Thursday, 30 June 2011

Local Potter's 'Dream Figures' on Display

Broseley potter, Elspeth Soper has taken a dramatic leap from her usual style of designs, as she will be exhibiting her very unusual 'Dream Figures' at her next Open Studio event on August Bank Holiday Monday from 10am – 4pm.

Elspeth, whose usual distinctive designs feature chickens, hares and guinea fowl has been working on a series of figures for the last 7 years depicting the elements.

Elspeth said "I had been commissioned to make a large Easter Island head to go in a garden and I thoroughly enjoyed hand building on such a large scale. I thought about Easter Island heads and also Japanese Haniwa figures – large terracotta funerary figures from the 3rd to 6th century AD - which I have liked for a long time, and the idea for the figures came to me."

Elspeth continued "the figures are, essentially, large coil pots. It was exhilarating and sometimes alarming for them to gradually take shape from the feet up."

The figures also represent Elspeth's life-long interest in North American Indian cultures and artifacts.

Having initially made rough drawings of the figures Elspeth said "it was very helpful for measurements but the drawings were deliberately not too detailed as I wanted the figures to sort of emerge in their own right as they went along". Each figure is made from 'crank' clay and fired to Stoneware temperatures – around 1280C.

Elspeth's initial idea was to create each figure representing a season but this gradually turned into the 4 elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Elspeth said "in the end I think what they really relate to are activities and ways of being which are very important to me. Although I actually 'do' them to some extent, they remain elusive – always just out of reach – and as such they are 'Dreams' ".

The first figure Elspeth made was Air, holding a Prayer Stick with a model of a bird. Earth followed, holding bean poles and a bundle of flowerpots. Then Water, and last year Elspeth made Fire. At the beginning of this year she completed Water by making a paddle and a 12" model of a birch bark canoe and completed Fire by making a pair of snowshoes.

Elspeth, who is a keen canoeist, continued "my admiration for First Nation Canadians and Native Americans knows no bounds. The canoe building especially is so clever – a sublime craft!"

The 'Dream Figures' have only been exhibited at Much Wenlock's Twenty Twenty gallery earlier this year "so this will be a great chance for everyone to see them" said Elspeth.

The Open Days at Willey Furnace Pottery are very popular with those that know and love Elspeth's distinctive work. Elspeth continued "I am always amazed at how many people come to the open days. I think it is usually between 50 and 100 people, so it gets quite crowded but everyone seems to be very good humoured about the crush!"

The Open Studio is on Monday August 29th from 10am – 4pm. Complementary refreshments will be available. The pottery is also open whenever the sign is on the roadside or by appointment.

Willey Furnace Pottery is at Barrow Road, Broseley. TF12 5JQ and will be well signposted on the day.

For more information please telephone Elspeth on 01952 885759 or mobile: 07790347007


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