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  • John Michael Bennett

International Ceramics Festival, Aberystwyth. 5-7 July 19.




It’s always difficult to get to Aberystwyth, but when you get there, it’s so hard to leave, I arrived on the late train from Cardiff and camped on Constitution hill looking out over the sea. I reached the site on Saturday morn, after a good stroll up the hill, to the Art Centre and university campus. The sun was shining, and the site was busy with stalls, bunting and the gentle hum of potter’s wheels. It was such a welcoming space, with the bustle of smiles and hardworking volunteers. I found the sight office, the hub of festival wheels and to find out I was speaking in 3 hours.




I met Dr Jo Daln, who had organised the PhD research seminar, after the Nuala O’ Donovan, Pattern and Form lecture. The lecture was excellent, giving a view of the process and the development of her work. Using fractal forms taken from nature and regular patters she creates, natural, flowing delicate sculpture that float in the grace of light and porcelain. The fractal form become the supporting 3 D structure to the formation of her pieces. Her pallet of tools is simple. I was inspired by the architectural, the play of grids, patterns and perspectives and encourage by the movement, flow and fragility.


After Nuala lecture I met Jo Daln, what an honour, her book ‘new directions in ceramics’ has been a trusty companion in my master’s development. This was my first venture into public speaking, I was nervous. My 12 minutes went well, good questions and a few laughs. It was amazing to listen and meet other PhD student through there work, of this shared seminar platform. There is some amazing research going on and it felt that I was a part of a wider family discussion.I drifted around the site, set my tent up. Visited Nic Collins kiln build and Terry Davis, wigwam kilns, enjoyed Natasha Parker-Edward, outside ceramic dance performance.


Magdalene Odundo lecture was amazing, it was only a few months ago that I had discovered her work and here I was listening to her. Her clay journey started with the inspirational support of teacher and lectures. Her journey wasn’t easy, her work to me is tantalising with stillness, form and material, she spoke of her recent exhibition “The journey of Things”, at the Hepworth Wakefield. This was an insight into presentation, gallery and collaboration between herself and the architect, the space and her work, the work that inspired and her vessels. She spoke of her sadness against the loss of clay and access to our children at schools and universities when most evening/ part-time courses are full.






Ashraf Hanna lecture was great, once again his journey and his process of hand building were inspiring and his work in glass. His lecture was very confident and funny.










Phil Rodger and Chen Min demonstration was wonderful. The engagement of Korean techniques adapted by an English potter. The ease and peace that he moved with and simplicity of slips strokes. It was a joy to see Chen Min,












I met Chen in Jingdezhen last year and she had taught me blue and white painting and carving.




It was incredible, to be sat in the great hall with over a thousand people attempting to watch two amazing tacticians at the same time.










A high light demonstration was Wendy and Brendan Hesmondhalgh. Both worked in slab building, with different ways of moving the clay and applying, surface mark.









The centre piece of ICF was one of his

giant ceramic bears. That stood poised, inquisitive and prehapts hungry.








The way he moved and joined the clay was beautiful to watch, he his command of the material was amazing to watch, and it was mirrored with Wendy Lawrence. They shared a good stage conversation.


I enjoyed the monumental and presence in her work, I was overwhelmed by the physicality and weight which nicely contrasted Brendan Sculptural animal, lightness and movement.






Ingrid Murphy exhibition in Gallery one; ‘Seen and Unseen’, was a joy, listening to her lectures over the years had given me a familiarity and understanding of her process, an insight into her work.


Finally, to be with her work, walking thought her exhibition, physical interacting, sensuously absorbing, the construct of Ingrid’s integrated technological world, where material stands proud, as the supporting linking structure. I really enjoy the teapot with the camera inside, as the view from the pot.



The finale of the punk raku was stupendous, pure glaze anarchy, Liquid glaze dripping and washing through the long dusk summer night, like molten fountains, erupting volcanos. pyrotechnics ceramics.



Jean-Francoisbourlard and Valerie Blaize put on a brilliant show, hells angels of glaze. This performance was specifically created for ICF, a banquet for all, a feast of the impossible.











This was an experience that I never ever would have imagined, witnessing liquid haptic flow in the folds of Clay.










The closing ceremony was great and a well-deserved, pat on the back for everyone who made this an amazing weekend, a rounding of the great applause of success.


I am so delighter for two of my colleagues who carried away the festival prices, Kate Haywood won the International ceramic studio residency award and Kim Coleman won the Potclay emerging makers award.

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