Become a Friend of the Swindon Museumand Art Gallery

For only £10 a year, you can become a Friend and come along to our talks, join us on trips out to places like The Royal Academy and Pallant House Gallery, there's always something going on. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website www.friendsofsmag.org

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Summer Workshops

There are 4 Summer Workshops for children being held in the gallery this summer on Wednesdays from 11am-1pm, these have been funded by the Friends and The Arts Society Kennet & Swindon and have proved very popular.
Here's a copy of the flyer:
 As you can see, we've had prehistoric puppets
 and some photos I took of the prehistoric people being dressed up rather interestingly and standing in front of their dwellings.
 It's a shame it's no longer possible to photograph the children thoroughly enjoying what they were doing, but here's one holding up the puppets
 I also took some photos last week of  the fossils children made from modelling clay
 again it was a case of 'hands only'


 and with this child, they thought I wanted to photograph their hands!
The next workshop is the one sponsored by the Arts Society and encouraging children to build colourful landscape pictures.

Family Archaeology Day

On Saturday 28 July, I went to help with the children's workshop being held in the gallery. It was a fabulous day with lots to see and do. Here are the details advertising the event beforehand:
'Join us for a FREE day full of archaeological activities for all of you interested in what might be buried beneath our feet!
There will be Archaeology talks (at 12noon, 1pm & 2pm) with our experts to celebrate the improvements to our Archaeology Gallery and for you to find out more about Swindon’s rich archaeological collection.
The Wiltshire Conservation and Museum Advisory Service will be on hand to showcase the skills and techniques they use to take care of archaeological collections.   Try out some new skills like using x-rays to see through years of mud and corrosion…
You can also ‘get crafty’ with our free children’s workshop where you can make your own Roman Sword or spell your name out on a beaded Roman bracelet.
Cotswold Archaeology will also be with us on the day to identify any small finds you have hidden at home.  Bring along any interesting artefacts you’ve unearthed and our experts may be able to tell you what it is.
And, if all of that wasn’t enough, Wessex Ulfolc, an early medieval reenactment group, will be with us, bringing history to life.
And don’t forget, it’s all FREE!
 With thanks to the Wiltshire Conservation and Museum Advisory Service, Cotswold Archaeology and Wessex Ulfolc for their support.'
I took some photographs of the day, the first one shows a member of the medieval reenactment group with Olivia and Helen posing with their swords
 and the same soldier encouraging people to come into the museum, what a stance
the children's activities were to make a Roman bracelet and to decorate a sword in a Crafty Roman workshop
 Beads for the bracelets
 and sparkly jewels for the sword decorating

 and here are a couple of swords
 outside refreshments from Coffee and Flowers along with some great house plants and flowers, they're a really interesting small Swindon based business.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Mike Yates talk on the Role of Ceramics Collectors

Mike Yates recently curated a ceramics' exhibition at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, kindly loaning many of the ceramics in his personal collection to the show. The result was a fascinating collection of ceramics which got first place in Ceramic Review's top shows list, and attracted many visitors to come and look at it. The museum's curator Sophie Cummings kindly agreed for the exhibition to remain in place for another two weeks to enable us to ask Mike to give a talk about it, which he kindly did last week despite almost losing his voice.
The talk covered some major collectors, Mike's experience of collecting and his knowledge of ceramicists and how museums have acquired ceramics collections. I took a few photos which I'll add here, and then below the photos are some handy notes giving details of the talk.
 Above Slide of Bernard Leach pot with iconic 'leaping salmon' decoration, and below Mike Yates with a table behind him laden with more ceramics from home.

 Above slide of William 'Bill' Ismay and a small part of his collection, and below Slide of cutting from 'The Times'. Lucy Rie and Hans Coper pots from the Alan & Pat Firth collection.
 Unfortunately this slide hasn't come out very well at all, but this almost shows Mike holding an African pot from the Nupe people of central Nigeria, two things to note, the pot has a round base and so had to be placed in sand to be upright, and also the casual way in which Mike was holding it with one hand!!
The next pot seen below is a Janet Leach pot, the only justification for including another very dark photo, is to compare the shapes of the two pots, and you can see similarities from their silhouettes
Below Mike is holding an Ian Auld pot
 Below a slide showing Peter & Margaret Thomas' studio, Tweedmouth, north Northumberland. I've included this because anyone in the audience I'm sure would want to visit this studio.
 Mike brought two of the Thomas' jugs with him, the one seen below tells part of a story of Mike and his wife Emma's life on the jug.
I really enjoyed Mike's superb talk, and know lots of the audience did and would love some notes on people he was talking about, so here are some useful notes:

Mike began by outlining the lives of three ceramics collectors, Eric Milner-White, Dr John Shakeshaft and William 'Bill' Ismay. Milner-White, a cleric, bought his first ceramic piece in 1925. His collection contained important works by William Staite Murray, Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, the Japanese potter who had helped Leach set up the Leach Pottery in St Ives.  When he died Milner-White was Dean of York Minster and he left his collection of some 350 pots to York City Art Gallery. John Shakeshaft was an astrophysicist at Cambridge University who began collecting ceramics in the early 1970's. He left his collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. William 'Bill' Ismay, a Wakefield Librarian, was possibly the most important collector of 20th century British studio pottery. He knew, and visited, countless potters in their studios and built up a collection of some 3, 600 pieces from over 500 potters, which he kept in his small two-up, two-down terraced house. Bill died in 2001 and his collection went to the Yorkshire Museum, near York.
Shortly after Bill Ismay died, it was decided that his collection should join the Milner-White collection and funds were raised to form the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) in York, which opened in 2016. Anthony Shaw, a London-based collector gave over 800 items from his collection 'on permanent loan' and these pieces formed one of CoCA's opening exhibitions. Another early exhibition was of ceramics which had been decorated by Pablo Picasso. This collection, some 100 items, had been formed by Richard Attenborough and his wife, who would visit Picasso during their annual holidays in the south of France.
Mike pointed out that many people believe that collecting is a male only obsession, but Lady Attenborough had been actively involved in building this collection. Ann Carr was another collector who knew the potter Michael Cardew - she allowed Cardew to use her house on the Greek island of Naxos when he wanted to write his autobiography - and she bought many of his later works. These were left to Aberystwyth University who already had a large collection of Cardew's earlier work.
The Swindon collection had also benefited from the generosity of two ceramic collectors, Mark Golder and Brian Thompson, who have donated a large collection of contemporary pieces to the Museum - a wonderful gesture.
Mike then mentioned two important private collections which, sadly, were not left to public institutions. The first had been formed by Mike O'Connor, Head of Art at Christ's Hospital School, in West Sussex, the second by Alan and Pat Firth. The Firths' began collecting in the mid 1960's, firstly buying a work by Hans Coper, which they found in a Stratford-upon-Avon craft shop. They had spent £27,000 on their collection, which sold at auction for just under one million ponds.
Ian Auld, one-time Head of Ceramics at Camberwell School of Art, Ian's partner the ceramic artist Gillian Lowndes, and Margaret and Peter Thomas were, as Mike explained, the four people who taught him most about ceramics. We were shown beautiful examples of their work and it was obvious that these were treasured items to Mike. Mike told us that Peter Thomas had suggested various other potters whose work Mike might like and it was this that set Mike on his own collecting journey.
Finally, Mike just had time to briefly mention the current ceramics exhibition, "Timeless Secrets", which he had been asked to curate.
During questions, Mike was asked which potters he would suggest that people could collect. He replied that people had to make personal choices and that it depended on what people liked! He has now added that would-be collectors might like to have a look at Alistair Hawtin's book "A Guide to Collecting Studio Pottery" (A. & C. Black, London.2008). Now slightly dated, it is nevertheless the best place to start.







Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Latest flyer July - December 2018

We're very pleased to circulate the latest events for the second half of 2018. I'm going to start with our next talk. Tickets available online: http://friendsofsmag.org/events/categories/talks/
or from Swindon Museum and Art Gallery during opening hours. We recommend buying tickets in advance; any remaining tickets will be sold on the door from 7pm.
 We have one trip with spaces limited to 12. More trips in 2019.
To accompany the current exhibition:
Then our AGM followed by a seasonal talk:
In November we have James Russell who many will know from his books and curation of the Eric Ravilious exhibition we visited at Dulwich Picture Gallery. He's recently been working on an interesting exhibition in Bristol. Find out more here and come and hear him talk about British Artists in World War II in November:
and in December we're having a cheese and wine evening with some short talks during the evening
Here's the summary:
Hope you can come along to some of these events. Friends benefit from reduced price entry and other things like unveilings. If you'd like to become a Friend, please visit our website, or pick up a form from the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

Kate Malone Talk

We were very fortunate to have Kate Malone to come and talk about her work in June. It's always wonderful to have someone with work in the Swindon Collection to come and talk to us, and because of Kate's reputation, I was very excited we'd agreed a date and she was coming to Swindon. The gallery space at the museum holds a maximum of 55, so accounting for fire marshals and the speaker, this reduces the number to 51. We took the decision that rather than have to turn people away, we'd hold the talk at the business suite at New College. This was a shame in some ways, mainly because Kate couldn't see her magnificent jug in situ in the current ceramic exhibition in the gallery described by Ceramic Review as their number 1 Top Show. Note although Ceramic Review says our exhibition has now finished, it hasn't, it's been extended for Mike Yates' talk on 26 July.
The evening was as good as I'd hoped it could be, despite a few things working against it, such as the temperature being in the top twenties, the World Cup and sorting out technology in a new setting. Kate Malone arrived at 6.30pm, greeted everyone as they arrived, and talked about her pleasure in working with her hands, and how she enjoys working with gourd shapes, indeed any natural shapes. There's a curvaceous element to many of the pieces and I began to see Kate at the ultimate fertility goddess, her pieces proclaiming the beauty of curves. There are now around ten people who work to help Kate make her pieces, what a great experience that must be. Kate exudes positivity and enthusiasm for life, so obvious in her pots with their extraordinary glazes.
 I have a few photos of the evening, in the excitement I didn't manage to take many decent ones at all, although this gives you a good idea of Kate's positivity
 Any better ones gratefully received and I'll add them.
 Above here's the audience just before the start. Kate gave away posters and we gave donations for the clay college
 There are two screens in the business suite
 The title of the talk was

I hazarded a photo from the screen, this beautiful decorative piece combine the gourd shape with a fabulous leaf
 Afterwards there was much chatting despite a complete lack of refreshments
 and much in depth conversation
I thought I'd add a few photos, firstly of our Kate Malone in the Swindon Collection:
currently beside the piece loaned by Mike Yates in the Timeless Secrets exhibition
here are a few more I liked:





These ceramic pieces are in many collections around the world, here are three places you might visit and look out for them:
 Manchester Museum and Art Gallery, like us we early adopters of Kate Malone, I saw this piece about 15 years ago. The Fitzwilliam in Cambridge has two beauties well worth seeking out when there.Bristol Museum and Art Gallery has a ceramic model of the brass drinking fountain made by Kate in a local park. While looking for references to that, I found a biography which I rather liked.
A really memorable evening.