Della Robbia Pottery in the 21C – blog post by Juliet Carroll
Words of policyspeak that indicate that essential academic skills in 21st century Britain include the ability to make research accessible and relevant in a way that can be computed and quantified – a daunting thought.
I was keen to attend the training sessions to learn these skills. Although I missed the first workshop due to a prearranged research trip I enjoyed the second one immensely. Three key points that I took from the session were
- Simple, easy understood proposals with a straight forward execution are good
- Good communication is paramount – keep in regular contact with cultural partners, supervisors and directors of study.
- To be bold and confident in my thinking.
At that point I had not discussed the proposal with my cultural partner – I felt some trepidation about suggesting that the newly refurbished gallery should be turned into an amateur ceramics studio, complete with glazes and wet clay. However, the gallery was enthusiastic and supportive and offered to fund an extension of the project if it proved successful.
The proposal: to celebrate the work of the Della Robbia Pottery of Birkenhead by inviting participants into the newly reopened Williamson Gallery to work with a local ceramicist to create and glaze a ceramic piece in the distinctive style of the nineteenth century studio pottery.
By recreating the studio of this Arts and Crafts pottery, the would-be potters and decorators will experience the ethos of the pottery, and indeed of the Arts and Crafts movement, that puts a clear emphasis on creativity and individuality, in which a precise manufacturing process with division of labour plays no part. Advice from the workshop was to limit my participants to an older age group – U3A, local history groups – rather than riotous school children. However, the director of the gallery is keen to extend the project if my bid is successful and the undertaking proved viable and would include school children in the future. Thus the project has an extended afterlife – this could become a regular event at the museum. I am also pleased that the reputation of the Della Robbia Pottery will grow in a practical and accessible way rather than being restricted by the academic confines of my PhD.