING required. Spoecifics may be affected by any changes in government announcements around Covid-19.
Please consult the Public programme section of the AirSpace website for details as they are announced.



In 2020 Brickfield worked closely with John Osborne, the last brickmaker in claycountry and, having worked as a brick maker for 15 years as a younger man, the last man to fire the last working beehive kiln in Cornwall. Brickfield's work includes documentation of John's brickmaking heritage and the salvaging of 10 tonnes of 50 year old hand made bricks from the site of his old workplace to build a new mini beehive kiln on the Brickfield site at Imerys’ Blackpool Pit.

For Use and Ornament Brickfield are exhibiting: extracts from The Brickfield Guide to Cornish Brickmaking, a record of their work with John; samples of local materials used to mix the ‘muck’ for making bricks; brick moulds with their frogs; examples of bricks made year on year from 2018 to 2021; as well as other bits of brick making paraphernalia. So far Brickfield have made around 1000 good bricks and are working with their growing community to decide what to make with them.


Brickfield (a team of 5 - comprising ceramic artists Roasanna Martin, Katie Bunnell and Zenna Tagney, brickmaker, John Osborne and potter, Bobi McFazdean) is a community brickworks based in a disused clay pit in the heart of Cornwall’s china clay country. It involves people in walking the land, experiencing the unique terrain formed by china clay extraction, and hand making bricks in simple wooden moulds using clay mixed from industry waste: transforming the materials underfoot into the most flexible of building blocks.

Born out of a weekend workshop on the site of an old brickworks on the banks of the River Fal in 2018, Brickfield has been supported by the Austell Project, Imerys, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and the Victoria and Albert Museum to deliver community engagement projects in St Austell and London.

@ __brickfield__


The Yunomi, specifically made for daily tea drinking or informal use, is an object close to studio potters, many of whom create their own, in their own potter's style, as a constant studio companion. Ever since the renowned British potter Bernard Leach returned from his trip to Japan, at the beginning of the twentieth century, many studio potters have had an obsession with the Japanese drinking vessel. It has been the pot to make, in many ways becoming its own art form to explore and experiment with, weaving individual style into the form.

This set of 15 Yunomis are hand-made, fired and glazed by the 2019-2021 cohort, and tutor, of Clay College. Each Yunomi comes in an edition of 12, referencing the maker's approach to their practice - and are available for sale throughout the exhibition.

Visitors are encouraged to pick their favourite Yunomi, and enjoy our special Use And Ornament tea blend, while exploring the exhibition.


Clay College Stoke opened its doors in Sept 2017, with a mission to teach practical pottery skills and design to an international standard, and to create highly-skilled, self-sufficient and diverse makers.

Offering a skills-based, full-time ceramics course taught by potters who make a living through ceramics, something unique in the UK, the emphasis is on core skills and the use of materials. Students are taught all aspects of design, throwing, glazing, kiln building and firing, alongside traditional hand building and decoration techniques, augmented by modules focusing on business, selling, publicity and marketing.



hand picked, dried and blended by the Spode Rose Garden's artist in residence, Frances Disley, this aromatic blend is offered to guests to the exhibition as a welcome to accompany their chosen Yunomi, to take with them and enjoy as they peruse the exhibition. the blend is intended to be calming and uplifting at the same time. The strong prevalent aromas should transport you to the Spode Rose Garden in midsummer.


Frances is a visual artist based in Liverpool. I studied at The Royal College of Art, and her multidisciplinary practice spans sculpture, participation, performance & installation. Her recent solo exhibition at Bluecoat, Pattern Buffer included an alternative mindfulness guide; hairdressing video art, and plants. Frances recently completed a 2-year commission for the Turnpike Gallery Leigh: a performance/video work in collab with Fallen Angels Dance Theatre (performers in recovery from addiction). Since 2018, she has been working on a series of commissions for Human Libraries. Her current project Freshly Cut Grass consists of both analogue and online works: a series of sound works taking the form of guided imaginary journeys; workshops; planting; and multiples consisting of scents, tactile pieces and herbal teas.


Stirring the Swarm is a ceramic installation - a multitude of handmade ceramic insects, each one unique and strikingly beautiful, inspired by an ancient collection of Entomology housed at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham. The ceramic installation piece is a physical projection of a make-believe story written by the artist about this Entomology collection magically coming back to life from death. The installation lures viewers into this deliciously dark story as they find these enchanted insects, gathered en-masse, following their flight from the previous infestation.

Dry, dingy creatures cling lifelessly to the walls, frozen in the viewer’s sight, alongside more dazzling ‘specimens’ that sparkle and shine with rich glazes and lustres. Many also have missing limbs or wings to reflect their ancient and delicate condition - or perhaps they mutated during their escape, sprouting extra heads or wings: evolution and magic transforming the swarm into a new life-form.


Anna’s ceramics aim to rekindle a forgotten, childlike sense of curiosity and delight. each of her works has a story to tell, tempting the viewer’s imagination to assign personal narrative to the assembly of images, forms and textures within the work.

