Ian  Gregory
Ian  Gregory
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Ian  Gregory


The Studio Crumble Cottage Ansty Dorchester DT2 7PN

Date of Birth:






Brief Description of Work:
Figurative ceramic sculpture

Training and Experience:
Educated at Westcliff High School and Southend Art School. His interest in the Arts led him to explore various fine art media. However, he was also drawn to drama and after studying acting, he worked in many films, television dramas and the theatre. He also made several hit recordings in the late 1950s.

Selected Exhibitions:
1996 - Two Man - Beetles Gallery, Hampshire
Group - Earth and Fire, Rufford
Group - Dorset Arts Week
Group - Cornish Guild Trellawarren
1996 - One Man Aberystwyth University, Wales
Three Man University of Malta, Malta
Group - Slovenia Arts Council, Lublicanca
Group - Lyn Strover Gallery, Cambridge
Group - Garden Gallery, Hampshire
1997 - Group - Black Swan Gallery, Somerset
Group - 3D Gallery, Bristol
Group - Laburnham Gallery, Cumbria
One Man - Best of British Crafts, Surrey
Two Man - Bake House Gallery, Surrey
Group - Tim Andrews Gallery, Devon
Group - European Festival, Aberystwyth, Wales
One Man - Jan Bael Gallery, Belgium
Group - 'On Line Gallery', Southampton

Other Activities:
He has been Head of Art and Design at Milton Abbey Public School for several years and continues to lecture and demonstrate at various art colleges and show his work in galleries around Great Britain and abroad including university of Westminster Harrow Camous and University of South West of England

Ian has also written several books for 'Pitmans' and 'A & C Black' publishers:

Kiln Building 1977 (co-winner of Best Craft Book Award)                          Ceramic Sculpture 1992                                                                                   Kilns 1995

Artists Statement:                                                                                           One of the goals toward which I strive when engaged in the activity of manipulating clay is to work from the creative union of the conscious and the unconscious thought. Both in the use of imagery and in the development of sculptural considerations to form, light, colour and space as well as other factors that are peculiar to firing clay forms. Surface texture, glaze and reduction, control many decisions regarding the final outcome.

My imagery is gleaned form experiences, from observing situations, other cultural backgrounds, photographs, along with music and literature, visual and graphic imagery both past and present.

The conscious element of controlling surface tension and form may appear random at times and are more or less successful in different pieces. The very process of Raku and Salt Glaze place very special demands on me as a maker and the materials used became a battlefield of the elements of earth, fire and water, which only occasionally I am able to control. However the thin line is always ever present, that of trying to avoid the "kitsch" or becoming a conveyor and illustrator of others imagery and dogma.

"True works of art are about themselves.

Their value relies upon the aesthetic of their own

emergence and possibilities opened up to an audience."

This statement implies an object must exist for its own sake and so in my work the starting point is mine, and mine alone. But it can take on others truth; that of the viewer with new meanings from which they draw their own reality.

It seems to me there are parallels about removing distance when we look at Art. For example, when looking into space we know that the further we look, the farther back in time we are seeing. Time and Space becoming the dimension. If this is so, our view of the universe will, little by little, change entirely. This happens as time and ideas evolve. Ultimately it is about identity: who are and where we are as well as how we perceive things. David Hockney said:

"If you are an artist you will see in a sculpture of a figure or artefact something the Historian or Critic will not. It’s that, somebody made the piece with his hands and the person who made it had similarities to yourself. That Artist too had an urge to make something to depict something, to represent some form of PERCEIVED REALITY, to represent and reproduce experience even though he lived in a totally different era or society. The Artist shares with the other Artist the activity and the same urge to communicate a way of seeing things in the world."

"Art captures the essence which reality sometimes more, sometimes less, spreads thin. In Art, the essence present itself as an undiluted, powerful possibility and because Art incarnates what is possible, it can and does mean anything to the viewer"

"Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present; all time is unredeemable."

