1st October – 14th December
Our latest show at the Ken Stradling Collection highlights the art of making beautiful items for the home through an examination of the work of potter Geoffrey Whiting (1919-1988).
The exhibition is totally Covid-19 friendly. The display is designed to be seen from outside using our façade as the gallery. Take a walk past 48 Park Row, Bristol and see highlights from a potter whose understated domestic wares were designed to carry out their tasks with quiet, practical elegance.
While Whiting’s pots might be quiet, there is another side to his work that is dramatic. Making pots requires kilns and producing the finest oriental glazes -tenmokus, celadons, chuns, ash glazes – means building specialist kilns and firing them by hand.
Whiting’s love of kilns and firing began early, as can be seen in this photograph of him with his first improvised kiln, Selly Oak, Birmingham c 1931. (Photograph: Whiting Family Collection)
This passage from an article he wrote, shows the deep commitment to making and the enthusiasm that underpins the pots on display.
‘I have many times lost my eyebrows and forelock with solid-fuel kilns, and once even had myself mildly on fire: but I would not lightly exchange the heat and toil for the dial-reading and knob-twiddling of modern ‘efficient’ methods. One summer night we fired through a violent thunderstorm. The yard flooded and began to discharge its load into the firing-well, threatening to drown all the fuel. Two assistants managed to keep me bailed out while, splashing about, I continued to fire. Then all the lights went out…. The whole atmosphere was an inferno of bursts of flame and sparks, black smoke, steam, the crash of thunder, the crackle of blazing wood, the cut and flicker of lightning and the roar of hail on the temporary tin roof. It was a dramatic scene indeed. What a night! Yet somehow we enjoyed the holocaust and it was a good firing.’ (Geoffrey Whiting, 1958. ‘Avoncroft Pottery,’ Pottery Quarterly, 5, 20, 133-143)
Just ‘mildly on fire’!
His teapots are known for their precision. No drips on to the table cloth from the teapot spout! His pots in all shapes and sizes; dishes, vases, plates and jugs are allmade with thought, care and laboured for in order to achieve a refinement of form, purpose and finish.
The commitment, personal involvement with the process and the acceptance of the unpredictable influence of the kiln on the pots is vital and has ties to Zen Buddhism.
There are shades of some of the other figures we have exhibited recently such as Crofton Gane, who was a Quaker. Geoffrey Whiting was born a Quaker and although he didn’t remain a committed Quaker something of its philosophy, as with Gane, did pervade his work. Whiting’s concerns for functionality and an avoidance of self-conscious detail or decoration remind one of the pre-war Modernists. He worked in the Anglo-Oriental tradition of Bernard Leach, making richly glazed work that owed much to the Far East as well as earlier traditions of British pottery. Yet the colour palette he uses is refined, as the potter Walter Keeler commented, “ there is a very particular Englishness about his work”, and Whiting pots, like his watercolours, are very rooted in the shapes and colours of his native landscape.
‘Whiting was a potter’s potter, low key and respected for continually strong work that seemed to capture the essence of studio pottery.’ Ceramics Monthly magazine (USA)
With the help of Geoffrey’s son David, a well known writer on studio ceramics, the Ken Stradling Collection is pleased to be able to mount this celebration of the work of a fine potter.
For more information:
David Whiting in conversation in June 2020 talks about his father with Mike Goldmark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBmm2HDhD50
Geoffrey Whiting. Galerie Besson. www.galeriebesson.co.uk/whiting.html
Geoffrey Whiting (1919-1988) British Council – Visual Arts. http://visualarts.britishcouncil.org/collection/artists/whiting-geoffrey-1919
Ismay, W. A. 1986. Geoffrey Whiting – Potter. Ceramic Review, 100, 26-28.
Whiting, David, 1989. Geoffrey Whiting. A Personal View. Ceramic Review, 120, 25-27.
Whiting, Geoffrey, 1958. Avoncroft Pottery. Pottery Quarterly, 5, 20, 133-143.