On Saturday 23 September the eighth edition of the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) opens its doors in Stoke-on-Trent, animating the city with a six-week celebration of clay. Exhibitions, new artist commissions and events spotlight some of the leading ceramic artists working today and introduce work by fresh new talent, all shown against the backdrop of Stoke-on-Trent’s distinctive industrial heritage.
All Saints Church in Hanley, an Arts & Craft church built ‘by the potters, for the potters’ is at the centre of this year’s Biennial, with major solo exhibitions nearby at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, AirSpace Gallery and The Brampton Museum in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Biennial highlights include:
BCB’s flagship exhibition Award
New work by ten UK-based artists competing for a £10,000 prize. These artists work in thought-provoking ways and with exceptional levels of skill and technique, using clay to explore everything from Stoke-on-Trent’s rave culture to the impact of sonar pollution on deep-diving whale species.
Tactile Project Space
Visitors can explore, take part and get hands-on with clay, with tile-making activities designed to start conversations about Stoke-on-Trent’s rich ceramics heritage. The clay being used is from the construction site of the new HS2 railway station.
The Tactile Project Space is part of HS2’s arts and culture programme which explores ways to incorporate creative practice into the development of the railway, and works closely with creative practitioners and arts organisations to build relationships with communities, reflecting and enhancing their skills and aspirations.
Limited-edition ceramic tiles
Created by Neil Brownsword with renowned UK manufacturer Johnson Tiles and exclusively for sale at the Biennial. The seven new tile designs reference Staffordshire’s history of cultural borrowing and assimilation.
Three major new commissions
Place Setting, a film by Deaf artist Nina Thomas exploring the deaf experience in the ceramics industry; Stephen Dixon’s Istoriato: culture and conflict, a large tile panel which looks at the connection between culture and conflict across history; and Emilie Taylor’s That Drop, a series of hand-built pots inspired by the city’s bottle kilns and featuring sgraffito vistas referencing North Staffordshire’s acid house scene in the early 90s.
At The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, multidisciplinary artist and writer Osman Yousefzada’s Embodiments of Memory considers life after death and the process of grief, offering a healing space for contemplation, memorial and ritual
William Cobbing’s Social Substance at AirSpace Gallery, a series of new video, sculpture, and performance pieces, explores a playful and ambiguous interaction between people immersed in mounds of formless clay.
At The Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Neil Brownsword’s Obsolescence and Renewal extends the artist’s examination of marginalised histories associated with the origins of British ceramic manufacture.
As part of the Biennial’s international partnership with the Indian Ceramics Triennale, artist Neha Gawand Pullarwar presents a series of works inspired by the first wave of the Industrial Revolution and how it shaped Stoke-on-Trent and the colonial Bombay Province, Mumbai.
Fresh and Fresh Talent
A celebration of new talent in Fresh, an exhibition of 25 early-career artists, and Fresh Talent, where Dorcas Casey, Leora Honeyman and Nico Conti show new work created during the artistic residencies they were awarded at the 2021 Biennial.
Talks programme including conversations with Award artists and a series of round-table discussions exploring topical themes.
Elsewhere, a range of events and displays celebrates British Ceramics Biennial’s year-round work in the city making change through clay – from the Recast addiction recovery programme to the new youth-led project Transferer.