by Christine Taylor (artist & volunteer)
For a small gallery in a small town, Alford Arts has a very busy diary this summer!
If you want to make a note of dates for your own diary, here is a quick list we would recommend:
1st July - James Ardern, a well respected graphic artist and illustrator is our spotlight artist throughout July. James has a distinctive style, swapping between hand drawn techniques and digital art. Come and have a look!
8th and 9th July - Alford hosted its first arts and music festival, with live music on the streets, in the Manor House, the pubs and even the art gallery. On Saturday the gallery held classes on the pavement with artists Tony Player and Jane West. It was free to join in and materials were supplied. On Sunday we attempted to create an enormous drawing of musical instruments and musical inspirations, with the whole town invited to come along and paint or draw with us.
So many people commented on how welcome they felt and some even purchased art supplies from us to carry on painting at home.
We have also welcomed new artists and photographers into the gallery so there will be lots of new work to browse.
If you feel inspired then consider treating yourself to some art supplies as we have just expanded our range which now include rag paper concertina sketchbooks, watercolour paints and papers, pastels and sketching pencil kits.
There is nothing in the world like a brand new sketch book.
In August our spotlight artist will be Robin Smith, famous for his landscapes and WW11 aeroplanes. Robin will also be launching his new book with a book signing at the gallery on the weekend 13th/14th August, to coincide with the 1940s weekend which is hosted in Market Square, in Alford.
This is also a significant date for the gallery as we shall be celebrating our first birthday.
We have much to celebrate in the gallery, particularly some of the organisers and creative elders who, between them, have over a century of experience in making a living through arts and crafts.
Pris McGirr, most famous for her ceramics, has been creating wonderful pots and bowls for decades and is a very successful raku artist. Up until recently she has a history of teaching pottery and sharing her skills. However, she has decided that since she has become an octogenarian it’s time to expand her skills and refresh talents that have been ignored for a while.
Pris has joined some of the classes held through the gallery, notably Jan Hill, Tony Player and Karin Christensen and is storming ahead. She says there are days when she stares at a blank sheet of paper in utter frustration but a lot more days when she loses herself in the exhilarating experience of filling the paper with paint.
You can see a small selection of her art and ceramics in the gallery.
Pris is also very often the welcoming face when you visit.
Another stalwart of Alford creativity is Michel Ducos, who with his wife, Heather, have run the Alford pottery for 50 years. They are responsible for supplying our homes and businesses with cups, plates, teapots and jugs throughout East Lindsey.
The pottery still goes on and Michel is often to be found there, creating fantastical sculptures and expressive one off pieces, as well as cups, plates and teapots!
Currently Michel is exhibiting his work in Venetias yarn shop gallery, Fakenham, Norfolk, alongside expressive artist Carole Ann Grace, who is also exhibiting in the Alford Arts Gallery.
We are very excited to be next on the list to exhibit Michel’s work, in October.
Our most current ceramics exhibitor is Jacky Lloyd.
Her barrel fired vessels are stunning and take pride of place in the gallery.
The process has 4 stages, as described by Jacky here - ‘’barrel firing ceramics evolved from my love of Greek and Roman history. The process relies on a technique created prior to a glossy glaze being discovered. The egg led ceramics comes from a Greek word Keramos. For years we would holiday in Greece and admire the huge terracotta garden planters. To barrel fire you first, add a terra sigilatta to the leather hard clay and then burnish. This creates a glossy like finish ( and will remain) . You bisque the pots first , then they are ready for the second firing, most commonly used is a clay saggar(a pot within a pot) . Next the barrel is loaded the more variety of hard and soft woods the better, gathering old wood, leaves, left over coffee grinds, banana skins, seaweed are all part of the firing. Each material will bring the colours to the final ceramic piece. The fire is fed for 3 hours, then left to cool before opening. The final pieces are then washed and a wax polish added.’’
Jacky also teaches pottery in the Alford craft market, as well as volunteering in the gallery and playing a pivotal role in both the craft market and gallery.
This is how Jacky describes her passion for teaching pottery -
‘’I have through my journey discovered that teaching is one of my greatest pleasures. I am a relative latecomer to ceramics. It took me quite a Process to learn the art of throwing but this has them in turned help me devise a series of tutorials to help students learn from scratch. I believe in providing as many demonstrations of techniques as possible but equally use other online teachers to demonstrate to students how to develop their own unique way. When I get a student who joins just to see what pottery is like , I can pretty much tell they are hooked on clay within a lesson.. is there life without clay ?’’
In my next blog I will have a chat with watercolourist and teacher, Tony Player.
His work is very popular and classes can be booked in the autumn.
On the 5th August Market Square will be hosting Bikers night, for the second year running. There will be lots of bikes, interesting characters as well inspiration for painting, drawing and photography. Do come along!
The heat is intense, the garden is calling and I’m thinking of sipping a mint julep before putting pencil to paper….