These surfaces and tensions I search for, those that preoccupy my time are AMBIVALENT reflecting the passage of time, the material, the makers hand in combination with the final METOMORPHUS OF FIRE.

Never the less working methods, material size as well as patterns of work edit these ideas by their restrictions. New techniques have come with time and a great deal of my studio hours are spent involved in experimentation. But are ideas led, not process led and increasingly seem to break many conventional rules.

This parallel development of expressive form and the making process using modelling, throwing carving grow in juxtaposition between the figurative man and animal relationships of my recent work. These repeat, are born, reabsorbed and develop within an accessible genre from the familiar world around my home in Dorset.

Although no longer a vessel maker, I retain the Leach tradition of heart and hand but feel as do others that today’s Potters should address themselves to today’s problems and whatever way we work in whatever genre, either as a Sculptor or Potter, the process is about solving and development.

In Britain and the rest of the western world our position is felicitous in that we are exposed to so many cultural influences. The Meso American and European traditional forms and images combined with Pop artefacts, Graffiti and all the other visual symbols that we are bombarded with in our daily lives have had an influence on the work produced now. Cultist Chic also still has a strong pull and reward. As does the clinging to tradition without extending it forward. Nowadays since there is little need to make Sacred Art anymore, we do not work form religious convictions in the same way as earlier artists. They, however humble, gave their objects meaning, visual poise and imbued them with an intense feeling of inner spirituality. Hence the power that many of these objects exude is derived from the psyche itself and not just slavish gesture to reproduce Art as yet another consumer product.

Our modern folk forms and the street culture they feed are no longer produced from any clear conviction of the role they are to play in a modern society. It is a dilemma that all Art is caught up in. As with more archetypal sculptures created to embody nourishment and the glorification of some deity made so long ago by a forgotten hand, the fundamental need is still with us to continue to produce thing so beauty and to extend our creative horizons however tenuous this might seem in these uncertain times.

One of ceramic’s contemporary roles that it continues to provide Aesthetic Consolation and enrichment of daily life on a domestic scale.

Further Information:                                                                                           A visit to Ian Gregory’s house in deepest Dorset immediately answers some of the questions posed by his current work. Ansty is little more than a hamlet close to the famous eighteenth century village Milton Abbas. A cluster of rose covered houses and cottages centred on The Fox, a surprisingly large and bustling pub. Ian Gregory lives in an eighteenth century thatched cottage which boasts a paradise of a garden. Two large spring fed ponds and a deep and lazy stream are surrounded by a jungle of trees, shrubs and plants in splendid ordered disorder. On the lawn chickens and ducks peck and preen disturbed in their daily routine by the occasional token chase form Gurt the family boxer. There is little wonder that with his glass fronted workshop set amongst this quintessential English idyll he has gravitated toward the animal kingdom as the outlet for his consummate modelling skills.

Ian Gregory came to ceramics in the 1960s as a refugee from show business. At the end of the fifties and the early sixties he had a successful career as a TV and film actor even making forays into the pop charts under the guidance of legendary producer Joe Meek. Disenchantment with ‘the business’ and a desire to live with his six children in the country led him to Dorset and to Crumble Cottage.

During the seventies Gregory became well known as a saltglazer making a range of domestic tableware and miniature furniture in a medium little used by studio potters at that time.

The miniature furniture certainly struck a chord with the buying public and many hundreds of pieces were made. Perhaps though, the most memorable works of that period are his large architectural pieces. Tall Victorian buildings often incorporating a shops front packed with produce climbed onward and upward each storey cleverly modelled in architectural detail. I remember a particularly tall example in the Cranks Restaurant at Dartington, Devon, measuring a full seven feet high! His 200 ceramic preview invitations in the form of a shop front, enticing collectors to an exhibition of Martin brothers pots at Christie’s Auction Rooms and the Richard Dennis Gallery in Kensington Church Street, have become collectors’ pieces in their own right.

