Ethos

 
 Mike Cain and Dave Harper in the studio. Photo: Alun Callender

Mike Cain and Dave Harper in the studio. Photo: Alun Callender

Working together

The Penkhull Artist Potters Association was formed by Mike Cain and Dave Harper in 2017.

They first met in 1979 when Mike was Dave's Art teacher at secondary school. Mike taught Dave ceramics, tutored his 'A' level Art and gave him the confidence to go to Art School. 

Almost forty years later they started working together and then formed the Penkhull Artist Potters Association. Besides the practical benefits of sharing a studio, mutual creative support is at the core of their working relationship.

"Besides the practical aspects of sharing a kiln and a studio, working together is about the creative gain that comes from collaboration. Our work is our own, but we support and help each other, and of course we also have a laugh"  Mike Cain

Creative independence through mutual support

Although Mike and Dave work using traditional slab rolled terracotta, decorated with coloured slips, both have their own creative direction and produce unique pieces of ceramic art.

"Our work is a mixture of past and present. The slab based forms include plates, bowls, plaques and sculptural work which is decorated with layers of coloured slips. Its an approach that goes back many hundreds of years. But while the process is traditional, our final work is experimental and modernist.  It's often abstract or based around the use of found objects, which we use to create our pieces." Dave Harper

 Mike working in the studio

Mike working in the studio

"I used to have an allotment just a stones throw from my house here in Penkhull. I was always digging up bits of slipware. Its a nice thought that we're continuing the slipware tradition, all be it with a modern twist." Mike Cain

Both Dave and Mike use a variety of techniques including painting, over-laying and slip trailing, with many of their pieces being decorated and fired five or six times to achieve the final result.

"Our work is not conceptual, its more about personal experience, responding to our environment, to Stoke or the surrounding countryside, but most importantly to the materials we work with. We often use found objects to produce our imagery and this connection to 'place' is really important to us, and part of our shared ethos."  Mike Cain

"From discarded packaging and tree bark to pieces of rusty iron, we use these things both directly and indirectly in our work. Its modern art made from little pieces of Stoke" Dave Harper

 Ceramic bowl 25cm x 25cm by Mike Cain (2017)

Ceramic bowl 25cm x 25cm by Mike Cain (2017)

Painting, print making, sculpture and ceramic art

Although Mike taught ceramics in secondary schools for many years he has never seen himself as just an artist who works with clay. Instead he loves the freedom of being able to develop his ideas by using a variety of media.   

"We like to explore and experiment. We are proud of being based in Stoke and the inspiration it gives us. The texture and nature of this place informs much of what we do. Sometimes our ideas become pieces of sculpture, paintings or ceramic art or even all three."  Mike Cain

Dave's first experience of making ceramics was in the late 1970s and his teacher was Mike Cain. It was with Mike's support that Dave went to Art school and became especially interested in sculpture.

"I've always enjoyed working in ceramics. There is something special about the tactile nature of the medium, but like Mike I like the freedom of using my ideas in different ways." Dave Harper 

 Vortex - Ceramic plate 25cm x 25cm approx. Dave Harper (2017)

Vortex - Ceramic plate 25cm x 25cm approx. Dave Harper (2017)

BACKGROUND

Mike Cain was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme. He studied at the Burslem School or Art before completing a degree in Fine Art at Coventry (Lanchester) Polytechnic. He first exhibited at the Brampton Galley in Newcastle under Lyme, and has shown his work widely since the late 1960s. Mike worked in the ceramics industry for many years but made a career teaching Art at secondary schools in Derbyshire and North Staffordshire. He founded The Penkhull Artist Potters Association with Dave Harper in the Spring of 2017.

"For the last ten years or so I've concentrated on painting, print making and sculpture but in 2015 after a chance encounter with the artist Bruce Mclean I started making ceramic art again. I've already had a long creative career, so embarking on this new journey is very exciting." said Mike 

Mike first met Dave Harper at Hatton School in Derbyshire in the late 1970's where he was Dave's ceramics teacher.  With Mike's help Dave went to Art school in Derby and then completed his degree at the Staffordshire Polytechnic.  

"Mike has been a major influence on my life and work, from inspiring and developing my early interest in art in the 1970s, to my more recent creative development, and to getting back into making ceramic art. I'm also proud to call him my friend." said Dave

 Mike rolling a slab of clay

Mike rolling a slab of clay

First Exhibition

In September 2017 the group (which at the time also included Tony Wild) officially launched their micro-pottery at the opening of their first exhibition at the Spode Museum in Stoke on Trent. The exhibition ran from September 23rd until October 17th 2017. The show was also the first to be held in the new gallery space which was set-up in association with Gallery One-One-Six.

 Photo: Spode Museum and Heritage Centre, Stoke-on-Trent

Photo: Spode Museum and Heritage Centre, Stoke-on-Trent

For more information about the artists, their work or their first exhibition please see the separate pages.