It is almost exactly a year since my stint as artist in residence at the Leach Pottery. Along with the research into the traditional Horse and Rider tiles, I was asked to respond to Leach’s own versions. It was an extraordinary experience, and I relished every moment of the focus and energy engendered by this structured time-bracketed situation.
I was the first occupant of the spacious new studio situated on the ground floor of the Beagle Cross Residence. There were still traces of sawdust along the tabletops. My ‘sculpture’ clay was concocted from available throwing clays and a lot of wedging in of molochite and sand found in nearby buckets. I made sigalattas for the surfaces. I had hoped that the work would be fired in the soda kiln – which would have provided beautiful surfaces – but that kiln was being rebuilt. Everything was fired, along with the standard ware, in the gas kiln. I had researched roof finials before I came, but never found any reference to equestrian tiles. When making my first piece I resorted to my own imagery, and the horse ended up with a baby/proto-human rider – leaving me pretty nervous about where this ‘response’ was headed. Matt Tyas, resident researcher and doctoral candidate, took one look at the rider and commented that he looked like Hamada, and in that instant I knew what direction to take. I wanted to respond in a manner that would read as contemporary, but reflect where I was, and why I was there, and so I decided to depict those who had created the Leach Pottery.