Gladstone Pottery Museum
Gladstone Pottery Museum artist residency
Denise making work
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A Making Moves Project
Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, a working Victorian pottery complex or ‘pot bank’ as they are locally known, is the location for the first residency of Making Moves. Peta Murphy-Burke, the Arts Development Officer for Stoke-on-Trent City Council identified Denise O’Sullivan, a local maker and graduate of the Stafford University as the selected artist with the aim of supporting Denise, through opportunities, to ensure she continues to be based in Stoke.
Denise is a ceramicist, whose bright, colourful work is inspired by the free expression of American funk ceramics. She is very active in Stoke, exhibiting, working with local communities and involved in the ceramics festivals. Her family’s history of working in the pot banks gave her insight into, and addition enthusiasm for, the residency at Gladstone.
The residency was an opportunity for Gladstone to run something additional to their normal activities and to develop relationships with new audiences in Longton, the area of Stoke that the museum is located. Gladstone is a working pottery with many buildings housing the different functions necessary for making ceramics such as engine rooms, throwing, decorating, glazing rooms and with techniques shown by demonstrators. In addition it has wonderful archive collections including oral history archives.
Denise spent time in the pottery to explore the archives, working with the curator Angela Lee. Denise was interested in the roles of women within the pottery and the lives of the women connected to the industry which dominates Stoke. She used this inspiration to create ceramic sculptures inspired by the make up bags that the women workers kept their tools in, and the stories of Beryl Royale, a hairdresser at the department store Lewis’s, who styled the hair of the workers and manager’s wives.
Denise was particularly fascinated and inspired by the stories of Beryl Royle, who was a hairdresser at Lewis's department store in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Beryl features in the Gladstone Pottery Museum oral history archive and talks about doing the hair of both the pottery workers and the manager’s wives.
Lewis Vase depicts the story of hairdressers and the styles in the 1950's at Lewis's Hair Salon. The vase is decorated with the 'Chintz' pattern which was commonly used on tea-sets. Faces like these were used by assistants to practice using make-up. Denise says, ‘I see the vase as a face that can tell stories with the eye shadows and blushers being the actors’.
Denise likes to use bright colours in her work. For this vase she says, ‘I have chosen to use pink not just purely as a girly colour, but because this was the colour of the ladies’ uniforms who worked in Lewis's hair salon’.
Making Moves also supports the development of local graduates from Stafford. Jayne Copeland worked alongside Denise and was supported by the University who provided her with facilities to make new work. At Gladstone, Jayne explored the extensive collection of historic styles. She has created a series of bowls inspired by images of exotic birds decorated on eighteenth century delft tiles. She has given each of these birds a character, based on their behaviour patterns.
Working with the Outreach and Community Development Officer, Vicky Martin, Denise ran three ceramics workshops: the staff and demonstrators at Gladstone, a group of young adults at the Willows Centre and a group of learning disabled adults at the Sutherland Centre.
The exhibition of Denise and Jayne’s work in the new education room ran from 23rd February to the 16th March. The exhibition was featured on Radio Stoke.
I did enjoy doing making moves and it gave me a chance to explore and research new ideas and processes of making.
Great products and an interesting process behind the products i.e., local people and stories.’
Denise O’Sullivan and Jayne Copeland
Developing people, ideas and opportunities through contemporary craft.