For 2021, British Ceramics Biennial returned to Stoke-on-Trent (11 September to 17 October), with a vibrant five-week festival of new artist commissions, exhibitions and hands-on events that celebrated the life, character and creativity that ceramics bring to the city.
The Goods Yard, a 19th century former warehouse in the heart of Stoke Town was transformed and animated by the UK’s leading ceramic artists and emerging talents, many of them taking inspiration from the city’s industrial heritage and transforming tradition in a contemporary way. For the first time BCB also curated an online programme of films, tours and events for those unable to visit in person.
Festival highlights included:
BCB’s headline exhibition took centre stage in the festival, this snapshot of the contemporary ceramics scene sees 10 of the UK’s most innovative ceramic artists competed for a £5,000 prize. The shortlisted artists were:
Alison Cooke, Christie Brown, Cleo Mussi, Connor Coulston, Helen Beard, Ho Lai, Jin Eui Kim, Mawuena Kattah, Stephen Dixon and Tamsin van Essen.
The winner of this prize was announced as Stephen Dixon.
Fresh returned with a showcase of work by 25 of the UK’s most talented early-career ceramic artists. From YouTube tutorials and community workshops to degree programmes and apprenticeships, Fresh 2021 celebrated the rich and diverse learning opportunities that are shaping ceramics today. The shortlisted artists were: Abi Wills, Antonio Fois, Becky Hoghton, Chloe Monks, Cicely Peers, Corinna Reynolds, Dorcas Casey, Elizabeth Jackson, Fiona Underhill, Gerald Mak, Ian Thompson, Janet Ann Lines, Karl Sebastian, Katy Stubbs, Leora Honeyman, Lexie Macleod, Nico Conti, Nicole Waefler, Oriel Zinaburg, Popalini & Jezando, Rosie Harman, Sarah Strachan, Serena Quinn, Valerie Bernardini, Valerie Zoz.
The winner of the Guldagergaard – International Ceramic Research Center residency was Dorcas Casey, the winner of the Staffordshire University residency was Nico Conti and the winner of the British Ceramics Biennial residency was Leora Honeyman.
Also in the 2021 festival
- Stoke Makes Plates – a large-scale installation of 250 plates designed by 120 Stoke-on-Trent residents – from care home residents to people in addiction recovery – commissioned artists and local ceramics manufacturers and inspired by Stoke’s historic high-street.
- History at the Dinner Table – US-based writer and artist Jacqueline Bishop reinterpreted the brightly coloured bone china decorative plates used symbolically in Caribbean homes and delved into how they hid a violent history of slavery and colonialism by European countries.
- New commission from Vicky Lindo and Bill Brookes explored the menstrual cycle.
- Major exhibitions in the city’s cultural quarter of Hanley included Neil Brownsword’s solo show at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, which delved into North Staffordshire’s early ceramic industrialisation, and an exhibition at Airspace Gallery explored clay’s zeitgeist moment.
- Interventions in The Goods Yard inspired by the Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion that were led by local young people in collaboration with V&A Wedgwood Collection.
- Hands-on programme in BCB’s science lab inspired visitors to get involved by making and playing with clay – from exploring traditional techniques to experimenting with contemporary processes.
- Works created through industry residencies in the city by 2019 Fresh Talent winners Alice Walton, Toni de Jesus, Pam Su and Laura Plant.
At the nearby Spode Works site Paul Scott’s Gardens of Lyra in The Spode Museum Trust Heritage Centre celebrated a new Cumbrian Blue(s) tea set, made by Spode for Fortnum & Mason alongside an installation and creative response from artist collective Haptic Tacit. The festival also spilt over into the Spode Rose Garden with Stoke-on-Tent artist Louise Adams capturing the seasonality of the garden through drawing and painting.