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Hannah McAndrew craft&design Selected Maker of the Year 2014

by Angie Boyer

Published: September 2014

Hannah McAndrew
craft&design Selected Maker of the 2014
and Gold Award Winner for Ceramics



May 2014 is a month that I'm sure will always hold very special memories for Hannah McAndrew. At the beginning of May, I phoned Hannah with the exciting news that not only had she won our Gold Award for Ceramics, but she'd also been voted our craft&design Selected Maker of the Year for 2014 - little did I know that all of this came on top of an even more exciting event in her life, she had just become engaged to fellow potter, Douglas Fitch.

Having previously won our Silver Award for Ceramics on three different occasions, this year it was literally a case of the bridesmaid becoming the bride'!

Since first seeing Hannah's work several years ago, I have watched it mature and develop as she has gained confidence and found her own way, realising her ambition to create contemporary pottery, influenced by traditional styles, using age-old skills.

"I work within the British slipware tradition, adopting skills and techniques that have been used in this country for centuries," explains Hannah. "I make work that is inspired by historical pieces, however, my pieces are not reproductions. I aim to use the techniques to add my own voice to the tradition and play my part in helping that tradition evolve and continue.

She creates her work using red earthenware, either throwing on the wheel or by press moulding shapes using moulds that she has made herself. "My thrown pots are mostly functional, for use in the home" she continues. "I get a thrill at the sight of rows of mugs, lined up on ware boards, fresh off the wheel."

During the last eighteen months or so, Hannah has been working on some larger scale pieces, which in turn has enabled her to experiment more with the surface decoration of her pots. "I apply all the decoration before the pieces are fired using coloured slips, glorious liquid clays that are added by pouring, brushing, or trailing designs onto the body of the pot. The freshly applied slip looks much like cream or melted chocolate and looks almost good enough to eat!"

Paper resist shapes help to build up layers of colour, whilst subsequent sgraffito cuts back through layers of slip to reveal the body colour, adding a further dimension to Hannah's work. The rich honey glazes that she uses are her own formulations, adapted from traditional recipes to make them more suited to the clays she works with. "This also ensures that my pots are suitable for functional tableware in terms of hardness of glaze, that will survive modern cleaning and cooking appliances and to make them food-safe and non toxic. The raw lead that was used in days gone by wouldn't necessarily pass the strict safety testing demanded for today's food wares!" she comments.

When complete. these award winning pots are fired in either an electric or a wood fired kiln, whichever is the most appropriate for the particular pieces. "The work that I make for restaurants, for example, is fired in the electric kiln to give the consistency that is demanded by them, whilst I use my wood fired kiln for the more individual pieces to give precisely the opposite result. In the wood kiln I am trying to achieve a greater variation of tones, exploiting the lick of the flame and varying atmosphere across the surface of the pot."

Hannah built her wood kiln herself, "I have been intrigued by the process of wood firing since my days at university," she recalls, explaining that wood firing is a lengthy task, it takes about fourteen hours of stoking to reach temperature, so not for the faint hearted, but clearly something that has added a new dimension to her working practices. "The whole process of wood firing is exciting and enthralling, it gives me the sense of a much closer connection to the finished work, I love the extra depth of colour and variation of tones that can be achieved with the flames. Interestingly, wood firing of earthenware is relatively uncommon in this country."

Hannah's pottery is based in a quiet corner of rural Galloway, South West Scotland, an idyllic setting in a converted barn on a dairy farm; although it's fair to say that she now actually has two work places, the other being in mid-Devon, where Douglas Fitch, her fiancee, is based. Douglas's workshop is a converted pig barn, again in a beautiful rural setting - there must be something about farming and potters going well together, maybe it's because they both work with the earth!

Her pots are appreciated and collected internationally, not only through galleries and at major ceramic events in the UK, but also in Europe, America and Japan, as she explains. "I have a gallery in Tokyo that represents me in Japan, believe it or not they were introduced to me through Facebook! Koichiro Isaka runs Gallery St. Ives there and specialises in British ceramics. Last year he asked me to take part in an exhibition along with a number of the great and good of contemporary British studio potters, at the Takashimaya Department Store.

"In Japan it is not unusual for an exhibition of functional ceramics to take place in such a venue, rather different from here in that respect. Virtually everything that I sell in that country is tableware, pots in Japan are for using and each piece is chosen with care and for a specific purpose. Small cups and saucers, small plates and bowls of a variety of sizes are popular. Before that, in 2012, I exhibited at The Art Fair in Tokyo with the same gallery, alongside Clive Bowen, Douglas Fitch and Philip Leach."

And what about America? "Once upon a time at Earth and Fire, Rufford, while talking to Dan Finnegan, a fellow potter from the States who we had met through our blog writing, Douglas Fitch and I were invited to go and demonstrate in Virginia. Dan managed to help us co-ordinate three venues to give workshops in, starting on Cape Cod, then Virginia and finishing in North Carolina. Terrified doesn't begin to describe the feeling while waiting to catch the flight over there, but what an incredible experience. Wonderful potters, fabulous people and great places.

"That was in 2011, the following year I participated in the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show, which was a fantastic experience, last year was the Minnesota Pottery Tour and then this year I was invited to take part in the AKAR Yunomi Invitational in Iowa in conjunction with The Studio Potter magazine in America. This show features potters from across the globe and requires that you only submit yunomi, a specific type of tea bowl."

Hannah says she is delighted to win our prestigious award this year, "I am thrilled. I have been the runner up a few times for the Ceramics category, but to win both the Gold and Maker of the Year this year is great. I am especially pleased knowing who the judge was, Helen Walsh is someone who I know to have a huge knowledge, appreciation and passion for studio pottery, it's wonderful to have been given that nod of approval. It's great to have some reassurance that I'm heading in the right direction. When, like me, you spend many years working on your own, it's easy to sometimes lose sight of where you are and what your place is within the pottery world.  I'm finding that having a potting partner is making this vision easier to keep a hold of too and so, what with this Award as well, it's marvellous!"

We're thrilled to have been able to help make May 2014 such a special month for Hannah and wish her every success for the future with her work. Plus, of course, lots of good wishes for May 2015, when she and Douglas are to be married.


www.hannahmcandrew.co.uk

www.craftmaker.co.uk/hannahmcandrew

Judge: Helen Walsh, Curator of Ceramics, York Museums Trust:
"Hannah McAndrew makes the kind of pots that give me warm glow inside, they are pots I can imagine using myself with great enjoyment every day. Her work retains a very strong connection to the historical slipwares seen in museum collections, strong forms with balanced decoration that make the most of the natural characteristics of clay and glazes. The decoration has a refined sophistication that gives her pots a contemporary edge. I especially like the pieces that combine very loose, gestural brushwork with precise trailed and incised detailing. Hannah’s website and blog offer an enlightening and valuable insight into her sources of inspiration. Her skill as a potter goes from strength to strength and I hope that the pleasure and joy she clearly finds in making her work continues. I look forward to seeing where her interests in ceramics take her and her work in the future."

 
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