It was a great pleasure to start the Makers Lunch programme for 2019 with a most enjoyable and informative two hours with Geoffrey Swindell. All of us – perhaps unexpectedly in some cases – were fascinated by the visual impact of his small but extraordinarily decorated vessels. It was also refreshing for a maker to show examples of failed pots demonstrating the ups and downs of the development process. It was very clear however that the only pots to emerge for public view and sale were those that met Geoffrey’s exacting standards.
Perhaps one of the most revealing aspects of our time together was during a discussion about ‘presence‘ – often associated in our minds with large imposing vessels. Geoffrey used the word ‘intensity’ to describe his work and it was interesting to hear his response to a question about producing some of his pieces on a larger scale when he said that if he did so they would lose their intensity. All of us who have held one of his fine pots in our hands will acknowledge this I am sure. We agreed that presence was a multifactorial phenomenon involving design, craftsmanship, decoration and context.
Geoffrey has been making over many decades and his creative drive has never declined over that long time. He described in some detail how his distinctive decorative voice emerged and developed often influenced by everyday objects including small children’s toys. All of us were amazed that such small and apparently delicate pieces were hand thrown. A broken piece which he brought with him demonstrated the finesse of his potting.
We discussed at some length the changes in the ceramic market and public taste over the last two decades and in some ways the originality of the Swindell voice had maintained interest during these changes.
This lunch demonstrated the value of an intimate small group conversation which enables detailed and stimulating revelations about the rigours of design and making as well as the frustrations. Importantly, everyone is at ease and can contribute freely knowing that their views and questions will contribute to our wider experience during the two hours we spend together.
An excellent and most enjoyable start to the 2019 Lunch Programme.