“If you want to see contemporary pottery in its most diverse and accessible form, then Oxford Ceramics Fair is that snapshot,” potter Dylan Bowen tells me.
Having exhibited there on and off for 15 years, Dylan, who lives in Tackley, says the fair has grown every year, with attendance increasing annually.
And with many of the finest ceramicists from Britain and abroad returning to Oxford Ceramics Fair at St Edward’s School this weekend, another significant increase in size and scope is expected.
“The growth of ceramics across the UK over the last five years has been incredible,’ organiser Toby Brunt says, “whether it’s having a go yourself, attending events or both. Vogue declared pottery to be the new yoga recently, and BBC TV show The great Pottery Throw Down (now returning on Channel 4) only aids this, alongside celebrity endorsees like Jessica Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have all served to up the profile of this ancient human activity.”
Oxford Ceramics Fair is no different. In what is incredibly its 23rd year, it has more exhibitors than ever before.
“The Fair has always been highly selective with more than twice as many applications as places,” Toby adds.
“But with so many great makers appearing, we wanted to keep the event fresh for visitors and give more people a chance to show to the public, so we’ve added ten more stands.
“We felt we could do this and still keep it a top drawer show because there’s much happening in the craft right now.”
Organised and run by the Craft Potters Association, the UK’s oldest and largest ceramics community aims to bring these craftspeople and their work to the public.
Alongside all the ceramics on show, there will also be more demonstrations and a new feature: Potters Question Time.
Modelled on BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time, this is a chance for all those budding potters out there to put your technical questions to our expert panel, and even to bring your pots to show them.
Other improvements include full catering provision at the Nuffield Sports and faster entry for online ticket buyers.
But ultimately it’s all about the pots. This year’s exhibitors runs a huge range, from old hands such as Svend Bayer, who uses ancient woodfiring techniques at his kiln in Kigbeare Manor in Devon, to newcomers such as Sharon Griffin whose expressive naturalistic sculptures capture clay in its rawest, quickly worked to capture a moment that is then frozen forever through firing.
RAMP – whose name stands for Rupert and Alice Make Pots – are also first timers, but that belies how accomplished their work is. They divide their skills – Roop on the throwing, Alice on the decoration – to deliver an entirely harmonious whole, beautiful in form and in surface.
Entry is just £6 – which includes all the demonstrations.
“Despite recent increased attention from the auction houses, ceramics remains a bargain whether comparing with contemporary art or just considering that every piece on show is handmade with deep skill and consideration.
“So whether it’s beautiful mug to drink your coffee from or a beautiful showpiece for your mantel you are sure to find something to love,” Toby adds.
Oxford Ceramics fair runs from Saturday October 26, 10am to 5.30pm, or Sunday 27 October, 10am to 4.30pm at St Edward’s School, Woodstock Rd, Oxford OX2 7NN.