Meet... Helena Bowen and Julie Ayton

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Posted 16th September 2019

Meet... Helena Bowen and Julie Ayton

For the first time, Watts Contemporary Gallery will present a group ceramics show, bringing together work by ten leading contemporary artists to demonstrate the diversity of contemporary practice and to celebrate the long tradition of pottery at Watts Gallery – Artists' Village.

In the first blog of the series, we introduce you to exhibiting ceramicists Helena Bowen and Julie Ayton, whose beautiful pieces are available to purchase at Watts Ceramics 2019.

Helena Bowen

As a potter's daughter (her father is Clive Bowen), clay was always at hand when Helena was growing up. Her love of horses stems from an early age too – she used to ride – and her familiarity with their infinite body language and stances led her to try to create them in ceramic form. Over the years Helena has striven to keep improving their form - longer legs, more graceful, more active, more 'horsey'.

Helena now lives in Devon and works partly as a technician in an agricultural research laboratory and partly in her workshop making horses. Sadly there are no live horses, but they have a gecko and a dog!

'The practical aspects of making horses out of clay are a real challenge. Their slender legs easily warp in the kiln, their thin tails drop off when slip is applied, their bodies sag when you try to support them when wet. I make the horses using flat slices of clay and support them until they are dry enough to stand alone. I prefer the modelling part to decorating and tend to keep the decoration to a minimum, applying a little coloured slip or sometimes just glaze.'

Julie Ayton

Based in her studio in Salisbury, Julie Ayton makes stoneware and porcelain pieces, which are useful but add beauty to the home. In a career spanning 25 years (having trained at the West Surrey College of Art and Design at Farnham and the Roehampton Institute in London), she has exhibited widely in the UK. Mentoring and teaching are also an important part of her life, and she was potter-in-residence at Salisbury Arts Centre from 1990 to 2009; she continues to have an active role in the creative artistic life of Wiltshire and Hampshire. Julie is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and is a professional member of the Craft Potters Association.

'I make pots that are equally happy being used or displayed. My aim is to achieve a comfortable balance between the craft traditions my training gave me and a fresh, contemporary appeal. Because I enjoy trying new approaches, I work in short series, which offers scope to vary the pattern or glaze from one piece to the next. Whether patterned or simply glazed, large or small, strong form is the foundation on which every piece stands or falls. Beyond that, beauty and desirability really are in the eye of the beholder.'


Interested in seeing Helena Bowen and Julie Ayton's works in person? Click here to find out more about Watts Ceramics 2019.


Banner image: Julie Ayton, Celadon Blue Sgraffito Bowls