The New English
I first met Paul Bishop a few years ago when he was exhibiting ceramics with DesignersBlock. At that time he was talking about making use of spare capacity in the Stoke-on-Trent pottery manufactories to produce a new range of ceramics – something with a bit of an edge to it.
But why's it called The New English? ‘Englishness,’ says Paul, 'is not about parochialism or insularity, it's a design ethos. Ours is an Englishness that is as much about the Sex Pistols as it is about Wuthering Heights, as much Damien Hirst as Turner.' The company's aim is to give the ailing 'Potteries' industry a shot in the arm, while at the same time providing the giftware market with an alternative for a more contemporary and culturally-aware clientèle. In many ways this is similar to what Italian firms like Alessi have been doing since the 1980s – revitalising old craft-based, high-quality manufacturing with edgy new design. Products with this thinking behind them are the antidote to traditional and out-dated design.
The New English is an antidote in another sense, which is one of the reasons for their inclusion in this exhibition. In so many craft shops, galleries, exhibitions - ceramics has come to mean studio pottery. I've already moaned about the influence of Bernard Leach in my introduction. Isn't there just as much craft skill in the refined products of The New English as there is in most studio ware?
There's always one that gets away and unfortunately at the time of this website going live I have not yet managed to make a visit to see Paul. We just kept missing each other. But I hope this is soon rectified and that I'll be able to add more text and photographs.