Sunday, 9 August 2009

Art In Clay - Hatfield House


It's was the final day of the Art in Clay Show at Hatfield House yesterday (7th - 9th Aug). I went on Friday with various ceramic classes from our Institute. A coach was hired to take around 35-40 of us. It was ony a 45 min journey and the weather was pleasant tho a little overcast. This was the first time I'd been to this particular event - tho' last year I did visit the Living Crafts Show at Hatfield House blogged.

It's more or less the same set up with marquees dotted around the huge field filled with exhibitors displaying their beautiful ceramic works of art they've created.

I must say I really wasn't expecting such a huge and varied array of ceramic ware on display and for sale. I'm not a ceramic artist and though I do attend ceramic classes I go to make tiles and ceramic pieces for my mosaics. I'm not at all into sculpture, tho I can admire the craftsmanship that goes into each piece since I see my fellow students actually make beautiful pieces in class and I know just how much time and effort goes into making them.

To be quite frank I wasn't expecting to spend just as much time looking around all the exhibitors as I did, but I was really amazed at all the lovely work I saw around me - that was such a pleasant surprise:-) My main plan was to whizz round a few exhibitors and then make for the House - that was my main reason for coming on this trip actually and my ceramic tutor Sarah did her utmost to coax me into coming on this trip as I'd initially said no to it. She eventually told me that if I came along and truly didn't like it then she'd refund me my fee - that's how confident she was I'd enjoy it. Thank you Sarah - it seems you know me better than I do myself :-D
I really did enjoy myself!

There were a couple of exhibitors that really caught my eye and were so different from the rest. I've got their kind permission to put pics of their work on here just to share with you and if you want to see more of their work I've included links to their websites.

This is Claire Baker with her exquisite vintage style ceramics she creates. There are cups and saucers and sideplates all chipped and cracked and yet still so beautiful. She told me each piece has to be fired 6 times to achieve the end result. She then applies decals to give that Shabby Chic look.

I just love how Claire arranges her chipped and cracked, vintage style crockery with real vintage cups and saucers and some of her assemblage and other artwork. Everything blends in so well. I told Claire this setting was very reminiscent of Miss Havisham's table in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. If you'd like to see more of her work just go here

Another Exhibitor who really caught my eye and whom I could really relate to was Pollie Utley from Pollie & Garry Utley Ceramics She and Garry make the most exquisite bowls, jewellery, quilts and even garments all out of clay. Each piece is beautifully designed and rich in texture and colour.

I spoke for quite a while with Pollie and she told me that she has been to India many times and her work is inspired by Rajasthani quilts and textiles (amongst other things). She makes the most amazing quilts from blocks of ceramic tiles that she stamps with Indian block stamps to get the texture and she even creates folds in the clay to represent the folds in natural textiles. She adds mirrors (Shisha) and bells and even stitching to give that authentic Indian feel to either a garment or quilt.

I felt I could relate to her through my own ethnicity as well as the art she creates. She's a Ceramic Artist and I'm a Mosaic Artist and my work is very much influenced by Islamic Art and Indian Culture and I'm also attracted to colour and texture in my work. I could've stayed there all day chewing Pollie's ear off about her work and her journeys to various parts of India. I would really encourage you to go onto the website and check out the gallery of work - it'll definitely make an impression on you believe me!

more info on Art in Clay


front and inside of 2009 Visitor Guide - freely available upon request from here

The path to the North Court of the House. The South Court is not open to the public but can be viewed from the Viewing Bay near the wilderness Garden

Hatfield House is still a private residence and has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. It's a beautiful Jacobean house and is steeped in Elizabethan and Victorian history. It houses beautiful treasures like fine tapestries, furniture, ceramics and paintings and the rooms are grand and oranate as expected of a large stately house such as this.

The House stands on over 1000 acres of park and woodlands and it boasts, in the park, an oak tree which marks the place where the young Princess Elizabeth I heard she was going to be Queen.

As part of the Art in Clay Show Hatfield House was running a free shutttle bus to and from the Show (on the parklands) to the House. This would otherwise have been a really long long long walk (you get what I mean don't you?)

You know, without meaning to be disrespectful to the Cecil Family or anyone concerned with Hatfield House, my first impression of this house was, "Is that it?" Maybe it was this view of it from the North Court, but I got the distinct impression of it looking like a giant Victorian factory rather than a stately home - sorry that's just my opinion folks :-) No doubt it was very grand, but even my daughter when she saw a pic of it thought it looked like a prison (at least I was politer in my opinion:-)) But I must add the longer I was there the more it grew on me.

I took the guided tour which lasted about 2 hours and that was really interesting. Unfortunately we weren't permitted to take photos inside the house, but there were postcards available of some of the interiors in the giftshop. The rooms we toured were exquisite - so ornate with decoration and carvings and filled with tapestries, paintings and beautiful antique furniture. I was disappointed, however, in this size house, we could only view a small number of rooms - I guess it's because it's still a family home with a family living in it and wanting some privacy - that's understandable. Sometimes when we become tourists we become a bit selfish and always want more:-)

view of the South Court from the Wilderness Gardens

I can well recommend the guided tour as you gain such an insight into the family history as well as the history of the house. You can, if you're short of time whizz round the house on your own and directions are clearly marked. I bought the Souvenier Guide on the house so that I could continue to read up a little more about it - (I always buy souvenier guides of all the places I visit).

A great way of ending your visit to any place, be it stately home, palace, castle or park is the Gift Shop - one of my favourite places to spend money:-) You can pick up such lovely gifts that you wouldn't normally be able to find in your high street shops. I came away with some lovely giftwrap, some exquisite little notebooks, postcards (of course) and the souvenier guide.

inside the gift shop - a veritable feast for the eyes!
Find out more about Hatfield House here


Sharon said...

oooh, sound like you live in my neck of the woods LOL I'm just down the A1 from Hatfield House!

Lubna said...

Hi Sharon:-)
No, unfortunately not - had to travel from Essex to get to Hatfield House - but not too far:-)

Sharon said...

Still, not a million miles away LOL I haven't been to Hatfield House for a very long time; when I've got more strength back in my legs, perhaps hubby and I will go for a visit :-)

Lubna said...

Hi Sharon:-) Oh I just loved Hatfield House and would've loved to have spent more time there, especially since I didn't get to wander round the gardens - gift shop was really good tho':-) Hope you get to visit there soon!