David Cushway

Research visit to NCECA

Philadelphia Clay Studio Residency and National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference report

by David Cushway

I attended the Philadelphia Clay Studio Residency in 2008 and in March/April of this year the NCECA Conference with the help and support of Wales Arts International.

The Residency at the clay studio gave me two months of uninterrupted time to create a new body of work and develop my practice in new directions. I produced a substantial series of drawings during the residency that were subsequently exhibited in the clay studios galleries. These drawings will be exhibited in a solo show in 2011 at The Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery in Brecon.

I am still coming to terms with this development of practice some two years later, and it is not an understatement to say that the time spent in Philadelphia was of massive importance to me as an artist and to the advancement of my pedagogy. My work as a direct result of the residency was subsequently exhibited throughout Europe and Asia.

I was keen to return to Philadelphia to the NCECA Conference, as Geoff Guido the artistic director had invited me to take part in the exhibition, ‘Of This Century: Residents, Fellows, and selected Guest Artists of The Clay Studio, 2000-2010’. Also it would give me an opportunity to assess my own practice and where it fitted within the wider ceramic discourse

Geoff had selected one of my film pieces for the exhibition, which was projected onto the side of The Philadelphia Clay Studio building. At a conservative estimate some 6-7000 people saw my film in the three days it was being shown and for me as a practitioner it was fascinating to see the film outside of the traditional galley format. (Please see attached images).

A still from the film has been used to advertise the NCECA Conference and has been posted on the I98 motorway, the main route into the city of Philadelphia. This will then be moved into the center of the city next week. It would be impossible to calculate how many hundreds of thousands of people that will see this. (Please see images).

The conference itself was both exciting and stimulating; I saw many exhibitions around the city that featured work of a very high standard and attended several key lectures, particularly Fabricating Ideas, which featured a group of artists using new media within ceramics.

My experiences at the conference along with my own research will be used as the base of an application to deliver a paper at The European Ceramic Context in Denmark and also as part of a PHD application at Sunderland University, where I have been short listed for interview in May.

In attending the conference it has allowed me to meet interested curators and practitioners, who share common aims and values. It has also been fascinating to see how some of my own practice has influenced young artists that are just beginning their careers, and to try to evaluate my own contribution to the ceramic discourse.

It is important as an artist to realise that you are not working in isolation and that there is a network of support and interest outside of your daily environment that encompasses the whole world.

There was a large contingent of artists from Wales, and I believe that it is fundamentally important to the continuing development and good health of the visual arts and crafts within this country that Wales maintains an identifiable presence at such important events.

A substantial catalogue was produced for the exhibition that included myself, Anne Gibbs, Catrin Howell and Claire Curneen. For Wales to have four artists represented in this important publication is an incredible achievement, and is testament to the success of the Wales Arts International residency exchange programme and its continuing international support of Welsh based artists and art projects.

David Cushway


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