The promotional material for the inaugural British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke-on-Trent does a fine job: with its dashes of hot,fluorescent pink, it heralds a vibrant and innovative series of events – a refreshing step away from staid and traditional pottery connotations. But tapping into the city’s history is also a key element of the biennial, which is part of a wider programme by the North Staffordshire Regeneration Project. With exhibitions and installations dotted around the city, at buildings such as the a refurbished Wedgwood Institute and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, ‘the biennial gives you a chance to pick up on a sense of the history of the city’, says Jeremy Theophilus, the biennial’s co-director. ‘You’re experiencing the contemporary and the innovative, but you’re also seeing everything in the context of the city’s own history.’ The biennial aims to ‘reveal Stoke to the world and reveal the world to Stoke’, he adds. Jaime Hayon’s exhibition of ceramics produced over the past ten years will sit alongside the new graduates exhibition, Fresh, for example. The Biennial Ceramics Awards will celebrate creativity, innovation and achievement across ceramic practice, with designers such as Clare Twomey, Lucy Whiting and Stephen Dixon among those shortlisted. Other exhibitions include Our Objects at the Wedgwood Institute, which pairs commercially produced, traditional ceramic objects with their contemporary versions, and Guerrilla Ceramics, which includes installations by CJ O’Neill and Dixon. At a time when ceramics are threatened within industry and courses are being ‘kneecapped’, as Theophilus puts it, such an ambitious new biennial throws a welcome spotlight on a thriving and innovative medium.
British Ceramics Biennial takes place in Stoke-on-Trent from 3 October to 13 December