Cornwall LivingIssue #64

Fired and fine

We catch up with John and Louise Winterton at the Customs House Gallery, who introduce us to some talented local ceramicists.

A few issues back, we visited the Customs House Gallery, admiring the wealth of local artistic talent on display on the quayside in Porthleven. Nearly five years have gone by since John and Louise Winterton took over the gallery and, as we discovered, the gallery has come a long way since and it only continues to evolve.

“Nearly five years have gone by since John and Louise Winterton took over the gallery and, as we discovered, it has come a long way since…”

What’s more, the Customs House Gallery has become synonymous on the local art scene with work in the form of paintings, however we recently learned that the husband and wife team also displays a strong collection of ceramic works from artists in Cornwall and further afield. We spoke to the pair, who were happy to talk us through a little bit about these fabulous artists and the wonderful work
they do.

Hugh West

Principally a studio potter making individual pieces, often to commission, Hugh finds it exciting to design and make for specific purposes of presentation and function. While still a student in the ‘60s, he cycled daily to Porthleven to work for John Cheney in his quayside pottery, opposite the Customs House Gallery. Cheney was an excellent craftsman who produced tableware and from him, Hugh learned a great deal.

Since the age of 21, Hugh has established workshops of his own in the West Country, and twice in the pottery village of La Borne, Central France. After 14 years there, Hugh returned to Cornwall and now has a small studio in a former tollhouse in Perranwell Station, near Truro. He works exclusively in Porcelain and his work can be seen in a few exclusive Cornish galleries, including the Customs
House Gallery.

Gordon Whittle

Creating beautiful ceramics from his studio in Wiltshire, Gordon’s quirky touches make each piece individual, turning kitchenware into real pieces of art. He hand mixes his own glazes, which adds to his work’s uniqueness. Gordon’s work is certainly one to look out for next time you visit the Customs House Gallery.

Demelza Whitley

Born and raised in west Penwith and surrounded by the sea, boats often feature in Demelza’s work, with the quirkiness of added wheels. As far as dogs go, she has a keen interest in the historic relationship between humans and man’s best friend, with her own two serving as models, even if they won’t stand still and pose!

Having earned a degree in contemporary crafts at Falmouth University College in 2008, Demelza first developed her own paperclay during her studies, which she makes using a white stoneware clay from St Agnes. She then Raku fires her work in her garden, where her studio is situated. Demelza enjoys working with the elements and environment around her, from the clay and water that make the body of her work, to the fire that makes it permanent.

Penn Boylan

Although Penn studied ceramics as a student, it wasn’t until her move to the beautiful St Michael’s Mount in 1994 that she was inspired to follow her dream of designing and making her own pottery. Encouraged by both family and the close-knit community on the mount, Penn went back to college, refreshing her skills in throwing and modern kiln management. Over the following few years, she drew inspiration from things she encountered in daily life, from cheerful fishing boats adorning the coastline to the swallows arriving and heralding the start of summer, all of which feature in her work.
Penn works from her studio in Marazion, where her pottery studio is now firmly established, enjoying views of the mount that helped shape her career.

Catherine Lucktaylor

Moving to Cornwall in 2009 had a profound impact on Catherine’s ceramics, leading to the creation of the Landscape Series, which draws inspiration from the stunning land and seascapes of west Cornwall. Her signature turquoise glaze reflects the vibrant colour of the sea, while the smoked crackle pattern is reminiscent of the rugged cliffs. In her studio near St Buryan, Catherine uses ancient hand building techniques such as pinching, coiling and, more recently, Raku – an ancient Japanese firing technique. Impressively, a piece from Catherine’s Wild Cornwall collection featured recently on the BBC’s The Great Pottery Throwdown, referred to as a ‘perfect example of Raku’. Varied in technique, style and inspiration, the works of each of these artists needs seeing to be believed, so next time you’re visiting the harbourside of Porthleven, be sure to pop into the Customs House Gallery.

"Nearly five years have gone by since John and Louise Winterton took over the gallery and, as we discovered, it has come a long way since..."