We have, once again, enjoyed a Maker’s Lunch that confirmed the contribution that these events make to understanding the creative drive of ceramicists and their making processes. We could not have had a more informative and entertaining two hours than with Ashraf Hanna whose work – along with that of his wife Sue Hanna – is featured at Bevere during September.
Ashraf is amongst the most elegant of makers whose modern flowing pieces have a strong presence and have been a feature of UK ceramics for some years. This is work which ticks all the boxes for me and always demonstrates high level design and making skills. In his own words, hand-building his forms, making both individual and related groups of vessels, he ensures each object informs the next. The profiles, lines and spaces emerging from this process of development, their ultimate placement in relation to one another, the juxtaposition of sharp lines and softer curves, has become his major interest.
Sue’s work also displays technical prowess but is vividly contrasted with her husband’s. Her inspiration is tribal art and this pervades her work. The masks and figures of different cultures have informed and broadened her interest in and understanding of both beauty and craftsmanship, of contrast and opposites, darkness and light, wakefulness and sleep, and of the cycle of life itself.
During our discussion together, we learnt that Ashraf, with his background initially in theatre design, learnt from Sue in London the joy of working with clay and making pots. In Egypt where he was born, he spent considerable time drawing, particularly pots and ceramic vessels which go way back into Egyptian antiquity. Good drawing involves serious and attentive looking; what emerged from his description of the design process was his focus on form and line – best demonstrated in his cut vessels included in the group of pots on show. These are not casual cuts into the clay body – each is precisely placed to enhance and add insight into the shape and volume of the vessel.
Design is a very powerful aspect of his work – indeed evident in Sue’s fine pieces too. We spent some time talking about the potential contribution of design conscious studio potters to the commercial ceramic world. Ashraf has the potential to get involved but, importantly and perhaps not surprisingly, emphasised the importance of the quality of the relationship between designer and maker.
We discussed at length Ashraf’s approach to colour. I have to say that his yellow and black vessels look radiant in the Autumn sunshine as it streams into the Gallery. It is also evident that light gives even more strength to his undulating vessels giving each of them changing perspectives as the sun moves across the windows.
There is so much that can be said about this time with Ashraf – hopefully this brief review of our time together has given some sense of the pleasure and insights that we had from our time with him.
I am most grateful for the effort he made to be with us from Pembrokeshire. Thank you Ashraf and all who made the lunch such an enjoyable experience.