Clay, Cloth and Wood in Henley

Karen Neville


An exciting exhibition showcasing the varied works of four talented artists runs at Henley’s Old Fire Station Gallery from April 7th to 17th

Clay, Cloth and Wood: WORKS is an exciting exhibition showcasing the varied works of four talented artists covering ceramics, textile pictures and sculptural wood.

This exhibition runs from 11am to 7pm each day for 10 days, from Friday 7th April to Tuesday 17th April. It’s free and you are welcome to view the show at Henley’s Old Fire Station Gallery, just up from the Town Hall.

Henley resident Margaret Wainwright (Billson) has coordinated this exhibition which brings together the work of four friends, all highly experienced and gifted in their respective creativities. Their varied artworks are complementary and deliver a satisfyingly coherent show that will please many interests.

What can you expect?

Two of the exhibitors – Margaret Wainwright and Andrea Smith – are experienced potters whose passion for working with clay goes back decades. Based in Henley, they now share use of a kiln and studio where they exchange ideas and are mutually supportive. Will they ever apply to be on the TV series Pottery Throwdown? Ask them when you visit!

This TV series has no doubt fuelled growth of interest in handmade pottery and art ceramics, reflected in works appearing more in art galleries. Part of the attraction is the variety of form, texture and design and the uniqueness of hand-built wares, as is evident with these practitioners.

Margaret Wainwright’s hand-built pieces are textured, tactile and decorative. Robust, incised sculptural forms take inspiration from ancient rocky outcrops of granite. Other rounded vessels hold your attention with a Zen-like quality. Enigmatic forms hold interest from every angle. Margaret prefers matt finishes, with decoration coming from applied oxides, creative mark-making and use of a variety of clays. Pieces range in scale from palm-sized to large ‘statement pieces’.

In contrast, Andrea Smith’s domestic ware is skilfully thrown on the wheel and comprises bowls, plates and mugs. Her pottery is fired twice: an initial biscuit firing for the glazed decorations to be applied, followed by another firing at even higher temperatures. Her brushwork decoration is simple and tasteful. Each piece of tableware – dishwasher safe – works on its own or as part of a set. For gardens, Andrea makes hand-built bird baths.

Karen Higgs, from Watlington, makes expressive artworks – pictures and wall-hangings, using recycled textiles and thread. This medium has a subtle 3-D quality; and light catching the materials at differing angles highlights nuances in colours and textures of materials. It’s painterly, with portraits, landscapes, figurative and abstract subject matter, all superbly rendered as a montage of carefully selected fabrics, overlays and sewing threads.

Wood carver and turner John Heley has created sculptures, bowls and platters originating from trees sourced from well-managed woods and recreational parkland. John is a ‘man of the land’, living and working on a farm, his workshop a rustic outbuilding. Each piece starts at his sawmill, timbers sawn, stacked and seasoned over time – in readiness for working.

Like most craft workers with wood, John has a deep affinity and respect for trees, appreciating their varied qualities which dictate what he makes. His unique pieces highlight specific qualities of different woods, the grain and burrs, and the sense of history inherent in ancient trees.

The exhibitors are, in part, aiming to raise money for charities (the relief fund for the Turkish/Syrian earthquake & for Cancer Research) by donating some proceeds from sales and holding a prize raffle. Contributions are optional.

Do stop by at the Old Fire Station Gallery during the 10 days of this interesting free exhibition. The artists look forward to meeting visitors and chatting.

The exhibition has an Invitation only private viewing on Saturday 8th from 2pm onwards and is closed for public viewing at this time. Otherwise, you are very welcome to visit at the times shown.