Anna’s current work continues to feature highly sought-after swarms of ceramic insects, alongside wall pieces and illustrations. The collections are whimsical in nature, featuring curious insects with majestic golden antlers, kaleidoscopic arrangement of wings and unfurling limbs. The insects are cloaked with Anna’s signature oozy and sumptuous glazes, then finished with precious metal and opal lustres to heighten the beguiling presence of the insects. The ceramics exhibit a delicate balance between beauty and darkness, a reflection of the fairy tales of old that inspire the work. The ceramics also harbour Anna’s deep fascination with science, nature and the mysterious magic that seems to sculpt the universe we inhabit.

Anna Collette Hunt graduated in 2009 with a First Class honours degree in Decorative Arts. She went on to set up a ceramic studio in 2010 after receiving a grant from the Craft Pottery Charitable Trust.



House is a touring installation project, adapting its form and approach to each audience and the spaces it encounters. Both a physical form and ideas space, it is an alchemical container of experimentation - a sculptural repository of curious, expressive parts, figures and narratives. House morphs in scale and form to embody new spaces. House seeks to connect people, to tell shared dreams and generate new stories.

The brand new installation for Use And Ornament has resulted from a month long residency prior to the exhibition - developing from a set of initial public workshops, using clay, textiles, wood, shadow projection, archive materials, objects and creative writing processes - where local community groups were invited to imagine future worlds and dream up creative, magical and poetic ways of adapting to the future and living together, to form a group heterotopia – or a ‘world within worlds’.

The result is an imagined city of hope, memories, action and dreams for the people of Stoke, populated with multiple figures, using clay, wood, dipped and fired textile, with sound and potentially projection.


The INSIDEOUTSIDEHOUSE collective has been developed over 24 months, by a group of four established and experienced artists - Jenna C. Ashton, Alison Duddle, Alice Kettle and Eleanor Mulhearn - each with individual and discreet practices, drawn together through their joint collaborative potential and shared project vision. The collective's artists work across a range of mediums - clay, textile, animation, sound, creative writing and puppetry - working in scale from the sub-miniature to the gigantic.


With a title evocative of our current predicament - habitat loss, farmageddon, supersized fields - blandscapes which offer little for our kith and kin in the wild world, this body of work explores our earthbound connections. In a jumble of ecologies and ideas it connects soil, clay and skin. The seed bank in the soil beneath our feet contains flecks of life awaiting activation. The clay in Loder's studio, similarly, is packed full of possibilities.

The raw clay surface is analogous with skin and soil - both offer a fragile interface that protects, contains and expresses beauty. This recent development in Loder's practice, explores a way to work with clay while questioning the kiln as a primary tool. Concentrating on the material possibilities of raw clay, unearthing stories - ‘Raw’ has bodily connotations - wounded, vulnerable, undisguised.

This slow uncoupling of clay and kiln has occurred over the fifteen years she has been making heads and faces. What started as a way of recording the application of glaze evolved into a standalone activity, which, here offers us the chance to consider the idea of human/nature - our connection, immersion in or rejection of the natural world.


Loder is an artist and educator based in Bath. Clay and drawing are central to her practice – her focus is predominately figurative. Originally trained in Illustration and Graphic Design at Bath Spa University she made the switch to 3D in 2004 with a Ceramics MA in Cardiff. Following her MA she received the Crafts Council’s Next Move Award. Her book ‘The New Ceramics - Sculpting and Handbuilding’ was published by Bloomsbury in 2013. She is a lecturer at Bath Spa University.

Loder is founder of Blooming Whiteway, a community gardening project in Bath. The daughter of horticulturalists, brought up on a smallholding in East Anglia, she has recently completed her RHS Level 2 Theory.



An experimental project produced during a six week residency at Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Centre in Denmark. Through the creation of porcelain sets and stop-frame animation, Spragg explores the moon’s place in our imagination and its effect on Earth’s plants.

Her interest lies in the transcendental effect of moonlight and the conjecture between imagined and factual. The animations draw attention to phenomena where science echoes myth and it’s not clear whether the events are imagined or genuine. The title of the project is taken from a poem Spragg wrote about the moon, as a child.


Working predominantly in ceramics, Katie creates artworks that peer into our interconnected relationship with nature, questioning the evolving patterns in which humans and plants co-exist. She is interested in the tension and space between managed and cultivated landscapes and the resourcefulness of nature. Through the work focus is pulled to the margins and intersections. By creating imaginary worlds, enlarging or miniaturising specific compositions, the intention is to encourage a deeper investigation into how plants behave and how their behaviour can help us reconsider our own approach to communities and landscape.

Katie’s catalogue of work includes a piece in the V&A collection, a permanent installation at the Garden Museum and commissions for the British Ceramics Biennale and Sotheby’s. She has exhibited with the Craft Council in London and Miami, at Make, Hauser & Wirth and with solo
shows at Blackwell, Arts and Crafts House the Garden Museum and Pi Artworks. Katie is a tutor at the Royal College of Art and a founding member of Collective Matter; an outreach group pioneering collaborative practice through clay.

@ katie_spragg_ceram

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