Basketry in Ruthin

Untitled

Last week we were in North Wales where we’d booked an apartment in Anglesey, on the coast between Menai Bridge and Beaumaris for a family holiday. It’s only a couple of hours drive from home (or a bit longer during holiday times as the A55 gets chocker with traffic at the weekend) and we couldn’t get into the apartment before 4 o’clock, so we decided to break the journey by visiting the historic town of Ruthin, in the Vale of Clwyd. We parked up by the Ruthin Craft centre where we had a bite to eat in the excellent little cafe before taking a look round the current exhibition.

The Craft Centre is something of a hidden gem. Located in a modern building on the outskirts of the town centre (on what used to be the site of the railway station before the line was closed back in the 1960’s) it has craft studios, gallery exhibition spaces, restaurant, craft library and, of course, a shop. Most of the craft studios seemed to be unoccupied (due to economic factors, no doubt) so it’s not really a place to see craftspeople at work. But it has a good, airy display space and they always seem to pull together a good programme of exhibitions which straddle the border between “craft” and “art”

The latest exhibition – Basketry: Function & Ornament with works on display by 30 “creators”, had opened the day of our visit and was a good example of how “craft” and “art” are not necessarily different categories, but part of a continuum. The Craft Centre’s website tells us that the exhibition

brings together functional vernacular work from various parts of the country, alongside pieces that are sculptural and ornamental. It is a survey of a craft that has been somewhat sidelined in times of great technological advances, yet offers a sustainable answer to so much of our modern day throw-away habits.

Untitled
Untitled

Some of the works were traditional baskets and the like, all beautifully made,

Untitled
Baskets by Mandy Coates
Untitled
Baskets by Mandy Coates

but many of the works were artistic, sculptural forms that were decorative rather than utilitarian. There were some exquisite pieces – works of art created using traditional craft techniques.

Untitled
Piece made of willow by Lizzie Farley
Untitled
Piece made of willow by Lizzie Farley
Untitled
Piece made of willow by Lizzie Farley
Untitled
Three pieces by Mary Butcher
Untitled
Burden baskets made of carbon steel wire by Stella Harding
Untitled
Nests made by Joe Hogan

Rafael Perez in Ruthin

I was in North Wales for a brief work related visit to a factory on Tuesday. I was done just before midday so decided to pop into nearby Ruthin. For a while I’d been intending to visit the Ruthin Craft Centre and so this was a good opportunity to do so.
The craft centre has a number of workshops used by artists, but also has three galleries where they hold exhibitions, a shop and a cafe.
One of the current exhibitions features the work of a Spanish ceramic artist, Rafael Perez. He’s not exactly a traditional potter, producing abstract ceramic sculptures rather than utilitarian pots.

He uses black earthenware and white porcelain clays which behave differently in the kiln, the earthenware expanding and giving off gases, distorting and producing complex forms. In some cases pigments are applied which result in brightly coloured sections. He has a good understanding of his materials and how they behave in the kiln and uses these properties in a controled manner

“I have developed various clays at a medium temperature (around 1150 degrees) that have the quality of expanding upon firing. By combining these with other inert clays (sometimes red Spanish clay but generally porcelain with a low melting point and a melting agent in their composition) I make my sculptures.” (Interview on Contemporary Ceramics blog)

Interviewed by Ceramics Now Magazine Rafael reveals that

“My work is about surprising myself and the audience, using white porcelain and black earthenware clay, fired at high temperature. The black earthenware expands, thus creating a volcanic landscape. It is not just a natural landscape, because it is directed by me. I have created the cuttings from the beginning, but still the aspect of surprise is always present, because what happens in the kiln is unpredictable.” Rafael Pérez

Some of the pieces on display looked as if they were solidified molten rock
While others were much more geometric and structured.
rafa also produces works on paper and ceramic “wallworks” such as this

I know that his work will not be to everyone’s taste, but I found them fascinating and very interesting.