In 2016 we took a stand at the major craft fair Handmade at Kew. We took a large stand and exhibited work from the gallery, showing some of our most successful makers – Jack Doherty, Ruthane Tudball, Nic Collins, Midori Takaki, Elaine Peto, and more.
The stand facing us was taken by the potter Norman Yap and we loved his work as soon as we saw it. We had another four days talking to Norman and were inspired by his knowledge, accomplishments and his infectious enthusiasm.
When we returned to Derbyshire we were determined to show Norman’s ceramics at gallerytop. However, like all successful creatives, he was booked up for months ahead. However, last Saturday, Norman travelled up to Derbyshire and brought a group of his fabulous pots to show in our Christmas exhibition.
Gill and I made a surprise visit to Dungeness that Saturday, to celebrate a significant Birthday and wedding anniversary. We visited Derek Jarmans’s house and garden so we missed Norman’s arrival at the gallery. However, Val Hudson, the painter, was looking after the gallery and struck up an immediate rapport with Norman and his partner, so another member of the gallery team made the ongoing connection with him and his work.
“My path to being a potter may be seen by some to be typical or by others to be unorthodox and under such differing circumstances and reactions, it may be wise to simply describe how it happened and let your reactions develop organically.
When I turned 40, my partner gave me a textbook for a present, it was Susan Peterson’s Art and Craft of Clay. This gift was the culmination of years of encouragement and not-so-subtle hinting on his part that I would find pottery a craft I’d do well at. The book was a cleverly thought out ploy that worked, I couldn’t put the book down and it wasn’t long before the need to convert theoretical knowledge into practical experience became too great to ignore.I was, at the time, a management consultant with a rather well known firm and was working hard to bring about positive change in various businesses and global corporations. Then the excesses of the last two decades began to mount as companies continued to buy one another at great cost, shedding the acquired staff after the TUPE-determined 2 years had lapsed before starting the whole process again with a fresh acquisition. During this time, I was being pushed from job to job, role to role and location to location. Somewhere in all this movement, I took the time to attend an evening course in ceramics in an effort to create Norman Time amidst it all.
From the very start, I was drawn to the wheel and began to explore and understand the craft of throwing. The classes became oxygen and I couldn’t wait for the weekly fix of clay and wheel. After the 10 weeks were up, I knew I had to have access to the materials in order to control how and when I could manage my own development. So this rookie potter applied for and managed to share a studio with a wonderful potter, Georgina Dunkley. George was what every budding potter could wish for in a studio partner. Discreet, direct, helpful, critical and of course, we had lots of lovely fun times and laughs together. I also met and learnt discreetly from the potters of great renown working in the same complex. Pottery is a social craft, the exchange of ideas and techniques, results and trials are quite rightly the subject of much animated debate, all of which enriches the collective knowledge base that we are the guardians of.
Years later after several changes of studios, meeting and working with other talented potters, acquiring materials and tools, constantly learning and doing research, experimenting and refining a vocabulary of forms and embellishments and finally taking a deep breath and launching myself full time into the craft, I’ve reached the point of feeling somehow I’ve arrived somewhere. I love British craft and the dedicated people who work within it, generously sharing their talent, skills and techniques with openness and with honour.”