For as long as potters all over the world have fashioned clay into vessels they have also made both animal and human representations from the same clay. Indeed the oldest known ceramic objects are the strangely elegant pear shaped effigies of the female human form thought to be fertility pieces.

Throughout the millennia clay figures have been imbued with important cultural and religious meaning, others were and still are made purely as ornaments. Figurative sculptors presently abound in the contemporary ceramic scene. There is a very thin line to be drawn between that which is finely observed and sensitively modelled with economy of line and that which is mere representation, a form of three dimensional photograph that often verges on the kitsch.

In writing of his own Gregory quotes Josef Skyvorecky, "Art captures the essence which reality sometimes more sometimes less, spreads thin. In art, the essence presents itself as an undiluted, powerful possibility and because art incarnates what is possible it can and does mean anything to the viewer."

Ian Gregory’s animals can be savage, hounds with exaggerated limbs crouch in aggressive pose, bared teeth behind a curled lip and that slightly sideways look that shows the whites of their eyes announce that you are about to be attacked. Others have that head down, tail in, sneaky ‘I’m coming round you to nip your arse’ look. Fighting cocks frozen in that earnest dance of death, feet and claws up ready to defend or to cut and opponent open with a downward slash. They can be frightening and disturbing.

They can also be comedic. Fat lazy pigs and sleeping dogs are cleverly depicted. Ample folds of flabby flesh apparently quickly and easily achieved with clay being allowed to be clay, no performed moulded carcasses here.

Perhaps the most alarming, disarming even shocking depictions are human figures sometimes modelled in isolation and other times in conjunction with the animals. Grotesque humanoids lifted from our worst nightmare, genitals dangling and arms akimbo strike poses of unlikely elegance and poetic sensitivity relying on the trickery of weight and visual counter balance that clay allows him so easily to achieve with gravity defying composition. The lightness of stance and almost ballet like poise of many of these characters especially when posed with a small bird or animal seem very much at odds with the leering ugliness of the faces. Red lipped tarts with painted pink nipples sit in inviting pose each one modelled with absolute minimum attention to detail and yet each with it s own personality. The sexual overtones are obvious. I’m sure though the intention is not to shock. Gregory takes much of his imagery from the pages of mythology especially where there is an obvious man and animal relationship to explore.

He chooses clay and the "battlefield of the elements of earth, fire and water" as his medium to illustrate where others may have chosen paper and paint. Gregory is merely allowing us the privilege to have sight of his own personal vision of scenes conjured from whatever sources that intrigue and amuse him. Ian Gregory is a inveterate experimenter always ready to try a new method of construction or glazing combination or firing technique.

Recently he has started to create much larger forms using ‘paper’ clay. He builds up the large dogs layer by layer working from a steel ‘skeleton’ that remains inside the dog during and after the raku type firing. He builds and dismantles kilns quicker than anyone I have known and will often devise a ‘kiln’ to suit a single piece of work. His life size figures for example had their own personal kiln built around them. Another recent development is the post firing reduction of slips that yields rich, deep colours of blue, pink, red and violet and are used to great effect on some of the more light hearted animal pieces. The Raku fire and the post firing reduction of the white glaze to enhance the crackle and blacken the unglazed areas is well suited to the modelled work. The selective omission of glaze around the face of an animal, for instance, heightens the dramatic effect and requires experience, insight and the ability to envisage the finished effect beforehand.

The reintroduction of saltglaze has in one sense brought Ian Gregory full circle. It was with this capricious fire that Gregory made his name as a potter. Now the salting technique that leaves no mark hidden form its pervasive presence serves to enliven the surfaces of is animals, bringing them to life in a way that only saltglaze can.

For the future I know that there are plans for life size horses and riders, the paper clay providing the means to construct and fire massive pieces. It will be fascinating to watch where Ian Gregory’s thirst for new techniques of construction and expression of ideas will lead him.