Artist Decorators: The Grantchester Pottery at the ICA

Tucked away beneath the stairs at the ICA, there is a small room that has been taken over by decorators. This little area has been transformed into a space that is bursting with intense colour – much in contrast with the rest of the stark white gallery.


It is in fact The Granchester Pottery that has taken over the Fox Reading Room - self-proclaimed 'artist-decorators'. The walls have been adorned with hand painted murals and wallpapers, and hand woven rugs. The Pottery's approach to decorating is refreshingly playful, as if they are rejecting contemporary trends within interior design as being minimalist and untouched. The walls here invite you to touch and feel - and they feel almost as they look, warm. In and amongst the decorated interior are various pieces from The Grantchester Pottery's ceramics collection, delightfully camouflaged in the bright world it has fashioned.

From lamps and vases, to pots and paperweights, the ceramics may seem utilitarian in nature, but upon closer inspection one appreciates small nuances that are indicative of the particular collective nature of the studio. Removal of individual authorship within the group ensures that there is always an open exchange of ideas and forms, as pieces are completed stage by stage, passing from one hand to another, gaining and losing individual traces.

Established in early 2011 by Phil Roots and Giles Round, The Grantchester Pottery formed at the Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire and took inspiration from other historical collectives such as Roger Fry's Omega Workshop. Much like Omega before them, the Grantchester collective works as just that, a group entity. Round states that this way of working 'creates a kind of harmony in the design [that] nevertheless allows it to pull in more than one direction'.

The ceramic pieces on display show this perfectly; hidden within the form of a teapot, for example, is a profile of an art deco face which you then start to notice as subtly present in other forms. One might identify the image of an eye and begin to see it morph, first into a wonderfully simple paperweight, then to a vase. One artist's pattern is implemented by another, their pattern book continually growing and changing on itself.

In their own words, the artists who comprise The Grantchester Pottery strive to substitute the 'deadness of mechanical reproduction' by creating a working environment that produces 'decorative functional objects'. This small insight into their methods and practice, and the resulting interior design is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise heavily brand based industry. This is undoubtedly a compact exhibition for the up and coming studio, but an invigorating one that celebrates the contradiction in The Grantchester Pottery's practice. Its work may speak of a craft revival, but a contemporary one that revels in the joy of hand-making rather than detached digital technologies.

The Artist Decorators

19th June - 25th August, 2013

The Fox Reading Room, ICA, London

Anne Bellamy


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