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Derek Clarkson, Ceramicist

The following is archived information kindly provided by the Rufford Craft Centre

Artist: Derek Clarkson
D.O.B: 15 July 1928
1 The Poplars
OL13 8AD

Brief Description of Work:
Individual decorative bottles and some bowls mainly porcelain. High temperature classic reduction glazes. Calligraphic brush decoration, some burnishing gold added. Also crystalline glazes, flamboyant, large concentric ringed crystals.

Training and Experience:
1944-47 - Manchester College of Art
1959-61 - Burnley School of Art - NDD Hons

Selected Exhibitions:
Various, from - International Academy of Ceramics, Geneva 1965
Greece Festival, Athens 1995
Celadon d'aujourd 'hui touring exhibition - museums in France 1995-96
Crystal Glazes Keramik Museum, Mettlach Germany 1998
In celebration of the vessel, Southwell Minster Millennium Exhibition 1999

Other Activities:
Precious Fear
Occasional articles to ceramic magazines and compiling ceramic crossword puzzles.
Communicating information and experience

Artist's Statement:
The bottle has been the form consistently and almost exclusively made over a space of fifty years. Mainly a satin matt creamy grey felspathic or celadon glaze with cobalt/iron calligraphic brush decoration. Frequently this decoration is a repeated motif giving an overall texture/pattern relating to and emphasising the ovoid form. The intuitive judgement of surface curvatures whilst decorating on a porous unfired glaze is an enjoyable challenge relating the composition of abstract brush strokes to the shapes of the unpainted areas between and the form. The crystalline glaze pattern qualities which I work on are an extension of my brush decoration format and seeking separating crystals on a crystal free background.

Further Information:
1949-79 - decorative thrown and turned pots of an individual nature, or 'one of a series' has always been the type of work produced. During the 1950s a red earthenware body was used with slip techniques or a majolica tin glaze with metallic oxide brush decoration. In 1959 began working in oxidised stoneware, firing to 1260 C, making bottles, bowls, platters and small lidded jars with felspathic glazes predominantly brush decorated. Became an exhibiting member of the Red Rose Guild of Designer Craftsmen.
In 1961 started working to a higher temperature of 1300 C using gas kilns and firing with a reducing atmosphere. The rich glaze surface, subtle colour range and glaze/body interaction under these firing conditions play a major part in giving qualities sought after and continue to be of enduring interest, excitement and source of inspiration.
In 1962 became a full member of the Craftsmen Potters Association of Great Britain and during the 1960s and 1970s regularly showed work in solo and group exhibitions. One of the potters representing Great Britain at the International Academy of Ceramics Exhibition, Geneva. 1965 work was included in the Design Council's Craft Index.

Full -time potting:
1980 - On taking early retirement from teaching in 1979 began working as a full-time potter in a spacious workshop and enjoys giving lecture/demonstrations, by invitation, around the country. Exhibitions are an ongoing activity and in the 1980s have included venues at universities, polytechnics, private and public galleries including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Work is in many private collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum. Recently items have come up for auction at Christie's, London: Contemporary Ceramic Sales.

The Work:
Bottles and bowls are the two forms which have been of lasting interest and an absorbing challenge. The narrow necked bottle with its fullness of form rising from a small bottle with a smooth surface and waxy glaze acts as a touchstone and a delight to handle. Larger forms are also evocative with their feminine or masculine characteristics.
The bowl is a familiar and yet deceptively simple form with subtle variations between the inner and outer contours and the light catching upper surface contrasting with the shaded underside.

Brush Decoration:
Decoration with a brush has always been a major feature presenting a never ending challenge and rewarding form of self expression. The metallic oxide and water pigment is quickly drawn form the brush by the absorbent unfired glaze over a porous biscuit body. A sure spontaneous touch and intuitive response to a form with convex surfaces is needed for a calligraphic style of painting.

Light coloured bodies are thrown, turned and facets may be beaten before biscuit firing to 960 C and then glazed by dipping. Mainly cream waxy ash or grey green celadon glazes are brush decorated with cobalt and iron oxides. Sometimes burnishing gold is added. Tenmoku, kaki, dolomite, titanium and copper red glazes are also used and wax resist brush decoration.

During the last few years more work is being produced in porcelain bodies. Thrown bowls are often turned very thin to give maximum translucency and then incised or carved almost, but not quite piercing through the wall of the bowl. To achieve this is time consuming, demanding fine craftsmanship. The incised areas appear either lighter or darker depending on how light falls on the bowl. Burnishing gold may be added which requires an extra firing. Even the finest pieces are extremely strong and with a good fitting glazes, porcelain when struck will have a distinctive ring.

In 1990 crystalline glazes were experimented with and now porcelain bottles, bases and plates are being produced in a wide colour range. The unusual glazes composition and firing cycles give large zinc silica crystal formations which are flamboyant and unique to each piece.

They are many and varied including form and glaze qualities of the Sung period: early Minoan and Persian ceramics. The paintings and drawings of Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, M.C. Escher and work by C.R. Mackintosh and A. Guadi. Lettering and letter forms, growth and decay in nature, patterns and rhythms in perspective and mathematics.
Significant influences stem directly from using clay, glazes, fire and by responding to the working processes.