This morning we attended the 22nd Art In Clay ‘event’ in Hatfield. Not in the centre of Hatfield, because that’s a shithole and this would be like holding a Tupperware party in a sex dungeon. This was on the grounds of Hatfield House and I’m really, really struggling to work out how I ever agreed to go. Clearly ‘the wife’ was well up for it and I suppose I must have had my defences down. Wine may have been involved. Some people adore pottery (which is essentially what we’re talking about here) and I guess if you do something 22 times then it must be popular. Try to imagine a very boring and unfunny person, let’s say Dermot O’Leary, describing at great length the qualities and dimensions of each individual in a 3kg bag of garden peas as you sit, sleepless on a 14 hour direct flight to anywhere. That’s how interesting I find pottery or, as they so beautifully call it ‘Art in Clay’.
What I thought would be a 5 berth family tent with a few bits of bric-a-brac turned out to be a military camp with enormous marquees stuffed with table after table of delicately crafted clay work with a few bits of metallic jewellery just to confuse you. Once we’d paid £10 each for entry (seemed steep then, criminal once we’d finished) and were wafted towards the blindingly obvious place to park our car by a dim-witted 2nd year media studies student we were very much ready to a rock and a roll. The first marquee did not bode well. We’ve all had those moments when you know you’re not going to be interested in something but as you start you try and muster a bit of enthusiasm because this might just be something you’ve totally misjudged. This wasn’t one of those moments and I was bored into a coma faster than instantly.
The problem with pottery is it is essentially a collection of functional items elevated to the level of art without actually acknowledging that all functionality has been lost. There are few forms of art so un-self aware. Behold this finely crafted bowl made from gossamer thin, super-heated clay. You could put a small kiwi fruit in it but it will most likely shatter this unique vessel into a thousand pieces, many finding their way into your eyeballs, so it’s best to just fill a useful bit of household surface with it and let it gather dust before your children reject it in an inheritance smash and grab. There were scarily lifelike half size gorillas and hares (potters seem to like hares, rabbits are so fucking obvious) and hedgehogs and then scarily pointless full size sheep. I did not get close enough to see if they had retained any rear action practical use to the owner.
I should take a brief interlude to describe a strange hog roast encounter. ‘Ye Olde Hog Roast’ (I know, it’s shit) counter was commandeered by a man who could only be a butchers son and seemed to be doing just fine. Then a grumpy old fucker that could only have been a butcher started grumbling about something just as we were being served. The joviality and collegiality that had prevailed rapidly disappeared and I feel our shredded pig in a bap experience was victim number on. This was driven home when ‘the wife’ nearly choked to death on a bit of dead pig that was, frankly, probably best avoided since she does not possess the jaw dexterity of an anaconda.
As all this drifted past the loud speaker lady (who ‘the wife’ brilliantly remarked sounded like she was on a disinterested version of Hi-De-Hi) would, in a thoroughly un-engaging and utterly non-enticing way invite people to the features tent to see some bloke talk about 14th Century Ukrainian pottery. Sadly we never found (or tried to find) the features tent.
‘The wife’ spent quite a bit of money today. Most tents were bustling busy though a few stalls seemed to be very, how shall we say, unloved by the general public. What I noticed most was just how pretentious the whole thing seemed. You may mutter ‘twat Hewitt’ but the brochure does back up my theory. A seemingly normal name suddenly came across as ludicrous when plastered on a massive poster with a moody photo and followed by the word ‘ceramics’. Jon Barratt-Danes Ceramics. But people in the pottery world seem to have shunned to mundane names to give a more artistic credo. There were no Dave Smiths. Vida Bewley, Bipin (!!), Ross De Wayne Campbell (really), Licy Clayden (porn star?), Ali Dix (a mistress of ‘decorative figurative sculpture’, whatever that is), Fleen Doran (oh dear), Virginia Dowe-Edwards, Gin Durham, Shirley Emmerson-Doorbar, Miche Follano, Felicity Lloyd-Coombes, Tessa Wolfe Murray and Toon Thijs. You can imagine how they dressed. And winner of the uber-pretentious dick award went to Richard St. John Heeley whose ‘blue and white thrown porcelain, hand thrown with designs inspired by the North Wales Coastline’ must have been terribly tricky to complete given he works exclusively from within the limited confines of his own arsehole.
Anyway, if all that sounds appealing then you’ve missed it because it closed at 5.00pm. However if you’re game then it rears it’s wheel thrown, high fired, slip decorated and hand glazed head again in Farnham some time in November. In case you were wondering there were a few bits, as in good bits, that caught my eye, the best being a full size porcelain replica of a hot water bottle with ‘at least it’s not fucking cancer’ boldly written across it. Just my kind of thing but at £80 a pop I decided to give it a fucking miss.
G B Hewitt 21.8.2016.
‘The wife’ seemed to enjoy herself, possibly because I hardly moaned at all. I can do it if I try.