Guild Member to Exhibit unusual works at Wenlock's Twenty Twenty Gallery
Tue April 26, 2011
Elspeth, whose usual distinctive designs feature chickens, hares and guinea fowl has been working on a series of figures for the last 7 years depicting the elements.
Elspeth said "I had been commissioned to make a large Easter Island head to go in a garden and I thoroughly enjoyed hand building the figures on such a large scale. I thought about Easter Island heads and also Japanese Haniwa figures – large terracotta funerary figures from the 3rd to 6th century AD - which I have liked for a long time."
Elspeth continued "the figures are, essentially, large coil pots. It was exhilarating and sometimes alarming for them to gradually take shape from the feet up."
The figures also represent Elspeth's life-long interest in North American Indian cultures and artefacts.
Having initially made rough drawings of the figures Elspeth said "it was very helpful for measurements but the drawings were deliberately not too detailed as I wanted the figures to sort of emerge in their own right as they went along". Each figure is made from 'crank' clay and fired to Stoneware temperatures – around 1280C.
Elspeth's initial idea was to create each figure representing a season but these then gradually turned into the 4 elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Elspeth said "in the end I think what they really relate to are activities and ways of being which are very important to me. Although I actually 'do' them to some extent, they remain elusive – always just out of reach – and as such they are 'Dreams' ".
The first figure Elspeth made was Air, holding a Prayer Stick with a model of a bird. Earth followed, holding bean poles and a bundle of flowerpots. Then Water, and last year Elspeth made Fire.
Elspeth, who is a keen canoeist, continued "I've only just made the birchbark canoe for the Water figure, and my admiration for First Nation Canadians and Native Americans knows no bounds. The canoe building especially is so clever – a sublime craft!"
Twenty Twenty Gallery is owned by Mary Elliot who said "we've been exhibiting the work of Elspeth Soper for many years. Her delightful pots are both functional and decorative and are in the tradition of original craft". Mary continued "Elspeth's figures will be a big jump for most of our customers who like her decorated pots. However, I think it is important that makers exhibit new work as it helps the customers to understand the context from which the smaller pieces are made. It also extends their knowledge of the maker".
Elspeth's 'Dream Figures' will be exhibited at Twenty Twenty alongside work from Mychael Barratt (etchings and paintings), Bob Bates (paintings), Jo Naden (sculpture) and Prue Cooper (ceramic plates)
Mary continued "I really like the otherworldliness of Elspeth's new work; it is also really rare to see such large ceramic figures".
Elspeth's 'Dream Figures' will be on display at the Twenty Twenty Gallery in Much Wenlock from 30th April – 28th May.
Additionally, in May, Elspeth's pottery, Willey Furnace Pottery, will be holding an Open Studio on Monday 2nd May from 11am – 3pm.
The Open Days at Willey Furnace Pottery are very popular with those that know and love Elspeth's distinctive work. Elspeth continued "I am always amazed at how many people come to the open days. I think it is usually between 50 and 100 people, so it gets quite crowded but everyone seems to be very good humoured about the crush!"
The pottery is also open whenever the sign is on the roadside or by appointment.
Willey Furnace Pottery is at Barrow Road, Broseley. TF12 5JQ and will be well signposted on the day.
For more information please telephone Elspeth on 01952 885759 or mobile: 07790347007