Equestrian Ridge tile research in St Ives


Once I had arrived and started my research on these equestrian tiles, I was told that there were three other equestrian tiles in St Ives. The common knowledge was that Leach had made these three equestrian tiles as well as his two sculptures, but as Matt Tyas and I located and then photographed them, and we scrutinized the images with Peter, we realized that these tiles were made in such a different style that they could not have been made by Leach. However, they were not ancient like the ones in the Royal Cornwall Museum, and were probably made during the 1920s/30s under the auspices of the members of the Cornwall History Society,one of whom was Bernard Leach, and they were all on roofs of homes of old friends of Leach. Understanding their origin and the context of the ancient, the 20thc tiles, and Leach’s response to them, came together slowly over the four weeks in St Ives, and continues as we hope to write an article about their history. Leach’s equestrian tiles are, in themselves, a response to a long tradition of horse and rider tiles. The oldest I saw was at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, about 15th century, and two 17th century tiles, donated by R.J. Noall,a great collector and expert in Cornwall pottery, and a colleague of Leach’s in the Old Cornwall Society.
When we had slowly reconstructed the story of what we think is the history of Leach’s and the St Ives tiles, I realized, though foreigner I am, that I have joined the chain of response to this charming and evocative image of horse and rider

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Artist in Residence at the Leach Pottery in St Ives

Bernard leach - Roof Guardian

Bernard leach – Ridge tile – “Returning From Work” 1930s

In 2013 Julia Twomlow, Director of the Leach Pottery invited me to come to St Ives, as an Artist in Residence, to respond to this ridge tile made by Bernard Leach. It had been placed on a roof in Carbis Bay until the early 1990s. Julia also asked me to do some research for a presentation at the end of the residency. I am still doing the research and have been greatly assisted by Peter Smith, sharing his deep knowledge of early English ceramics, and by Matt Tyas, research fellow at the Leach Pottery, potter and photographer. Alex Lambley helped get me where ever I needed to go, and she and would discuss our findings, and Sarah Lloyd-durrant curator at the Royal Cornwall Museum has been generous and helpful. The people at the wonderful St Ives Archives found images and provided other insights. The Leach sculpture is very rare – there is one companion piece “Going to Work” in a private collection in Cornwall, that we know of. These two sculptures were intended to be cemented onto earthenware roof ridge tiles, and were Leach’s own response to the traditional equestrian tiles that used to adorn the roofs of better homes in the western counties. The tiles were made to cover up old smoke holes no longer in use. Leach’s horse and riders were made of earthenware, so that automatically dates them to prior 1935. These sculptures were made with a modernist spirit and are very unlike the traditional equestrian tiles that can be found in museums. [See the next post.]

I had been encouraged to work with this image or respond to it in my own way. The research has been almost as enjoyable as the studio work of ‘responding’ to the Leach sculpture. I have not worked with a horse image for many many years. Interestingly, just prior to Julia’s invitation, I had been thinking of reintroducing it into my work, and 2014 is the Year of the Horse, so it all seems synchronous. I will continue the theme for my October solo exhibition at the Gallery of BC Ceramics, called “Horsing Around – In the year of the Horse”.

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‘Midnight in the Nursery’ exhibit Oct. 14 – Nov. 7 2010

This exhibition is transitional.  I am somewhere between 2 different ways of practicing, showing pieces that are one-of-a-kind, and hand built,  and pieces made using my moulds. The exhibition is at the Port Moody Arts Centre.

Debra and Marcia’s statement

Debra spotted Marcia’s wild red shoes on the first day of their childrens’ preschool. They have remained friends ever since. As artists they recognized a similar undercurrent in their distinctly different art practices.
This exhibition dwells on the shadowed side of childhood, and the impetus is experience and memory. These constructions, disquieting and humorous, come out of the artists’ own experience, and are accelerated by witnessing their children’s.
Sometimes there is no peace in the dark. The nursery is not always a refuge at midnight.

Debra’s Statement:
The nursery is a metaphor for the realm of childhood.
We hope that the nursery is a safe and good place but we remember that it is also where fear, sorrow and conflict occur.
My babies are a metaphor for us, and the infant within each of us that marks our beginning and remains with us till our end. Childhood is a precarious place, and ceramics and childhood both exist in a state of fragility.

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Coming Home, summer of 2010

After traveling for a month…see Mary’s blog, www.marydaniel.ca/blog  where we shared the Istanbul experience, Terry and I arrived home to the arms of hungry children, under-walked dogs, an overgrown garden, and my studio in severe need of repair.  However, how lucky I have been – to experience  the residency and travel,  and then return to a welcoming home. It was a busy summer.

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